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Fernando Hernandez, the principal of Perkins Elementary School in Barrio Logan, is dealing with a problem. Ten of his 33 teachers received warnings that they may be laid off.

If the layoffs materialize, Hernandez’s school will have to go through much more upheaval than, say, Bird Rock Elementary where only one of its 26 teachers received such a warning.


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The reason is the district’s “last-in-first-out” layoff policy. Unless voters approve state tax extensions and other money is found, layoffs are the last tool the district has to balance its books. The teachers union says seniority is fairest way to handle layoffs. And that means that schools in poorer areas with newer teachers, like Perkins, absorb the brunt of the turnover.

That is, except in Los Angeles. The ACLU and others sued the district. A settlement upset the seniority based layoff system and protected promising schools in poorer places. Now, Hernandez is asking: “Why isn’t that happening here?

Here’s an explainer we did with NBC San Diego about the last-in-first-out policy and an updated interactive map so you can see how layoffs would affect individual schools.

Sheriffs Unmoved

Pressure on public employees is coming from all sides. The county of San Diego has a much higher pension benefit than the city of San Diego. But the Union-Tribune reports that the deputy sheriff’s union is rejecting a request that they contribute more to their retirement system — even after getting a one-time payment of 2 percent of their salary.

“Thousands of employees in other unions have accepted similar offers, which could save the county millions of dollars. Units who have reached agreement are the deputy district attorneys, public defenders, probation officers and county counsels,” the U-T says.

Remember, the sheriff provides public safety services not only to the county but to many cities around the county. The employee terms they settle on will affect many cities.

From what I could tell in the latest pension valuation, most sheriffs contribute 13 percent of their pay to the county’s retirement fund. Meanwhile, San Diego city police officers contribute 13 to 19.5 percent of theirs. Police in the city are fighting just to keep guaranteed pensions future sworn officers.

The Union-Tribune hosted a point-counterpoint Sunday between City Councilman Carl DeMaio and Jeff Jordon, a vice president for the city’s police officers union. DeMaio’s pushing a plan that would switch all employees, including police and fire, to a new 401(k)-style plan for future employees. The mayor and City Councilman Kevin Faulconer are working on something different.

In an editorial, the U-T described that closed-door planning and hoped DeMaio and the mayor could come to a compromise. The editorial brought scorn from Tony Manolatos, Faulconer’s spokesman, who wrote on Twitter that it had a lot of misinformation. He didn’t elaborate. We’ll see if he does today. He’s been hinting for weeks that Faulconer and the mayor were cooking up a grand proposal to fix the city.

Once upon a time, the city boosted its pension benefits to keep up with the county. Will the county once again set a standard the city will feel it has to keep up with to compete for officers?

Big, Bad Hollywood

The New York Times Magazine took a fun look at how San Diego’s Comic Con was taken over by Hollywood.

It all happened, the Times wrote, because of Peter Jackson and his direction of the “Lord of the Rings” movies. He treated the books well in their adaption to the screen.

“Fans noticed. Fans appreciated it. And studios began to see that the geeks were out there, eager to spend money on movie tickets, feeling underserved and ready to be wooed. So the studios followed the geeks to Comic-Con,” the Times says.

The writer also calls San Diego’s Convention Center “cavernous” which must have made local boosters feel a bit like what stadium boosters feel when football commentators call Qualcomm Stadium a nice place to play football. “Stay on message people! It’s cramped! We need a new one!”

On Radiation

I found this helpful visualization this weekend of radiation dosage. It puts into perspective how much radiation people absorbed after notorious nuclear emergencies like at Three Mile Island compared to say, how much radiation you get from everyday sources.

It turns out that living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant that is operating normally causes a person to absorb less radiation than eating a banana.

On Twitter, local PR man and former journalist Jonathan Heller joked that he’s going to have to change his shopping list for the week. I responded that sleeping with three people was even worse, as it would expose you to even more radiation. He might want to change his weekend plans too, I suggested.

His response was classic:

“Believe me, Scott, if those WERE my weekend plans I wouldn’t let a few gamma rays spoil it.”

Update: I fixed the language at the end of this to more accurately reflect the Twitter exchange Heller and I had. I didn’t suggest I was sleeping with three people. I joked he was. Yikes!

You can contact me directly at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!): twitter.com/vosdscott.

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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