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Our ongoing investigation into sexual misconduct in San Diego public schools has uncovered a culture and system that permits districts to keep teachers accused of misconduct in the classroom, even when they’ve carried out an investigation that substantiated the allegations. Why?

Kayla Jimenez notes in a new story that in some of the most egregious cases, school districts and teachers unions point the finger at each other when it comes to who’s to blame for keeping problem educators on the job.

Some school district officials contend they must keep individuals employed because of due process clauses guaranteed by teachers union contracts. Yet some unions argue school districts have discretion to remove an educator from his or her teaching position should it choose to do so.

Some of the hesitation on the part of the districts, though, might be out of an extreme sense of caution and not any actual threats of litigation from the educator in question. 

And though experts argue that child grooming by predator teachers is a precursor to abuse, allegations of common grooming behavior – like texting a student messages unrelated to academics, spending time alone with them, singling them out for praise – often result in actions like a warning or a reassignment

Pure Water Leader Leaving, Project in Limbo

The leader of the city’s ambitious plan to get a third of its drinking water from recycled sewage is leaving to take a job with the San Diego Zoo. 

The departure of John Helminski, leader of the Pure Water project, comes at a pivotal time for the city’s multibillion-dollar water recycling effort. Despite other turmoil at the water department, Helminski did what he could to keep the complex, first-of-its-kind project on track. 

“John has led a dynamic team that has made the possibility of a new and reliable local source of water a reality for our city,” city spokesman Arian Collins said in an email. “We wish him well as he takes his talents to an incredible local institution. They’re lucky to have him.”

Pure Water is currently in limbo following a lawsuit from a group of contractors alleging the mayor and City Council had illegally mandated union-friendly hiring terms for scores of construction jobs that the project will create.

“Work continues on multiple elements of Pure Water including finalizing remaining contract documents so we are ready to move forward upon resolution of the lawsuit,” Collins said. 

It’s not yet clear when or how that resolution may come.

  • On Thursday, the federal government released its estimates for the near-term health of the Colorado River, the main source of water for San Diego. Thanks to a good winter in the Rocky Mountains, there will not be the water shortage that officials had expected. But the river is already overused and, as the climate changes, less water is expected to flow through it. “While we appreciate this year’s above average snowpack, one good year doesn’t mean the drought is over. We must remain vigilant,” said Brenda Burman, the head of the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that oversees the river.

Lemon Grove Wants to Build Less Housing Than Required

Lemon Grove is the latest city to balk at state mandates to build more housing. 

Officials there could be required by 2029 to make space for nearly 1,400 new units — a substantial increase over the previous decade — and they’re not happy about it, the Union-Tribune reports. They’re joining Coronado and other smaller cities to challenge the formula used to derive at those numbers. 

One of their contentions is that the formula relies too heavily on the availability of transit and not on geography. Lemon Grove has two trolley stops, and it’s roughly 4 square miles in size. 

SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata told the U-T that he plans to meet with Lemon Grove’s City Council next week, but he stressed a couple things: the numbers are unlikely to be altered at this late stage in the game, and they are the product of state law, brought on by a housing crisis. 

After Coronado raised a stink about the numbers earlier this year, SANDAG reduced that city’s housing requirements from 1,800 to 800, the U-T also reported. Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey said he wants to lower his city’s share even lower. 

Speaking of housing: San Diego wants to encourage more “granny flats,” which are basically backyard units, and has created a handbook so fewer people will be intimidated or confused by the process. Officials see the units as the fastest and cheapest way to grow the city’s affordable housing stock, as the U-T puts it. 

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