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The San Diego Unified School District’s problems are so great, and its leaders are so unable to deal with them, that it should stop layoffs and immediately surrender itself to state control.

That’s the stark message from school board member Scott Barnett. He’s set to unveil his plan today but outlined it in advance to our Will Carless.

The district would declare itself insolvent, forcing it to fire its superintendent and relegate the school board to an advisory board. Instead, a state-appointed adviser would gain unilateral control.

“But Barnett thinks there are distinct benefits to declaring insolvency now. He says the district could keep schools fully staffed until next spring, and he says it’s time for a new system of running city schools, since the school board has effectively run local education into the ground,” Carless writes.

We’ve got plenty of background material to help you understand the financial straits facing San Diego Unified.

• In September, we foreshadowed the financial problems facing the school district. The headline — “The Ticking Time Bomb in San Diego School Finances” — says it all.

• We explored how district officials have quietly talked about insolvency for years. Considering that history, we wrote that the district’s gambles that funding would increase “have begun to look misguided at best and reckless at worst.”

• “Declaring insolvency would spur radical changes in the district’s operations,” we wrote, and explained what might happen.

• In a San Diego Explained video series in conjunction with NBC 7 San Diego, we looked at the crisis facing the district:

** Part One: What’s at Stake

** Part Two: How We Got Here

** Part Three: The Gamble

** Part Four: Solutions 

The School District that Works Together

The Poway school district — which serves Poway and the San Diego neighborhoods of Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Peñasquitos — has one of the best reputations in the county, so strong that parents move there just so their kids can go to its schools.

In the Poway district, teachers get along with the people who run the place. They didn’t always, but they’ve learned to make things run smoothly.

Our editor Andrew Donohue talked with the district superintendent and teachers union president and about how they’ve bridged their divides. Their experiences may offer lessons for the San Diego district, which has long been plagued by distrust.

One key to harmony has been a focus on the data: “the district and the union sat down and went through the budget line by line. They no longer argued about what the problems were, but rather simply how to solve the problems.”

Hypocritical Potshot from Fletcher Supporters

A campaign mailer arrived at my home this week courtesy of  political action committee supporting Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who wants to be mayor. It offers a zinger about his opponent Councilman Carl DeMaio, saying he “voted for a $1 billion tax INCREASE — without voter approval — to expand the convention center.”

That’s true. Also true: Fletcher supports the very same deal. The only difference is that DeMaio got to vote on it. DeMaio’s reasoning for supporting the bill recently earned him our worst fact check rating

The mailer also touts Fletcher, saying he “led the effort in the state legislature to pass a $1 billion tax CUT to bring over 144,000 new jobs to California by encouraging business to locate and hire workers in the state.”

But the bill never passed.

U-T Chief Says OC Register Purchase Is Near, Then Backpedals

The publisher of the U-T confirmed to KPBS yesterday that the paper is close to a purchase of the Orange County Register, the major newspaper serving the county just to the north of us.

“The Register would give Manchester’s politics an expanded reach, while enabling the two papers to consolidate business and printing operations,” our Rob Davis reports. “The benefits of merging their newsrooms are less obvious, as their coverage today has little overlap.”

Later, the CEO, John Lynch backpedaled telling the North County Times it was “not true.”

Quick News Hits

• The online magazine Slate questions the notion that pro football concussions contribute to the suicides of players like Junior Seau.

A recently released study found that football players were actually less likely to die of suicide than other people. And Seau, who lived through a variety of personal challenges, “was beset with a smorgasbord of risk factors for suicide, regardless of the state of his brain.”   

• The National Park Service opposes the Irwin Jacobs plan to remake Balboa Park. An official says in a letter that the project would have a “permanent, major and adverse effect on the integrity” of the park.

“The Project will physically destroy a part of the [National Historic Landmark] property, and the Project will introduce visual elements and spatial changes that will diminish the integrity of the property’s historic features,” the letter says. The park service is being quite a stickler: it even questions the construction of two reflecting pools, saying they’d create a “false sense of history” and possibly “be conjectural and not reconstructions of the 1935 pools.” (San Diego Reader)

By the way, the story says Councilman Carl DeMaio opposes the project. His position appears to be more nuanced. His campaign told us not to change a scorecard where he’s marked as in support of the change. 

• In a story that features reminiscing from one of our recent Q&A interview subjects, wisecracking sculptor Ruth Hayward, CityBeat finds that some of the most popular local lover’s lanes of the past are no longer in service: “Some have been built over by developers. Others have been burned by police patrols and cell-phone toting neighbors, police say. Still others have simply fallen out of popularity with the changing times.

Even Balboa Park, whose reputation as a hangout for Mexican hustlers inspired a Bruce Springsteen song, isn’t the go-to spot it once was for semi-public displays of affection.

But there’s still a prime place for a bit of late-night slap-and-tickle: the peak of Mt. Soledad. It’s got a great view, plenty of wind to fetchingly tussle your hair and even bunnies romping on the lawn.

Just remember: if the mountaintop is rock-and-rollin’, don’t come a-strollin’.

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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