escondido schools covid
Students walk to class at Bear Valley Middle School. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The Morning Report
San Diego news and info
you need to take on the day.

As Voice of San Diego’s former education reporter, the inimitable Will Huntsberry, wrote in his inaugural edition of this very newsletter – I have good news and bad news.

But unlike Huntsberry, I’ll lead with the good news, which is that The Learning Curve is back baby! The bad news is that it’ll no longer be Huntsberry’s smooth and fiery words sliding into your inbox every other Wednesday. It’ll be mine.  

Over the course of my short time in the world of journalism, I’ve told my “story” more times than I can count – in job interviews, cover letters, scholarship applications and at awkward social events. At this point, it feels a little self-aggrandizing.  

But I’ve been assured that an important aspect of running a newsletter is for the writer to develop a relationship with their subscribers. So, in the interest of that, I’m going to clench my teeth and white-knuckle my way through one more introduction. 

Voice of San Diego’s new education reporter Jakob McWhinney. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle for Voice of San Diego

Hi. I’m Jakob. I’m Voice’s new education reporter. I was born and raised in San Diego and for many years my life revolved around playing music. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit I was laid off from my part-time jobs and playing in bands became a thing of the past. 

It was a chaotic and destabilizing experience, but it gave me a unique opportunity to step back from the grind and think deeply about what I wanted. I enrolled at San Diego City College to finally earn the degree I’d put off for years, and although I never considered a career in journalism, I fell in love with it after taking an intro-level class to fulfill a prerequisite.  

While writing for and producing podcasts at City College’s City Times Media, I was hired as Voice’s intern in January. I spent my internship writing about homelessness, primarily in East County, exploring the convoluted world of COVID-19 testing, and diving into the pandemic-era radicalization of a local church’s leadership

It sounds cheesy but going back to community college was nothing short of life-changing. So, I’m intimately aware of the transformative potential of education. Moving into this position I hope to bring that reverence for it to every piece I report. 

The pandemic also helped me more fully realize that one of the greatest barriers to making our world a better place is simply that people often don’t understand the forces that actually make it work. And journalism felt like a solution, albeit a partial one. It was a way to put in bold the vital bits of fine print, and to communicate to individuals why — in this most convoluted and apathetic of times — they should care about the world around them and the people who inhabit it.  

I hope to approach education reporting in a more holistic way that embraces and celebrates how people educate themselves long after leaving school. I aim to bring you thought-provoking and unorthodox education stories that take place both in the classroom and out of it, with a special emphasis on stories that wouldn’t be told otherwise and that give readers information they can use in their everyday lives.  

That being said, don’t fret, K-12 reporting is not being abandoned. Voice understands the pivotal role of childhood education and our responsibility to continue to hold local officials accountable. 

As Huntsberry wrote all those years ago, I’m sure there’s an incredible amount of corruption and greatness lingering in the fringes, and I want to explore it all.  

Do you have thoughts on stories that need coverage, or more attention? Don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here to listen, and I’d love to hear from you. If you have ideas, tips or feedback, send them to jakob.mcwhinney@voiceofsandiego.org.  

The Content Bouncing Around My Mind Palace 

  • Nice White Parents – This is old news, but I recently relistened to Nice White Parents, the excellent New York Times podcast that examines segregation in New York public schools through the lens of a single middle school and the role the titular “nice white parents” have played over the decades. I was just as struck by it this time as I was last time I listened. It’s an engaging piece of audio reporting that works to explain the battles of today by dissecting those of the past. As we slog through the radioactive present it’s incredibly vital to remember the bombs that were dropped long ago so we can try to avoid dropping them in the future.  
  • Chula Vista has long dreamed of being home to a four-year university and has even set aside nearly 400 acres (an area larger than San Diego State University’s campus) for a “University and Innovation District.” Those hopes, which date back to the late 80s, were dashed (at least temporarily) in 2020 when the CSU system determined there was insufficient enrollment demand to warrant the construction of a new university in the city. But the city is keeping the hope alive, and the perennial issue has continued to influence local elections. Lots of ideas have been floated, one Southwestern College official told me recently they can imagine a food-court-style facility that houses the satellite campuses of a number of universities. But in a recent interview, the new chair of the UC Regents said he supports UCSD expanding into Chula Vista. Could this be the break the city’s been waiting for? 
  • The COVID-19 pandemic was a reality-altering experience. For a minority of individuals, like me, it represented an opportunity. But for many, especially younger students who suffered profound learning losses that exacerbated existing achievement gaps, it was immeasurably damaging. We’re never going to be able to return to the before times, and we’ll be picking up the pieces of our broken systems for decades to come. California alone has seen a decline in K-12 enrollment equal to just under half the population of Wyoming for a variety of reasons that range from parents leaving the state to deciding to homeschool their children but not filing paperwork to do so. I’m especially interested in digging into how we try to mend some of the damage done and the ways in which messy pandemic politics (which were especially pronounced in the world of education) continue to drive the decisions of parents, educators and administrators. 

What We’re Writing 

  • My first piece in this new gig was about housing at community colleges. Not a single local community college offers it, despite their students being some of the most at risk of housing insecurity. But new statewide legislation is supercharging efforts to build it. 
  • In April, the Solana Beach School District passed a new policy to vet donated books. The district is proud of it and insists its innocuous, but some parents and LGBTQ advocates are suspicious of the timing.   

Jakob McWhinney

Jakob McWhinney is an intern at Voice of San Diego.

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.