Poor Planning in San Diego Leads to ‘Excess’ Teachers into October

In San Diego, the issue of unassigned teachers comes up every year — and it’s an expensive proposition as budgets are tight. Predictions are off partly because officials don’t know how many students will attend school until classes resume, but it constitutes a major setback for officials every school year leading to inconveniences among the teachers as well as creating confusion among students.

Due largely to enrollment shifts and increases in class size that required staff redeployments, more than 100 teachers in the San Diego Unified School District went into September with no official job assignment for the school year. Opening classrooms and assisting teachers were among the tasks assigned to these teachers, and with their paychecks protected by union contracts, at least five unassigned teachers passed the time with no responsibilities. Seven weeks into the school year, officials say they have matched nearly all the teachers to available jobs.

“It’s like a game of musical chairs,” Superintendent Cindy Marten said. “The music has stopped, and it looks like we have jobs for every teacher.”

According to Maureen Magee of U-T San Diego, one of the unassigned teachers has been without a single duty since school started on September 3rd. The teacher’s U.S. history course sections were eliminated due to a sharp drop in enrollment, and his marine biology class was canceled because it did not fit into the school’s new college-preparatory model. The teacher, in an empty classroom, spends time researching the state’s new Common Core academic standards.

“I’ve tried to stay busy,” said a disgruntled Blas, who has now been given an assignment and will start teaching science at Kearny High School on Tuesday. “I’ve audited some other classes and worked with students. It’s not been a very good use of my talents or my paycheck.”

District officials said it is common for staffing changes to occur well into October, noting that the contract with the teachers union does not require assignments to be final until this month. However, during the transition period, parents and teachers complained to the school board about excessive use of substitute teachers, unpopular “combo classes” that combine two grade levels in a single classroom, and large class sizes in the earliest elementary grades. Teachers union President Bill Freeman told U-T Watchdog that administrators should have planned better.

“Six weeks into the year, there remains as many as 35 students in some kindergarten classes and many students across the district have endured a revolving door of substitute teachers,” Freeman said.