The San Diego Unified district has made neighborhood schools a priority for five years, declaring that every community should have a quality school by 2020. It’s a big goal (we have to do better) blended with a remarkable admission of failure (not all schools are high quality).

How are things going? As VOSD’s Mario Koran reports, a new study “shows 42 percent of parents across the district choose to send their kids to schools outside their neighborhoods. That’s about the same percentage of students as 2011 . Meanwhile, a growing number of families have opted instead for charter schools.”

Parents are especially likely to reject their local schools when their kids transfer from elementary to middle school.

What now? “The district is looking to stave off further loss of its students, in large part, by investing bond money in poorly attended schools, hoping new facilities and programs will draw students back to the neighborhoods,” Koran reports.

“Academic advisers at the University of California at San Diego will this fall be able to tell on a scale from zero to 10 if the student sitting in front of them is on track to graduate within four years,” Inside Higher Ed reports. It sounds like this information may not be very helpful at first, but eventually it may help universities develop a form of “preventive medicine.” Take two writing assignments and call me in the morning?

Filner on the Stand, Denying Again

Disgraced former Mayor Bob Filner defended himself on the stand Wednesday with a firm denial as he testified in civil court in response to allegations that he put his arm around a city employee in a chokehold. “There are certain things I would never do,” he said, according to the U-T.

Filner, who’s now 73, testified in the first of two cases that have not been settled. He confirmed that he’d told Voice of San Diego that he hadn’t engaged in harassment. In response to the plaintiff’s lawyer, however, he acknowledged “that some behavior the lawyer described either would or could be violations of the city’s sexual harassment policies.”

He also described his legal troubles, including a guilty plea, as “devastating.”

Former Councilwoman Donna Frye also testified about her resignation as Filner’s director of open government due to “what she described as an inability to do her work because she was barred by the mayor from talking to media, council members or their staff.”

The Lawsuit From Inside the House

Civic San Diego, the group that picked up the pieces of the city’s urban renewal program after the state killed it off, is facing a lawsuit alleging it has a conflict of interest regarding its powers over permitting and design. The nonprofit, the thinking goes, is “partnering up with private-sector businesses and rubbing shoulders with developers while at the same time having the authority to perform an essential city service,” the Reader reports.

Who’s suing? Here’s the twist: It’s Murtaza Baxamusa, one of Civic San Diego’s own board members. Now that’s going to make for some awkward interactions by the water cooler at the next board meeting.

Cop Life After Body Cameras

From a research perspective, it’s difficult to know for sure how body cameras affect police work. To find the answer, researchers would have to randomly assign similar cops to use them or not use them and then see what happened. There’s no way to conduct a gold-standard “blind” study in which cops don’t know which group they’re in, and it would be hard to pinpoint outside factors that could throw off the results.

But police departments can still examine statistics and search for trends. The SDPD has done that, the U-T reports, and found that cops used the most extreme forms of force like pepper spray less often during the new body camera era. Conversely, they used less extreme forms more often. The police chief says cops are being trained to not be so aggressive. Meanwhile, complaints against cops decreased markedly over a year during the transition to body cameras.

You may recall our coverage of the guilt-by-association troubles of Aaron Harvey, the local man who was charged with conspiracy because he was supposedly connected to gang shootings. Prosecutors went after him, in part, by saying photos on Facebook proved he had gang ties.

The case against him and others drew major media attention after we focused on it, and it blew up in the district attorney’s face. A judge tossed the charges against Harvey and a rapper. Now, the investigative outfit Reveal checks in with Harvey, who lost his job, and explores the issues raised when authorities classify people as gang members, sometimes without their knowledge. “It’s like a virus that you have, that you don’t know you have,” he says, “and you’re spreading it to other people.”

As for the prosecutors, getting upbraided by a judge hasn’t stopped them from ripping Harvey’s reputation. One of them claims that “Harvey knows more than he is willing to admit.”

Quick News Hits: An Oopsy for the Ages

VOSD’s weekly North County Report gives you northerners an update on the “rail trail” in Encinitas, the bouncing of the top boss at the ever-troubled Tri-City Medical Center and the restraining-order drama at an Escondido school board.

And now, Today in Border Tunnels. (U-T)

Flashback time. Via YouTube, here’s a newly posted 1984 San Diego State video profile of the efforts to restore Mission Beach’s Belmont Roller Coaster for its 60th anniversary. Please keep your unfortunate 1980s hair within the car at all times!

Speaking of history, local media is noting that it’s the 75th anniversary of La Jolla’s Marine Room restaurant, famous for being right on the beach and the frequent target of big waves in big storms.

A quarter century ago, I was a rookie reporter at the La Jolla Light and got assigned to write about the Marine Room turning 50. At one point, I asked our society editor if the Kellogg family that owned the restaurant was part of the breakfast cereal empire. Yup, she replied. So I put that into the story without bothering to confirm it. How could the nice lady who covered soirees at the garden club be wrong?

After the newspaper came out, I arrived at work to find my editor in snap-crackle-and-pop mode. The La Jolla Kelloggs were not related to the Battle Creek Kelloggs, and they were said to hate it when people assumed they were. To make matters worse, our publisher informed my boss that she regularly played tennis with one of the Kelloggs. Game, set and awkward!

My editor pulled me into his office to scream at me. After a break, he yelled at me some more for good measure. But I kept my job, barely. This remains the biggest mistake of my journalism career, and I’ve given Corn Flakes the stink eye ever since.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and national president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). 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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