San Diego schools got a rare dose of financial good news yesterday: extra funding from the state will allow them to rescind the layoffs of hundreds of teachers and restore smaller class sizes in lower grades.

The move means that class sizes will stay at 24 students in grades K-3, instead of growing to 29, and certain struggling schools will get to keep special 20-student class sizes.

Other laid-off employees such as bus drivers and school secretaries didn’t get any benefit from the restored jobs, leaving their labor leaders upset. And it’s possible that schools will end up with different teachers than they had before because of the way the district prioritizes the filling of openings based on seniority instead of on other factors like the quality of teachers or their popularity with parents.

That could cause problems at schools that have built strong relationships with their staff or invested in special training for them. Still, about 300 teaching positions won’t be cut. On the other hand, about 500 teaching jobs remain axed.


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Complaints About High Pay For A New U. Prez

The Los Angeles Times reports that the $400,000 compensation package for Elliot Hirshman, the new president of SDSU, is being looked at with raised eyebrows at a time when a tuition rise of 12% is being considered.

A 400-Square Foot Home for $4,500

When disaster strikes around the world, tents and shacks and the outdoors often turn into temporary homes. In the worst-case scenarios, they become permanent.

In this week’s Q&A, the head of a local for-profit company tells us about her solution: ultra-affordable homes for disaster victims and for the poor too. They’re amazingly cheap: about $4,500 for a 400-square-foot home, and smaller ones for $1,500.

“We manufacture components from lumber and they come in a box as a kit,” she said. “It’s a bit like IKEA meets LEGOs. We see housing as a big leverage point for community development, allowing people not to just survive but thrive on their own.”

A bit like IKEA, eh? Well, there’s one big difference: these houses are easy to put together. And presumably they won’t be called anything like Kleggnut, Namklap or Fixa.

Donation for Library Hours? No. Er, Make that Yes

Last year, the mayor’s office was leery of allowing the city’s struggling libraries to get donations to extend their hours. (Almost all are closed a couple days a week and has extremely limited evening hours.) The mayor’s office wanted five-year commitments for any donations that extended hours, and it worried about making sure library hours weren’t boosted disproportionately across the city. That apparently meant it didn’t want to see extended hours at branches appear only in upscale neighborhoods.

Now, a donor is giving funding to keep the City Heights branch open on Sunday for a year, a day when it (and 31 of the city’s other 34 branch libraries) would otherwise be closed. The city said sure. Why the change from a desire for a longer commitment? The mayor’s office hasn’t explained it yet.

• Our video series San Diego Explained looks at beach fire pits, whose upkeep has been spared by private donations. They’ve been a non-priority in the city’s budget in the last few years.

Dancing Everywhere but the Ceiling

Behind the Scene TV checks out the rehearsal of a dance group that does its thing in unexpected places, from a winery to a North Park bar to a hair salon.

Street Sweeping Request Spawns Gutter Ball

A Pacific Beach resident wants a city street sweeper to stop by his street and scrub away the grime in the gutter left from the oil that comes rushing down from a slope when it rains and ends up in the ocean. This shouldn’t be too hard: his street is even on the city’s street sweeping schedule.

But, as we discovered while trying to help this reader, getting a sweeper to sweep the gutter on your street — the one on the street-sweeping schedule — isn’t as simple as it sounds. The city’s explanation makes sense, but doesn’t make this concerned citizen any happier.

Unfortunate Padre Inspired Deadly Baseball Research

Back in 1953, a player with the minor-league San Diego Padres was having a good year after spending a grand total of one day playing in the minor leagues. He collapsed one day during a game here, left the playing field and died of a heart attack at the age of 28. Decades later, a baseball historian with the same last name read about him and was inspired to co-write an encyclopedia of 850 baseball-related deaths — on the field, in the stands, in Little League and even in backyards.

The book, titled “Death at the Ballpark,” is getting attention this week after the well-publicized death of a Texas Ranger fan who fell while catching a ball at the Rangers’ stadium.

There’s No Place like (a Raided) Home

A San Diego memorabilia collector’s home has been raided in search of one of the pairs of ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. Friends of Dorothy gone wild, perhaps? Nope: these were state and local investigators in search of a pair of the slippers stolen from a Michigan museum. They didn’t find what they were looking for, CBS 8 reports: the collector had slippers, but they weren’t the pilfered ones.

The collector also has a room full of thrones and six-foot tall suits of armor. Really? Armor? Now I know where to get suited up before my next job evaluation!

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What We Learned This Week

• School Money Diverted to Wrong Places: San Diego schools are spending federal money designated to help poor kids on items like thermometers, carpet cleaner, petroleum jelly and tongue depressors.

Big Money for Mayoral Hopeful: Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher may perhaps be the least known of the four major candidates for mayor, but his fundraising haul in June — more than $300,000 — may give him a big head start on the getting-to-know-you front.

Missing the Mark on 401(k) Plans: A ruckus is already starting over a possible ballot measure that would convert many new employees to 401(k) plans. San Diego Fact Check finds that the labor coalition that’s against the measure has made two false claims, while the pro folks made a misleading one.

• Maybe It’s Now a Watchpuppy: Up until now, the county office of education has been monitoring the finances of local school districts to make sure they’re spending their money in a proper fashion. But the state legislature is changing the rules and defanging the office.

•••

Quote of the Week: “He said, ‘You’re the worst player I ever had. You can’t hit. You can’t run. You can’t throw. Oh, you hustle, but you can’t do nothin’ else. You’re in there tonight, but I’m looking for another second basemen, so don’t screw up.’” — Former Padre Tim Flannery to the U-T, on the death of ex-manager Dick Williams.

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Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

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

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