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When local parents think their neighborhood school is too unsafe for their kids, many are flocking to Encanto. That may seem like an odd choice. But O’Farrell Charter School sets itself apart so much that students are attending from nine different school districts.

What’s the draw of this public school? “Over the years, as O’Farrell expanded, its students found a stable environment that hangs onto teachers and administrators. That stability shows up in a variety of measures. Test scores at O’Farrell stand notably higher than those of nearby neighborhood schools,” our Mario Koran reports. “But high academics are only part of what draws parents to the school. In interviews with VOSD, parents mentioned caring teachers, a sense of discipline and a welcoming environment. But one feature stood out above the rest: safety.”

Our story digs into what makes O’Farrell work. One of the keys to its success seems to be its approach to discipline: “clear, consistent consequences for misbehavior.”

“There’s no gray area for what should happen if students aren’t following directions,” Andrea Sweetser, a third-grade teacher at O’Farrell, tells us. “When problems come up, I always feel like administrators have my back. At my previous school, I didn’t feel like I even got to have an opinion. Here, admin always listens to what I have to say and I am part of the process.”

‘No Reason for Optimism’ on Chargers Staying

NFL owners approved the Chargers deal to move to Los Angeles and a way to finance the hefty relocation fee Wednesday. And on the way out, a few of them explained their plight to reporters gathered.

Sam Farmer at the LA Times captured the scene best. One of the best laments came from Bob McNair, the owner of the Texans. He said San Diego officials were not moving in the right direction. “They need to come up with a firm proposal. The owners can’t be held in limbo.”

It’s hard out there for the football barons. So much limbo!

The problem with that claim, though, is Dean Spanos, the president of the Chargers, is not negotiating with San Diego officials. And unlike his counterparts, he did not stay and chat with reporters. He ducked out with a promise to announce his decision in the New Year.

He’s likely still bent out of shape about a letter from San Diego politicians offering him a vast swath of the city’s most valuable land for a dollar a year.

I saw so many people getting worked up about it, I had to explain what I think it is and what it isn’t. It’s news, but not why a lot of people thought it was.

— Scott Lewis

Rep. Hunter’s New Lender

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter got a $57,000+ loan, in part to help him repay his campaign for money spent on things like a dentist and a nail salon, and now the U-T finds that the loan was arranged by an 85-year-old real estate broker who is a convicted murderer.

The murder was decades ago, and the broker served time. He tells the paper: “I didn’t steal the money, I didn’t kill anybody to get the money, and Duncan Hunter wasn’t involved in that case, which was a long time ago. Why should I tell him? We’re not going to church or confession.”

3,000 Apartments on Tap for S.D.

The U-T calculates that the county will be home to about 3,000 new apartment units in 2017, double the number built this year, although a real estate lecturer says it’s far from enough.

• The N.Y. Times chats with the clumsily named Housing You Matters, a new local organization that’s “raised about $50,000 toward its mission to break the housing impasse through research and advocacy.” In general, the idea is to promote more housing through Yimbyism: “Yes, in My Back Yard.” Andrew Keatts and Scott Lewis spoke with the project leader for the podcast last week.

• The powers-that-be are still figuring out the cleanup of the San Onofre nuclear plant amid dispute over who’s going to pay for what’s said to be “the most expensive nuclear plant decommissioning in history.” You and me and other SoCal power ratepayers may be on the hook. (NBC 7)

What Prop. 47 Wrought

“Two years ago, California voters passed Proposition 47, a far-reaching law that erased felonies and released at least 13,500 prisoners who had been incarcerated for low-level drug and theft crimes,” Gannett papers report in a new investigation. “But the state has done little to help these former inmates restart their lives, abandoning them to a cycle of homelessness, addiction and petty crime.”

We’ve explored how the release may, and may not, be contributing to higher numbers of homeless people.

North County Report: Openness In Tiny Town of Rainbow

Up by the county line, the tiny town of Rainbow has one school that makes up its own school district. As this week’s North County Report notes, a group of volunteers is striking a blow for transparency by tape-recording the district’s school board meetings, a practice that the board halted a few years ago amid some touchy personnel issues.

Also in the North County Report: A study finds that Vista is home to the highest percentage of poor residents in North County (Escondido, San Marcos and Oceanside aren’t far behind) and seawalls are spawning a legal fight in Solana Beach.

And: Former Del Mar Mayor and columnist Bill Arballo and former Oceanside Blade-Tribune (later Blade-Citizen) editor Bill Missett have both passed away.

As the U-T’s Logan Jenkins put it, the Missetts (brothers Tom — the publisher — and Bill) “ruled Oceanside for some 25 years with aggressive reporting and unapologetic tackiness that loyal readers loved,” such as “the Back Page, known in-house as ‘The Two-Headed Baby Page,’… a collection of the nastiest and weirdest gore on the news wires.”

The “Blade” survived until its owners bought the (Escondido) Times Advocate in 1995 and created the North County Times. We who worked at the more refined “T-A” were aghast at being overrun by the barbarian newspaper from the coast. At our much less free-wheeling paper, owned by the out-of-town Tribune Co., we sniffed at the sensationalistic approach of the Blade, which Bill Missett would later describe as being “the conscience of the community. To try to hold up a mirror every day… To present the seediness and rub their noses in it.”

Quick News Hits: Seals on the Rocks

The N.Y. Times explores how we’re “a growing entrepreneurial hub for veterans.”

KPBS’s series about migrant deaths at the border continues with a profile of the group Eagles of the Desert, which searches for missing migrants, and its founder, a Fallbrook man whose brother and cousin died in the Arizona desert after being abandoned by a smuggler.

Chula Vista, the county’s second-largest city, has its first female chief of police. She’s Capt. Roxana Kennedy and will replace David Bejarano, who’s served as chief of both San Diego and Chula Vista. (CBS 8) As the U-T noted, four of the top five law enforcement leaders in the region will be women.

• We all know about the certainties of life: Death, taxes, Clintons and court hassles over the Children’s Pool.

The latest on the latter front: A judge says people will be able to hang out with harbor seals giving birth at the La Jolla beach during breeding season through March 15, NBC 7 reports. The beach had been closed during breeding season.

It’s still illegal to harass the seals, even though that hasn’t stopped people in the past.

The judge said nothing about whether seals can drop by local maternity wards and take some selfies, but it sure would serve us right.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past 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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