As they face an organized effort challenging their governance structure, leaders of San Diego Unified School District have declared that they are already on the path toward reform — they don’t need the help of a newly formed group of powerful philanthropists, parents and business leaders called San Diegans for Great Schools.

The district’s leaders have all kinds of plans for reform of their own, thank you very much. But Emily Alpert says the details are elusive.

“While San Diego Unified has working groups and slideshows loaded with phrases like ‘focus on student achievement,’ it is still figuring out what its brave new vision of school reform will actually look like,” she writes.

In typical Alpert style, she doesn’t stop at the back and forth between the leaders and their critics. She builds on her travels through the district to illustrate how one of the goals of the district, to emphasize teaching that helps kids think critically, is actually playing out in two schools.

• Alpert also updates us on a snag in this whole effort: The district lost out on a grant from the federal government that would have helped it revamp its ability to analyze data and student performance.

In other news:

• It has been nearly three years since we explained the ties between a group set to redevelop the Valencia Business Park, a prime section of Southeastern San Diego land, and the leader of the public agency that gave that group its deal.

The developer had contracted with the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., or SEDC, to build an industrial park. It later determined retail and commercial development would be more lucrative, so it changed the plans, with the agency’s acquiescence. But making it a commercial zone made the land more valuable than the amount the developers paid.

Hence, the scandal — well, one part of it. That and other subsequent controversies we exposed led to an overhaul of SEDC. Now, a new developer has earned the chance to turn the barren plot into something the community values. A lot has happened since then — like, say, a recession — and we explain the challenge the new developer faces along with his vision.

• July was the first month that new homebuyers could not enjoy the federal government’s incentive to get off the fence and buy a place. So how did San Diego’s housing market fare? Rich Toscano updated his graph.

 Elsewhere:

• This blog post at California Watch has a great compilation of the fallout from the Union-Tribune and County Grand Jury’s findings that schools continue to charge fees for what should be part of a student’s free education.

• The U-T also profiles new SDG&E CEO Jessie Knight, the former head of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce who’s now working to change the utility, he says, slowly.

• I got an e-mail last week from Serge Dedina, the environmental activist in Imperial Beach, alerting me that Congressman Brian Bilbray’s son, Brian Patrick Bilbrary had taken out papers to run for IB City Council. IB, of course, is where Bilbray’s career started. The liberal blog Blue San Diego wrote up a post today wondering if a Bilbray dynasty is being formed. 

• Finally, the Sacramento Bee started a long story this weekend with examples of people who like to use marijuana including one of our own:

“Sarika Simmons, 35, of San Diego County, sometimes unwinds after the kids are asleep with tokes from a fruit-flavored cigar filled with pot.”

The Bee says a new Field Poll it commissioned “reveals that weed already is deeply woven into society” as Californians prepare to vote on whether to legalize it outright.

This just highlighted for me how interesting the upcoming election is going to be. Legalization of marijuana, tense contests for governor, senate, City Council, county supervisor, school board and more, two tax increases for San Diego, a fight about project labor agreements, and on and on and on, this could be one of the most tumultuous election seasons I’ve ever watched.

On a personal note, I’ll be away for a few weeks as my wife and dog and I welcome a new human to our little family.

I’m hoping my time off with the new baby will give me plenty of time to rest up for a crazy political season.

— SCOTT LEWIS

Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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