san diego school covid
Students walk into Encanto Elementary School on San Diego Unified's first day back to in-person instruction. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Schools in the United States are not the great equalizers they’ve been promoted as. 

Will Huntsberry explains why in the latest Learning Curve. Standardized test scores have long been used as the only measure of quality for schools. But research shows that test scores do a better job measuring a child’s socioeconomic status than if they had a good teacher. 

Back when Cindy Marten became superintendent of San Diego Unified schools she questioned that measure and promised to find a new standard because, after all, taxpayers should have a way to measure how schools are doing. 

But despite promises, we’re not any closer to having “a good way to measure” quality, Huntsberry writes. Marten didn’t carve out a more responsible way to measure quality, and instead began pretending all schools were great. 

She focused on making statements about how a student’s ZIP code is not their destiny. But, as Huntsberry has documented time and time again, San Diego Unified isn’t living up to that.

Read more here.

Finally, Poo Flows Freely to Cross-Border Treatment Plant

Twenty five days and just under a billion gallons of watery Tijuana sewage later, the federal agency responsible for treating that sludge before it reaches San Diego announced the cross-border spills have stopped — for now.

Officials from the International Boundary and Water Commission, or IBWC, which operates a wastewater treatment plant at the U.S.-Mexico border, are still assessing the system before they can officially say how millions of gallons of untreated municipal Tijuana sewage escaped a system of pipes designed to carry it to the plant. Engineers on both sides of the border prodded sewage control gates with sticks and sent cameras down into the mire searching for a block, but discovered nothing.

This latest uncontrolled spill in this decades-long environmental crisis actually leaked from Mexico into the U.S. from two places: raw, untreated sewage from a border drain and the northerly-flowing Tijuana River. That’s because there’s a key pump, called PB-CILA, on the Mexican side of the border officials kept turning on and off to try and solve the problem. 

That pump, when it’s working properly, takes water out of the Tijuana River, preventing some amount of polluted river water and garbage from flowing into the U.S. It sends some of that water into another pipe that carries Tijuana sewage to the international treatment plant.

When officials shut that pump down, that means more water flows into the U.S. from the river. It’s polluted with some sewage, but it’s more diluted because the river also carries some treated water from other Mexican plants as well as groundwater.

But shutting that pump down also alleviated the amount of pure sewage that would otherwise go to the plant but was spilling through the border drain, officials noted in their reports. 

IBWC also brought in a crane to open a long-stuck valve that controls the raw sewage flow to the plant. At least one of the gates that controls the flow of wastewater from Mexico into the U.S. had been stuck partially closed, so IBWC raised it a bit. Once that was done, officials fired up PB-CILA (that Mexican pump) again and wastewater started to flow normally again to the plant. 

Now, officials are praying no more raw sewage shoots into the border drain during the next few afternoons as Tijuanans come home from work and start flushing toilets. 

Photo of the Week

Essie Mae Horne sits on a set of stairs near her old aparment (bottom right) at Creekside Villas on Feb. 1, 2022. Horne’s husband Andre Mahan Sr. was murdered in their home back in 2006 when an unknown man entered the house and shot him. Horne, who was in her bedroom, found her husband gasping for air on their kitchen floor. This is the first time Horne has visited her old apartment since the shooting 16 years ago. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz
Essie Mae Horne sits on a set of stairs near her old aparment at Creekside Villas on Feb. 1, 2022. Horne’s husband Andre Mahan Sr. was murdered in their home in 2006 when an unknown man entered the house and shot him. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

From Adriana Heldiz: On a recent Tuesday afternoon, I met Essie Mae Horne outside her former home in southeastern San Diego. She wanted to meet in front of the apartment where her husband, Andre Mahan, was murdered in 2006. Horne watched as a gunman shot her husband to death, but despite the horror, she preaches compassion and argues that there’s trauma on both sides. 

In his latest column, Jesse Marx recently wrote about why some victims of horrific crimes are pushing for compassion in the growing public safety debate

Marx explains that crime rates in San Diego are relatively low nowadays, but there’s plenty of anxiety driving the public discourse to more tough-on-crime policies. And this moment presents an opportunity for people to take a step back and listen to lessons learned by one group: victims.

Horne mentioned to me that it would be the first time she visited their former home in 16 years. I took photos of her while she shared some of her favorite memories of him. When we were done, she exhaled with a big smile on her face and tears in her eyes. She said she was happy to finally overcome the fear she had of visiting the scene of the crime. 

Read the latest Fine City column here.

In Other News 

This Morning Report was written by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, MacKenzie Elmer and Adriana Heldiz. It was edited by Megan Wood and Andrew Keatts.

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