The district bosses who negotiate teacher salaries in Poway schools are in a unique position.

As VOSD’s Ashly McGlone discovers, “under Poway Unified’s model, managers get the same pay increases as the district’s union groups, with the teachers setting the bar for the rest, district records show.”

That means Poway’s superintendent and three assistant superintendents have a financial stake in the deal, even as they’re tasked with securing the best outcome for taxpayers and students.

Legal specialists and even some new school board members question the potential for a conflict of interest here, but the district’s superintendent says the school board makes the ultimate call on contracts. The teachers union president brushed the issue aside, and a board member — who formerly led the Lincoln Club, an influential San Diego group that supports Republicans with big bucks — said there’s “not an automatic conflict of interest.”

Why Kids Stay and Why They Go

If the San Diego Unified district had its way, students would routinely attend schools in their neighborhoods. But that’s not the way things work.

As we hinted in a story earlier this week, there’s a wide gap between schools that keep neighborhood kids and those that lose them. Now, VOSD’s Mario Koran takes a closer look as the district launches a bid to fine-tune its system.

With an assist from a UCSD math professor, Koran explains the district’s stats: “high schools with high percentages of kids on track to meet the graduation standards pretty much mirror the high schools that are able to hold onto the kids in their neighborhood.”

Some people might credit (or blame) charter schools that siphon off kids whose parents prefer them. But there’s more to it than that. As Koran explains, there’s a bit of a chicken-egg problem here: “Do students leave their neighborhood schools because their academics are less than stellar, or do some neighborhood schools flounder academically because students are leaving?”

Visiting Architect Offers Praise and Pans

Renowned architect and urban theorist Leon Krier was in town this week, and we asked him to give us some thoughts about urban planning and the Logan Heights neighborhood of our fair city.

He likes the idea of fitting lots of people into small spaces, otherwise know as density. But he hates doing it through skyscrapers. As for Logan Heights, whose future is under discussion, he likes the street grid, thinks trolleys are too big and wants to see a central gathering place. And he thinks modern-day Rome has something to teach us about attractive medium-density living.

Low on Water, High on Blame

As the drought gets worse, finger-pointing is in danger of becoming California’s favorite pastime, after Gwyneth Paltrow-bashing. (May it always be No. 1!)

First, the Shame Patrol aimed its mighty arrow of disrepute at almond growers, who suck up a giant share of the state’s water supply. Then the folks at Big Nut got into the game by redirecting blame at just about everyone in sight from homeowners to other farmers.

Confused? Over at Vanity Fair’s website, I put together a handy flow chart (Get it? Flow chart!) titled “A Unified Theory of Drought Shaming.”

Sorry, Juvies, You’re Stuck

Thanks to a state proposition passed in November, hundreds of local adults are getting their felonies reduced to lower charges. What about juveniles? Forget it, the San Diego DA’s office says, relying on an unforgiving reading of the rules. They’re outta luck. Wrong, says the ACLU. (KPBS)

Culture Report: Nice Slab!

Out in Imperial County, few places get more media attention than Slab City, a ramshackle squatter community of retirees, hermits, ex-cons and future-cons that’s sprung up in the desert wasteland. (I dropped by a while back and found plenty of snowbirds, lots of independent older women and a few wiseacres who liked to refer to a social club known as the Wandering Individuals Network, WIN, as “Women in Need.”)

Now, Slab City, the friendliest dystopia around, has captured the attention of KPBS. VOSD’s weekly Culture Report, our look at all things cultural and artistic, notes this coverage and also includes details about the Timken, a “plein jane” (Hey! I handle the puns around here, missy!) and an electronic music festival’s costly damages to the downtown water park.

Quick News Hits: Not-So-Soaring Serra

• All the fourth-grade mission dioramas in the state won’t restore Father Junipero Serra’s battered reputation, but the Catholic Church says the friar is launching a makeover as he nears canonization. (L.A. Times)

• The Center for Investigative Reporting heads to Imperial County, where it finds: “The air is dark and asthma is deadly along the Mexico border.”

• San Diego Eater talks to local restauranteurs Javier Plascencia and Luis Pena about operating eateries on both sides of the border. Pena notes that “there are so many more bureaucratic and logistical issues here. Over there, you can just build and then ask for forgiveness.”

That, of course, never happens here. What? This? Or this? Hush, you.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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