Earlier this year, the San Diego school district hoped for the best and prepared for the best: It agreed to spend money rehiring teachers — money it knew might not actually become available.

Since it can’t lay off teachers in the middle of the year, if cuts are needed, the district could be insolvent.

Now, it looks like the dollars aren’t coming. But the doomsday scenarioisn’t final,” cautions the district’s government relations director and lobbyist.

“There’s a very serious risk here that shouldn’t be minimized. But I just think it’s important for people to know that this isn’t final,” Monica Henestroza told us in this week’s Q&A.

Her job is to put pressure on the politicians in Sacramento and translate what’s going on up there for local school officials down here. She talks to us about the pickle the district is in, the financial challenges facing education and non-easy solutions.  

Homelessness, Occupy, the City and the Law

We decided to break down the difference between Occupy San Diego’s downtown encampments and homeless encampments elsewhere in the city’s urban core for this week’s San Diego Explained, with NBC 7 San Diego.

It’s not so clear.

• At the same time, the city is making major strides in helping the homeless, CityBeat finds, but there are challenges. A program designed to find homes for transients who cost the most in public services now has 35 participants, but not every one is itching for an apartment.

Some, in fact, dream of being homeless again. “That’s where they know how to be. Some of them are quite infamous among their friends on the streets. In housing, they may experience an identity crisis and feel awkward at first,” a program manager tells the alt-weekly.

Meanwhile, it looks like the downtown winter homeless shelter will close next year due to a funding shift, potentially leaving hundreds of transients without shelter from the cold and rain.   

What We Learned This Week

• Art in East Village Faltered: When the government tries to cram edgy art underneath condos in gentrifying urban communities, well, you should know it can come out like this.

• All Those School Buildings We Were Going to Put Up? Not happening for now. Falling home values mean the school district is collecting far less from its 2008 construction bond. It now can only pay off the old bond with the revenue and will be halting new construction efforts. Meanwhile, it’s still pursuing yet another bond and property tax hike.

• We Don’t Know If School Changes Worked: San Diego schools have tried numerous changes to see if they improve student performance. For example, it spent $30 million to test whether it could prove smaller classes really help. So did it? Unfortunately we don’t know, and probably won’t. Something similar happened with an innovative program to help kids learn vocabulary.

Number of the Week: 3. The number of major mayoral candidates who are perfectly fine leaving the airport where it is.

Quote of the Week: “Clearly there were some red flags that should have been reported but weren’t,” Police Chief Bill Lansdowne on a police officer convicted of misconduct charges and the early warning signs in the case.

Getting a Handle on Food in City Heights

Check out the details of our community event on food access in City Heights. It was a collaboration between us and other organizations, featuring panelists who talked about the challenges facing residents who’d like to eat healthier in a neighborhood where that can be a challenge.

One woman has started a cooking group for Swahili-speaking refugees; we also heard from a nutritionist who’s put kids and cameras to work in immigrant communities and two representatives of non-profit groups who are working to help make it easier for City Heights residents to grow their own food on vacant land.

Reading the U-T’s Tea Leaves

A CityBeat editorial roasts the man now set to become president and CEO of the Union-Tribune, for his comments in an interview with us.

Former local radio executive John Lynch, now working with soon-to-be U-T owner Doug Manchester, “made a number of comments that should alarm reporters and readers alike,” CityBeat says, describing a vision that’s “hokey and unsophisticated.”

Leaf Her to Heaven

I’m not quite sure exactly what’s going on in our Photo of the Day, but no matter: it’ll put you in an autumn mood even if your trees are stubbornly green.  

Turkey Talk

In San Diego, Thanksgiving Day featured several arrests at Occupy San Diego (U-T), the rescue of a kitten who fell down a plastic pipe in an El Cajon sidewalk (NBC 7 San Diego), and a 7,000-person Turkey Trot race in Oceanside. (NC Times)

Our Readers Are Pretty Darned Sharp

The other day, we linked to a 46-second home movie of President Kennedy’s motorcade visit to San Diego in 1963. I asked readers if they recognized the location. They did indeed: Dave Gatzke and Milt Phegley emailed to say that JFK was filmed on El Cajon Boulevard between Illinois Street and Iowa Street.

That’s right near a tattoo parlor, a strip joint, a closed medical marijuana shop and a clairvoyant’s office. Oh wait, maybe that doesn’t really narrow it down on the Boulevard. Here’s a look at the El Cajon and Illinois intersection today if you can’t quite place it.

Now if only these eagle-eyed readers could tell me where I put my keys.

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

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

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