Tabatha Footman-Robertson is a fifth grade teacher at Edison Elementary. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Almost the entire student body at Edison Elementary in City Heights lives near the poverty line, which is typically correlated with poor test scores. Yet its math and reading proficiency scores resemble those of a much more affluent school. 

In a new story, Will Huntsberry considers how one traditional neighborhood school in San Diego Unified is defying the odds

The school’s principal, a self-described “data nerd,” keeps track of each student’s progress and obsesses over whether they’re individually hitting targets. She has tried to create a culture in which teachers are loving toward their students, but hold them to high standards. 

She and her staff also make a point of attending to the needs of students beyond the academic work. The school has a robust counseling program and all new families go through an onboarding interview when they join the school. 

Experts say Edison’s intimate approach is exactly what’s needed to begin closing the achievement gap. The culture at some other high-poverty schools perpetuates the gap by amplifying the belief that students who come from poverty are destined to achieve at lower levels, they say. 

San Diego Considered Letting Police Live-Stream the Streetlight Cameras

As public criticism of San Diego’s smart streetlights began to grow last year, the officials who supervised the project said they’d been thoughtful about how and when the technology was being used. No one, they said, was monitoring the public, because investigators were only accessing the cameras after a suspected crime had occurred. 

But newly obtained emails show that the city had considered giving the police department real-time access to the cameras when the project was in its earlier stages. The mayor’s office said the devices have never been used in that way, and there are no plans to activate that function for police. 

At the same time, though, a police spokesman said his department has had ongoing conversations “about when, and under what limited circumstances, live streaming would be appropriate given the nature of this technology, as well as balancing public safety and privacy rights.”

City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery is convening a working group later this month made up of community organizers as well as tech and privacy experts to draft rules on how surveillance gear is acquired and used. 

So where are the cameras located and why?

The Union-Tribune also analyzed the placement of more than 3,000 smart streetlights and found that the cameras were fairly well distributed among the city’s racial and economic populations. A greater proportion of the cameras had been accessed to solve crimes in black and low-income communities. 

The city says the locations of the cameras were chosen based on their ability to collect data mobility and environmental data and the physical condition of the streetlights, and had nothing to do the makeup of neighborhoods. A top city manager said the police department had no say over placement. 

But police work was on the minds of officials in the beginning. A December 2017 city report notes that the devices could deter crime. “The scaled deployment of CityIQ sensors will likely be applied to maximize coverage of high gunshot areas throughout San Diego,” a project manager wrote.  

There’s more on the surveillance front, you say?

Yup. NBC San Diego reports that last year SDPD tested out Clearview AI, an app that scrapes the internet for your Facebook and Instagram photos and then uses facial recognition to identify potential suspects. 

A police spokesman said the department is no longer using the app while it evaluates “concerns over the ethics related to this technology.” The District Attorney’s Office also confirmed that some of its investigators had taken advantage of a free trial. 

The technology is being marketed to law enforcement agencies across the United States and one of the startup’s investors has been wildly dismissive of anyone’s concerns about the power of what he’s created. He told the New York Times: “I’ve come to the conclusion that because information constantly increases, there’s never going to be privacy. Laws have to determine what’s legal, but you can’t ban technology. Sure, that might lead to a dystopian future or something, but you can’t ban it.” 

Politics Roundup

Public Health Officials Preparing for Coronavirus

San Diego has seen two cases in recent weeks of people testing positive for the coronavirus. Both were isolated and sent back home to China, where the disease was first detected. 

As of Friday, the Union-Tribune reports, the county had cleared seven of eight people who showed possible coronavirus symptoms while under quarantine orders in their homes after returning from trips to China. The region’s top public health officer said she would consider broad actions — like shutting down schools and social events, which other countries have been doing — if she finds significant evidence that the virus is spreading beyond a few isolated cases. 

There’ve been none locally, but U-T also notes that the non-stop media focus on the virus’s growing global presence is pushing local organizations to prepare for the threat. 

In Washington, a man with an underlying health condition became the first person in the United States to die of coronavirus infection. Officials in Santa Clara County announced another case there over the weekend, the Washington Post reports. 

In Other News

  • Please welcome MacKenzie Elmer to the VOSD crew. She’ll be covering the environment and we’re stoked for her to get started. No pressure! 
  • Former Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds for personal use. In new court documents, federal prosecutors say Hunter continues to argue that “carelessness” and his wife are to blame. (NBC San Diego) 

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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