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The San Diego County Office of Education / Photo by Sam Hodgson

The San Diego County Office of Education earlier this year made a decision when it was asked to renew Classical Academy Vista’s permission to operate as a charter school.

Yes, the elected board said, but you need to take steps to make the demographics of your school look more like the demographics of the area in which it operates. Specifically, you need to end preferential admissions for siblings of students and children of staff, which the board hoped would over time make the school (15 percent Latino students) look more like Vista Unified (65 percent Latino students).

When it came time for the SDCOE’s staff to turn that decision into an agreement between the agency and the charter school, though, they didn’t. There was no mention of the requirement to change admissions practices.

That’s because agency staff and legal counsel concluded the direction didn’t follow state laws outlining how school districts can regulate charter schools. We talked to some experts who agreed.

But we talked to experts who didn’t agree, too, and at least two other school districts have concluded they absolutely have the authority that the SDCOE board tried to wield.

What’s more, experts told us, is that even if the agency determined that the board’s action was improper, then making a new decision needs to happen at a public board meeting, just like the first one did, rather than being reversed by unelected staff outside of public view.

Click here to read the full story. 

SD Unified Union Explains Teacher Burnout, Fiasco of Mental Health Day

The president of the union of educators in San Diego Unified School District implored teachers Monday not to take Friday off unless they already planned to. If any more did take it off, especially out of frustration for the district’s flip flop last week on whether to cancel school Nov. 12, it could violate their contract. 

Background: Thursday, San Diego Unified Superintendent Lamont Jackson announced that he was going to ask the school board to cancel the instructional day Nov. 12. Nov. 11 is already a holiday with no school. In an email to parents late that night, Jackson wrote that it would give families the chance to focus on their wellness and mental health. 

Pretty soon, though, other takes started to emerge that this proposal was an effort to deal with the fact that so many educators had requested the day off and they didn’t have enough substitute teachers. There have been many stories recently about the lack of professionals available for substituting along with other staffing needs in schools. With students also potentially out in higher-than-normal numbers, the district was going to let everyone out and add another day at the end of the year.  

But then there was a backlash among parents who were concerned about the lack of planning and the implication that a sudden need for child care that day was created for their mental health. 

Friday, Jackson walked it all back and told parents they could keep kids home if they wanted but they’d be welcome at school. Crucially, no instructional day would be added to the end of the school year. 

Jackson flatly denied that the district had any staffing issues that contributed to the need for the “pause for mental health.”

There is a labor issue, though: at least according to Kisha Borden, the president of the San Diego Education Association. She explained to members in an email that many teachers had been planning to take Nov. 12 off and had the leave time saved to do it. But there are potentially not enough substitutes. 

“If you were already planning on using earned leave on the 12th, you do not have to change your plans. What we should not and cannot do however is to encourage fellow educators to take the day off as a concerted response to the District’s poor decision-making,” she wrote. That would violate the contract the teachers have with the district. 

And the Solution to the Cross-border Sewage Problem Is…

All of them. The Environmental Protection Agency has finally revealed a list of narrowed-down projects to solve the Tijuana River sewage problem.

But it actually didn’t narrow down the list at all, writes Mackenzie Elmer in this week’s Environment Report. The EPA doesn’t have the money to do all the projects it would like to, so it’s created a wish-list of sorts, so it can fast-track the planning for the projects. That way once more money becomes available, all the environmental studies will be done and the projects can begin construction.

Elmer details the different projects on the list, which include building a bigger and better South Bay International Wastewater Treatment plant and another project that would cut down on some of the sewage spilling into the ocean from canyons along the border.

Read the Environment Report here.

In Other News

This Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, Scott Lewis and Maya Srikrishnan. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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