Part two of a three-part series.
Jeff Merzbacher left Knox Preparatory School after a single aggravating year, tired of being insulted by middle schoolers who called him a redneck, tired of trying to teach gym on a vacant field with no gym or locker rooms.
“I just lost all my steam,” he said. “I always wanted to be positive. But it was just a nightmare.”
He jumped at the chance to leave, pushed away by the inadequate fields, indifferent coworkers and lax student supervision. The teachers who took his spot left even quicker. Knox cycled through eight gym teachers in September and October alone this year. Some stayed for just a few days before quitting.
The Lincoln Park school was supposed to be one of the lucky ones when it comes to staffing. Under a new California law, it was freed from the rigid and sometimes dysfunctional hiring system that other schools lament. That was supposed to allow principals to choose the right teachers for their schools.
But if schools are unable to lure or keep teachers, that freedom does them little good. The reason is simple: Many struggling schools have few applicants to choose from because of bad reputations, shabby facilities or dismal working conditions. And they regularly lose the teachers they do get.