It’s been a busy couple of weeks, as the mess at the San Diego Unified School District has spread out in all directions.

I’ve been focusing on two main issues: The discussion over possible insolvency at the district and the battle over whether teachers should make concessions on pay raises they are owed in order to reduce the total number of teacher layoffs planned for city schools.

Here’s a selection of recent clips from our media partners NBC 7 San Diego and links to discussion on schools from KPBS Midday Edition Roundtable, which I’ve been invited on for the last two weeks.

I’ve also noted my favorite moments from each clip or debate.

1. NBC San Diego: Insolvency at City Schools

I appeared briefly on NBC San Diego’s nightly news program a couple of weeks ago to discuss school board trustee Scott Barnett’s call to send the district into insolvency for its own benefit.

• Gist of the discussion: San Diego Unified has fallen afoul of Wall Street as a result of Barnett saying the district is already insolvent. That could end up costing the district more in interest on its loans.

• My favorite moment: Towards the end of the video, around 00:54, school board president John Lee Evans and vice president Barnett sum up how they feel the district’s budget is doing. The difference is pretty stark.

2. KPBS Midday Roundtable, May 18

I’ve been on this show several times over the years and this was one of the most interesting and informative roundtables I’ve participated in.

In addition to talking about the mayoral candidates’ plans for the port of San Diego and financial troubles at the San Miguel Fire District, we spent a good chunk of the show dissecting the money mess at city schools.

• Gist of the discussion (school coverage begins at 18:17): This was a good round-up of the to-and-fro over whether the school district should declare insolvency.

• My favorite moment: At 22:19, KPBS reporter Katie Orr asked a very good question about what possible benefit there would be to the school district for declaring insolvency. I responded by outlining some of the politics behind Barnett’s plan. At this point, Barnett feels his colleagues on the school board are incapable of making the tough decisions needed to responsibly manage the district. The real benefit of insolvency, as he sees it, would be bringing in someone who will actually make those decisions.

Check out the show, by clicking here.

3. San Diego Explained: School District Insolvency

• Gist of the piece: A quick-hit, three-minute guide to the district’s discussions over insolvency. NBC San Diego’s Catherine Garcia and I recap what insolvency means and how it would impact the district.

• My favorite moment: The last part of the clip, from 1:50 onwards, describes a very important point: Barnett and Evans don’t disagree about the numbers, both say the district’s deficit is about $80 million to $120 million this year. What’s at issue is what those numbers mean. Barnett says they’re tantamount to insolvency; Evans says far from it.

View more videos at:

4. KPBS Midday Roundtable (Radio and Video), May 25, 2012

Last Friday, KPBS hosted another lively discussion on the troubles at the school district.

• Gist of the discussion: This time, the show focused on last week’s big news: The announcement that one in five teachers in the district have been issued final layoff notices. We talked about the impact that might have on schools and also the extraordinary call from the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, which last week asked the teachers union to start negotiating with the district to find a solution to the crisis.

• My favorite moment: There’s always some lively discussion on the roundtable, and I expected some opposition from the other journalists to the call for teachers to start talking about salary concessions to avoid layoffs. But everyone was in agreement that discussion had to happen, even J.W. August. The Channel 10 News managing editor can be a contrarian and all-around no-nonsense guy. He came out strongly in favor of the union sitting down and hashing out a compromise. Check out his comments from 12:30 onwards.

Click here to listen to the radio show. The schools discussion is the first segment.

I also filmed a quick television interview with KPBS Evening Edition:

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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