Part one of a three-part series.
The teacher didn’t want the job at Gompers Middle School. Principal Vince Riveroll didn’t want to hire someone who didn’t want it. So it floored Riveroll when he walked into a staff meeting years ago and found the man he rejected standing there, shoulder to shoulder with his teachers.
“They assigned me here anyway,” Riveroll recalls the teacher saying.
It wasn’t a glitch. It is the major flaw in how hiring works in San Diego Unified. When the school district places teachers in front of your children, the decision may have little to do with whether they make sense for your school, whether the principal wants them or even whether they themselves want to be there.
Teachers are placed into schools through a complex and sometimes haphazard system driven by seniority and the need to find classrooms for teachers displaced when schools lose students or close. Even when principals do have a choice, their decisions are limited by factors that have nothing to do with whether a teacher is right for their school.
Labor rules mean newer teachers can be pulled from schools they love merely because they have less seniority than other teachers. Sometimes they are assigned to schools they didn’t choose. While ensuring that the teachers still have jobs, the system can force unhappy matches as the hiring pool dwindles, even though human resources staffers try to carefully match teachers and schools.