Balboa Elementary School is the kind of school that you’d assume would have trouble keeping teachers on board. Its students are so poor that teachers sometimes take their laundry home for them.

The conventional wisdom is that teachers suffer from exhaustion and compassion fatigue. They burn out and move elsewhere.

As our extensive data analysis of teacher transfers between 2004 and 2008 shows, that actually happens a lot: In San Diego Unified, the poorest schools are most likely to lose teachers to other schools. More than twice as likely, in fact, as the wealthiest schools.

Except that’s not the case at Balboa Elementary, which sits near the border of San Diego and National City. Teachers love working there, and they want to stay. Why? Because it’s cracked the code and figured out how to defy “the stereotype that teachers always flee poor schools.”

“How teachers are treated is just as important to getting the right teachers in the right schools as the elaborate rules that can get in the way of good matches,” says the second installment of our three-part series about the flawed teacher placement system in San Diego Unified.

And that’s one reason that some schools haven’t seen a big difference in teacher hiring after a state law freed them to hire anyone they wanted, our sidebar explains. If schools are unable to lure or keep teachers, that freedom does them little good.

Make sure to check out our interactive map, which shows how often teachers left each school for other San Diego Unified schools.

By the way: Our education reporter, Emily Alpert, is at your service today. She’s serving as the People’s Reporter, meaning she’s available to take your assignments, questions and tips about the world of education.

In other news:

  • The mayoral fiscal task force has issued its final report about how the city of San Diego should get out of its financial pickle. You got a sneak preview last month when we obtained a draft report with a startling recommendation — that the city must undertake a raft of tough reforms and if it doesn’t, it needs to seek bankruptcy protection. There are a few differences between the draft and the final report. Does the report even matter now that the city has passed a budget for the next 18 months to plug a $200 million gap? It does, reporter Liam Dillon tells me, “because everybody is saying it’s not all over.” That’s a short-term fix. The city still needs to fix its long-term problems.
  • We take an early look at new budget numbers in the San Diego school district and notice something a bit startling: school bus ridership is down by more than a third.
  • “I long for the days of note passing,” writes our guest blogger, teacher Ashley Hermsmeier. She says no one knows quite how to deal with cell phones in the classroom and estimates that trying to control cell phones takes up 18 minutes of instruction time a day. “With technology like cell phones, we have entered a new era in the teaching profession.”
  • Our Photo of the Day is from a holiday-related gathering at the border fence. In line with the Christmas theme, Today’s photo soundtrack is a Spanish-language version of “Silent Night.”


  • “Plant operators had to temporarily shut down one of San Onofre Generating Station’s two reactors over the weekend after an emergency generator failed a routine test,” reports the NCT. A spokesman said public safety wasn’t endangered; an anti-nuclear advocate, however, is raising the alarm about the plant’s “safety culture.” We took an in-depth look at “mistakes and management problems” at the power plant earlier this year.
  • Sol Price, the pioneering retailer and prominent local philanthropist, died yesterday at 93.
  • You can post your memories of Price on our obituary writer Adrian Florido’s blog. Price is best known for creating Price Club and developing the concept of warehouse stores, but his generosity was remarkable too. “I’ve always said that people give money for one of three reasons: guilt, ego, or emotion,” he told his biographer, the WSJ reported. He had two of these motivations, he said, lacking only the ego.


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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