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Teachers matter. But in San Diego schools, getting the right teachers can be a battle. Principals can be forced to hire teachers without getting to choose them, and teachers can be bounced to other schools against their will.

And some schools have so much trouble luring teachers — or keeping them — that even when they are allowed to choose anyone they want, they can’t pull together the staff they need.

What’s getting in the way of matching the right teachers to the right schools? Our reporter Emily Alpert, who won a prestigious education writing award earlier this year, delves into it in a three-part series.

Over seven months, she pored through data, polled parents and principals, talked to teachers, and trekked to schools from San Diego to the East Coast to find out: How does the system that sends teachers to schools work — or not work? What deeper problems are getting in the way of reform? And what can San Diego learn from the sweeping changes elsewhere?

The series begins with a look at the system and how it prevented principals from choosing their teachers in more than 20 percent of hires last year, according to our survey. 

We also explore other angles today: The charter schools that have abandoned the hiring system in disgust and the loopholes and shenanigans that allow some principals to get the teachers they want. And we examine why teachers started to be treated like interchangeable widgets in the first place.

Coming up later this week: Why some schools still struggle to get teachers even when the hiring rules are relaxed, and what the Big Apple can teach San Diego.

Elsewhere:

  • Local federal Judge Napoleon A. Jones has died. He was the second black person to serve as a federal judge locally. (U-T)
  • The U-T explores some of the effects of budget cutbacks in San Diego, including the end of the Harbor Patrol (not to be confused with the Harbor Police). The paper also profiles embattled Assemblyman Joel Anderson, saying he’s “left a trail of loyal supporters, fierce opponents and some peculiar financial activities.”
  • Fairfield Residential LLC, a major apartment owner and developer that’s based here, has filed for bankruptcy. U.S. apartment vacancy rates just reached a 23-year high, the WSJ reports.
  • There’s good news for the North County Times: an independent accounting firm isn’t worried anymore that its parent company, Lee Enterprises, will cease being a “going concern.” (E&P) In plainspeak, this means the accountants have stopped thinking the company might go under. (Disclosure: I am a freelance contributor to the NCT.)
  • Remember the NYT story last week that a Mexican drug feud with ties to the San Diego area? Slate saw the story too and performs a reality check on a mention of how drug-cartel assassins dispose of bodies. Warning: This story’s a bit grisly.
  • A bizarre 1979 San Diego murder case, in which a graduate student/actor killed his mother with an antique sword, inspired a newly released movie by noted director Werner Herzog. (LAT)
  • The U-T was in attendance when filming took place here last spring and has more on the killing.
  • Finally, a San Diego man wrote a language columnist to ask about the plural of curriculum. He was miffed that The New York Times changed a word in his letter to the editor from “curricula” to “curriculums.”
  • You say curricula, I say curriculums. Let’s call the whole thing off and just say “stuff that kids have to learn.”

— RANDY DOTINGA

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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