For several years I had been filling a folder labeled aca-deca with newspaper clippings about the triumphs of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s academic decathlon program. Somewhere in the first paragraph, invariably, was a reference to either Taft or El Camino Real, the twin Woodland Hills powerhouses that have gone on to win eight U.S. Academic Decathlon titles. It was always a pleasant surprise to see L.A. teenagers hailed as masters of the brainiac universe. I kept thinking a story lurked in there, a bright spot in a maligned district.