Bill Freeman, an Army lieutenant colonel-turned-elementary school teacher, has had an unusual career history. Now he’s moved into a slightly different kind of work: he’s the new head of the San Diego teachers union.

In this week’s Q&A interview, Freeman tells us his thoughts about President Obama’s education policy (he’s not a giant fan), the school district’s infrequent firing of teachers (he thinks that’s “not necessarily” a problem) and the need to respond to a local education reform movement (he’s not itching for rebuttal time)

In other news:

• In 2008 the online magazine Slate pondered the fate of giant bundles of paper that arrive on our porches every year: “Why won’t phone books die?” They are, the story said, “having the most absurdly drawn-out death throes of any advertising medium ever known.”

Time marches on, and the phone books — lots of them — keep on coming. Some people, like our CEO, think they’re a huge pain in the neck.

Does anyone still use printed phone books? Can you stop them from showing up on your doorstep? Does it cost the city money to dispose of them? And does it pay to be called the Aaaaaaaaaaa1 Plumbing Company? We’ve got answers to (most of) these questions.

• Football season is almost here: Shawne Merriman has signed with the Chargers, and we’ve got a look back at slideshows of games from last year.

• Finally, UCSD says it’s performed a kind of weight-loss surgery by removing 80 percent of a patient’s stomach through the mouth.

That’s pretty impressive. What’s next? If they make a U-turn once they get to the tummy, maybe surgeons will finally prove the old adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.


What We Learned This Week:

Ready, Set, Reform. But How? The school year is about ready to begin, and San Diego school leaders are promising reform. But many of the plans are still vague.

When There’s a Will, There’s a … Pot of Savings, Maybe: Financial reform at City Hall may sound like a grand idea. But it’s going to take a lot more than good intentions to actually turn the reforms in the November ballot measure into significant savings.

18 Violations = $32,000. The city ethics police decided to levy a $32,000 fine on a former downtown redevelopment chief after determining that she violated ethics rules 18 times.

No Unlimited Salaries for You: State legislators squashed the idea of allowing pension boards — like the one that oversees pensions for county employees — to hire people at any price.


The Coffee Collection (engaging stories to enjoy over a cup of soy strawberry crème frappuccino):

Hello? Is This Thing On? It’s not easy being a nerd. (Don’t ask me how I know this.) It’s especially hard if you’re an introvert type who needs to make a presentation in public to, say, non-nerds.

What can you do if a speech is coming? Call in sick. Plan your imminent abduction by the Lollipop Guild. Suddenly remember that you left your iron on.

Or you can call BioToasters, which will give you lessons in how to speak to big crowds without falling apart.

Now that’s Just Batty: Who knows what strangneness lurks inside the genes of notorious crazy person Ozzy Osbourne? A local biotech company wants to find out: as part of a celebrity vs. celebrity smackdown in the local genetic-testing world, it’s recruited him to provide some DNA for it to analyze.

Where’s a Gabor Sister When You Need Her? “Lincoln Acres is the place for me/Farm livin’ is the life for me/They’ve got goats on leashes in this unusual South Bay town/Our reporter found them finally, and he’s no longer feeling down.”

Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week.

The Rockin’ Reformer: He used to be in a New Wave band and have quite a head of hair. Things change: now he’s a bigwig in the education policy world and helping to lead the push for reform in San Diego schools.


Quote of the Week: “There was nothing on the island but a treasure chest. No, wait, a treasure chest and two palm trees. Actually, the treasure chest was on a different island a little ways away from the man, so he couldn’t reach it. Oh yeah, and the man had an ax with him, so he cut down one of the palm trees to make a bridge to the treasure chest. When he got there, he opened it, and guess what he found? A hammock. Get it?” — John, who asked that his last name withheld (wise move), struggling with a lead-with-a-joke directive at a BioToasters meeting.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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