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The San Diego teachers union has placed its controversial executive director on paid administrative leave but won’t say what’s going on.

Craig Leedham has played a major role in the union’s evolution toward a more hard-line stance in its dealings with the school district.

Last month, we detailed the union’s confrontational evolution, Leedham’s position in that, and the discomfort it had caused former teachers union leaders and others. 

“He has his view of the world. For Craig, it’s either black or white. You’re either with him, or you’re against him,” a former teachers union VP told us. “I wouldn’t put him as my friend — ever — but if I was in trouble I’d want to have him on my side. You want the nastiest lawyer around, but you don’t want to eat dinner with him afterwards.”  

The Leedham benching comes in the wake of the union’s decision to backtrack on its cooperation with the district to ease the layoff rules causing so much frustration with teachers and schools.

• The union’s internal and external politics are shaping up to be a major storyline this year as San Diego Unified seeks concessions it says are needed to avoid massive layoffs.

The district took another step towards that end Tuesday, issuing nearly 1,700 layoff warnings. It is just a preliminary step based on early estimates and most if not all of the warnings have been rescinded in recent years, but the district says this year is different.

Stomach and Brain in Knots, but Play Must Go On

A while ago, I read about how the severe stress of a crucial Civil War battle physically sickened generals Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee as they fought each other. It’s a reminder of anxiety’s power to curdle the insides of all of us, even the seemingly mighty.

Seema Sueko, facing her own military-related performance, knows the drill. She’s the director of the play at Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company whose production we’ve been following. Opening Night came on Friday, and she offered us a play-by-play of a day full of gut drama.

Several times, she wrote “still feeling nauseous” in a play-by-play of her day. She added: “Tired. High strung. Just raised my voice at ushers who were standing around…need to go to office. secluded in office, deep breaths.”

We’ve been following the behind-the-curtain preparation for the play as part of our Arts: Embedded series. If you’ve missed any of our previous stories about the production, they’re all here.

You can also check out the weekly Arts Report, which includes links to stories about Beethoven’s forbidden love, storytelling at High Tech High, Latin American art across Southern California and a fuss over the language in a production of Mark Twain’s “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Are 6 in 10 Latino Students Failing to Keep Up?

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher says improving education is a moral issue, pointing to the “unacceptable” fact that “fifty-eight percent of Latino students in San Diego Unified aren’t reading at grade level.”

Is that true? San Diego Fact Check finds that it is.

On the Neglect of Science

In the latest commentary in the Henrietta Lacks Project, an exploration of science, ethics and diversity that we’re teaming with, two local science advocates tackle the rise of global warming denial and fears of vaccines: “We are a population out of touch with science, and this is becoming an increasingly dangerous position.”

‘Let the Real Debate Begin’

U-T San Diego is back with another editorial pushing its waterfront megaproject and is unhappy with the lack of love it’s getting.

“Six weeks later, the plan we put forward is still not being addressed seriously by key players,” the paper states.

Quick Hits

• Authorities say a man killed his girlfriend when he fired a homemade cannon near a mobile home in the backcountry border community of Potrero, NBC San Diego 7 reports. The bizarre incident, not surprisingly, is getting national attention.

The TV station paraphrases a deputy as saying “it’s legal to own a cannon but is not necessarily legal to fire it.”

• Dozens of Mexican media outlets want authorities to protect journalists at the Tijuana newspaper Seminario Zeta as it tries to publish amid threats from a gang, reports the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

March of the Video References

• The San Diego sports anchorman’s catty slur against a female race-car driver went viral last month — he was venting about Danica Patrick’s complaint about being called “sexy” — and just made it onto The Colbert Report, whose host wonders if the b-word he was looking for was “ba-sexy.”

• The Discovery Channel is promoting a new series by offering a live video feed of SeaWorld San Diego’s Penguin Encounter exhibit, featuring almost 300 penguins and all Antarctic species, Reality Blurred reports. It adds: “it’s oddly compelling, particularly when a penguin takes interest in the camera and decides to break the fourth wall.”

Don’t worry, building fans. “Fourth wall” is insider TV talk. No actual structural support systems were harmed in the making of this live video feed.  

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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