School superintendents, like newspapers and sports teams, aren’t supposed to be beloved by all. These men and women make tough decisions, especially around budget time, and they don’t do everything parents or teachers want. Despite all that, just about everybody seems to personally like San Diego’s schools chief.

So what’s the problem with the mild-mannered man named Bill Kowba? “The only worry is Kowba may be too nice for the job,” Emily Alpert writes in a look at Kowba’s year atop San Diego Unified. “He is so skilled at defusing tensions that some critics fear he has shied away from confronting or even defining some of the district’s problems.”

A school board member put it more bluntly: “I wish Bill was a little bit more of a son of a bitch. Because you can’t run a fairly dysfunctional organization of this size without sometimes being a son of a bitch.”

There’s actually more to this issue than Kowba’s willingness to knock heads around. Should he set the agenda or be a caretaker? Make friends or make enemies?  

• San Diego schools just got a dose of good publicity, sort of. The NYT profiles the district’s no-more-than-17-students-in-a-class policy in lower grades at its poorest schools. The small classes may be boosting test scores. The problem: Budget cutbacks loom, threatening to push class sizes back to 30. “We’re waiting to see if the state pushes us over the cliff,” one principal says. We profiled her school and its small classes back in 2009.  

County Redistricting Won’t Upset GOP

Just like the city, the county government is redrawing its supervisor districts, with the supervisors considering proposed maps this week, and the U-T says the changes aren’t likely to change Republican dominance

In Rancho Santa Fe, the Development Deal from Hell

A bruising and expensive battle of the titans simmers at a luxury community in Rancho Santa Fe known as the Bridges, the Los Angeles Times reports. The tale “includes home-building titan Lennar Corp., a bankrupt La Jolla deal maker and, in an improbable late entry, con man-turned-preacher Barry Minkow.” It also features a former county supervisor and San Diego mayor by the name of Roger Hedgecock. The story hints at a very cozy relationship between him and a local developer.

In the big picture, the LAT says, “a classic Southern California home development … promised riches for its partners but ended up exacting a high price on the key players.”

Pension Petition Battle Brews

Supporters and opponents of a ballot measure to phase out most pensions for city workers are fighting it out around the city as the pro forces try to gather petition signatures to put the issue on the ballot, the U-T reports. “In some cases standing next to them are volunteers, mostly union workers, urging the potential signers to educate themselves before giving their John Hancock to an initiative that would leave future city firefighters without a guaranteed pension.”

School Testing Claim Misses the Mark

The president and CEO of San Diego Newsroom, a local website, wrote that “although funding for San Diego’s schools has steadily increased, the students’ scores have not improved.” San Diego Fact Check finds the claim is false: in fact, student test scores have gone up. The funding part of the equation isn’t as clear.

How Ex-Gang Members Get Delisted

You’ve heard about how there are “documented gang members” in local communities, and the law goes even further than that: several cities — including San Diego, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista and National City — ban documented gang members “from participating in certain activities such as hanging out in public with other gang members, tagging, making gang-related hand signs or wearing gang colors or clothing,” the North County Times says.

Now, the DA’s office is “fine tuning” a process to allow former gang members to free themselves from the injunction list, the NCT reports. There’s even an application form, but not quite like the one you’d fill out to get a job. It includes questions like “How did you join (jumped in, etc.)?”

In Mayor’s Race, 14’s a Crowd

Almost all of the attention in the mayor’s race has gone to the four politicians who have declared they’re running and the one who might jump in. But, as La Jolla Patch notes, a total of 14 people have filed to run including one with the nickname “Girly Girly” (his first name is Robert, mind you) and perennial candidate Loch David Crane.

We profiled Crane back in 2007, noting that he’s been a teacher, a border-watching Minuteman and a magician. He’s obsessed by Star Trek, trikes and magic: hence the massive, three-wheel “Star Trike” he scoots around town in.

Star Trike? Yup. “I’ve got over 300 lights on it, so I need a lot of electrical power. It has deck lights, it has taillights, headlights, turn indicators,” he explained. “The deck has strips with a light every three inches. I found some new taillights with 60 lights in each row, so 180 on the right side and 180 on the left side. So there are almost 400 brake lights going bam!”

Also, three incumbent City Council members — Todd Gloria, Marti Emerald and Sherri Lightner — have all filed to run in 2012 to retain their seats. Councilman Carl DeMaio’s seat is also up for election, but he’s running for mayor instead.

In Pecking Order, We’re Aww-Inspiring

Every year, a bird sanctuary organization in Alabama holds a national contest to determine the “birdiest” places in the country. Locals go out, tally the species they find and then report back. This year, San Diego is the second birdiest city with 193 species spotted, behind only Corpus Christi, Texas, with 243.

You can see pictures of a few of these species thanks to the Project Wildlife organization, which has posted photo gallery of local baby animals it’s been taking care of this year. They include a variety of birds, an opossum, a skunk, a squirrel and a weasel.

I’ll bet at least one of these critters reminds you of your boss. Saying which one, however, is probably a Not Safe for Work idea, unless you can make a quick getaway on your handy Star Trike. (Anybody got one I can borrow for later?)

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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