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Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: L.A.’s new schools chief faces a tough road

Grey and pink clouds drift in the sky as the sun sets
Rain clouds drift over Signal Hill as a storm clears out Thursday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Saturday, Dec. 11.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week

L.A. picks a new superintendent. Alberto Carvalho, who has led Miami-Dade County Public Schools since 2008 and is among the nation’s most experienced and admired school district leaders, has been named to the role. He faces a district struggling to overcome the pandemic.

Vaccines lag in L.A. schools. About 34,000 students have not complied with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate — and there’s no longer enough time for them to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 10, prompting the district to consider pushing the deadline back. Meanwhile, nearly 500 district employees have lost their jobs for failing to meet the vaccination requirements.

Coronavirus cases are rising. Health officials from a number of California counties say they’re seeing early signs of a rebound as people attend holiday gatherings. Meanwhile, lab data show the latest variant of concern, Omicron, was circulating in California weeks before health officials raised alarms.

Young Latinos are dying of COVID-19 at an alarming rate — and the effects could be felt for generations. As more people get vaccinated, pandemic restrictions lift and the economy rebounds, the families of the young Latinos who died will feel the loss for decades to come — not just the grief but long-term financial hardship.

Torrance police traded racist, homophobic texts. It could jeopardize hundreds of cases, and state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said his office will investigate. The Times examined some of the contents of the secret texts and identified a dozen officers under investigation.

California Rep. Devin Nunes is leaving Congress. The controversial San Joaquin Valley Republican and ardent supporter of Donald Trump is leaving Congress by the end of the month to head a social media company created by the former president.

2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit dies at Santa Anita. The 3-year-old colt collapsed on the track after a workout. Medina Spirit and his trainer, Bob Baffert, have been at the center of controversy after the horse tested positive for a medication that is not legal on race day.

L.A. approves its redistricting map. The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to finalize its new set of district maps for the next 10 years, bringing a quiet end to a frequently contentious redistricting process.

Democrats eye massive shift in war on wildfires. Congressional Democrats are proposing a potentially seismic shift in how the nation battles wildfires by dramatically increasing funding for efforts that aim to prevent blazes, rather than focusing on the tools to put them out.

California created the nation’s first state reparations task force. Now comes the hard part. The group must recommend ways to educate the public about its findings and propose a formal apology, potential compensation and other remedies.

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Composting is California’s next climate crusade. On Jan. 1, a new state law will require Californians to separate organic material from their other garbage. It’s a landmark reform that aims to transform the state’s throwaway culture.

Car crash deaths have surged during COVID-19 pandemic. The latest evidence suggests that after decades of safety gains, the pandemic has made U.S. drivers more reckless. Experts say that this behavior is probably a reflection of widespread isolation, loneliness and depression.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

How QAnon hijacked Hollywood to spread conspiracies. In the convoluted and often nonsensical world of QAnon, many storylines are pulled from film and television — embellished, distorted, but clearly appropriated. For some of the writers who dreamed up the plots, it has been jarring to see their work repurposed.

These are the 101 best restaurants in L.A. After nearly two brutal years fighting for survival, the soul of Los Angeles dining remains resilient. Our compilation includes an interactive map, photos and selections aimed at capturing the overall breadth and spirit of dining in L.A. “Welcome back to the table,” writes Times restaurant critic Bill Addison.

Erewhon made luxury groceries a lifestyle. It’s a cultural phenomenon (and occasional spectacle) that customers, critics and industry analysts joke could exist only in L.A. Company executives, in the midst of an ambitious expansion plan to bring Erewhon stores outside Los Angeles County for the first time in decades, hope that’s not the case.

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Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Laura Blasey. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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