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Marshall Middle School may be in Scripps Ranch, one of San Diego’s most upscale neighborhoods, but it doesn’t rely on rich parents pumping money into its coffers. Nor is it getting much special funding for low-income kids. Still, its students are top performers.

In a new story, we drop by to see what’s going on.

“The district is focused on finding a way to replicate success like Marshall after it grew disillusioned with the school reform movement,” VOSD’s Mario Koran reports, “which focuses intensely on test scores as a way to gauge progress, and is now looking for a measurable alternative.”

Operatic Vision of Showtunes and Comedy

Chicago’s main opera company has gone rogue.

It’s putting on Broadway musicals, embracing a surprising partnership with the Second City comedy troupe, and preparing a show based on a Jewish folk music tradition that’s akin to Mariachi music. And that’s not all.

In search of a potential path forward for the struggling San Diego Opera, I interviewed the general director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago about the unusual choices it’s made.

While traditional operas are still necessary, Anthony Freud says, “for an opera company to succeed, it has to offer the right balance of activity. If all we did was offer the Traviatas and Butterflies of this world, then we would bore our audiences very quickly.”

Indeed, “in terms of support, in terms of sponsorship, the less well-known pieces and new pieces are generating more excitement than the tried-and-tested repertory productions.”

Read the full Q-and-A here.

• An employee union isn’t going to sue the opera after all as it tries to get its act together. (U-T)

How Useful Is SDPD’s Website?

A San Diego State professor wanted to figure out how transparent police departments are. That’s a tough thing to measure, so he decided to check out their websites and see how much information he could find about topics like department policies and details about how to file a complaint.

The professor looked at the websites of 300 police and sheriff’s departments. How does the SDPD stack up? Not too well, as we explain in a new story, especially when compared to its counterparts in the nation’s other 9 largest cities. But the sheriff’s department doesn’t look too shabby.

The professor, Joshua Chanin, has told us he’ll answer any questions you want to leave in the comments on the story. So pipe up!

Centennial Project’s Kill-Off Date?

“After two months of negotiations, a deal that would terminate agreements with a volunteer group that tried to stage a yearlong celebration of Balboa Park’s centennial is scheduled to go before the San Diego City Council next week,” City News Service reports. “The negotiations over terminating the MOU and funding agreement were drawn-out in part because the city wanted to avoid taking on potential liabilities.”

The agreement also includes a commitment to reimburse unspent city funds, and the city reserves the right to investigate just how the centennial group spent $1.6 million.

For some background, check out our deep dive into how things went so sour for the grand, (un)planned celebration.

Commentary: Strict Food Truck Rules Threaten Brewers

Food trucks have become so common that the city cracked down on them with a bunch of new rules. Critics think the regulations are all about protecting restaurants from competition on the hoof.

Whatever the case, it’s definitely harder for food trucks to do business since they have fewer options about where they can set up. But that also causes problem for breweries that rely on food trucks parked outside to keep their customers happy and fed.

That’s the word from attorney Amanda Allen, who works with craft breweries. In a VOSD commentary, she says the new rules will make it harder for breweries and food trucks to team up. Yes, she writes, food trucks “should be properly regulated to account for the health and safety of customers, and yes, they should pay their fair share of taxes. But the City Council used a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Quick News Hits

• Our quest to understand the role of drones locally continues with a look at the legal battle over whether the FAA can ban commercial drone flights, potentially poking a big hole in the prospects for a big drone industry here.

• Continuing a long line of presidential visits to San Diego that began with President Benjamin Harrison, President Obama will be in town today for a fundraiser at the home of billionaire Irwin Jacobs (a major VOSD donor).

• The beautiful Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma is virtually full, KPBS reports, with only limited space available for eligible spouses and children of those who are already buried there. But spaces may still open up if remains are moved.

• The state’s aqueduct may be reversed, sending some water uphill into the parched Central Valley instead of going south, the AP reports.

• The alternative weekly newspaper CityBeat is out with its election endorsements. There are no major surprises, although the paper did refuse to support Councilwoman Myrtle Cole’s bid to keep her seat: “We’re still seething over her despicable campaign against Dwayne Crenshaw in the runoff election last year. We’ll sit this one out.”

CityBeat gets extra points for picking up — as your Morning Report scribe has — on the similarities between the names of a major candidate for state controller and a deliciously foul-mouthed character on the TV show “Deadwood.”

But it loses points for an endorsement that qualifies as, um, quarter-hearted? Ten-percent-hearted? It’s for state senate: “We’ve never been a fan of [incumbent Ben] Hueso, but judging from his website, [his opponent] seems to be a one-issue guy — getting employers to stop classifying employees as independent contractors. So, we’ll endorse Hueso. Whatever.”

Well, then! Put that in your campaign mailer and smoke it.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president-elect of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him 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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