At George K. Porter Middle School in Granada Hills, Principal Sherry Breskin made a special effort to recruit minority teachers at the end of the last school year and over the summer. Because the school lost its ninth-graders this year and added sixth-graders, Breskin knew she would have an extraordinary amount of hiring this fall in the face of a potential dearth of teachers districtwide.
"I deliberately worked summer school so I could be hiring the last three weeks of summer school," Breskin said. "I worked like a demon. I hired 17 teachers"--more than a quarter of Porter's 66-member faculty.
Eleven of Breskin's new teachers are minorities. Only one position is still outstanding.
To close the teacher gap, the district is also making use of interns who staff classrooms as full-time instructors as they work toward permanent credentials.
Artist Adela McAdams just joined the faculty at Nestle Avenue School in Tarzana, where she has begun teaching a combination fourth- and fifth-grade class. After a weekend spent applying a fresh coat of paint to her classroom, McAdams said Tuesday that she entered her new job with her eyes open, aware that dissatisfaction and anger had already driven away an increasing number of veteran teachers in the district.
"I hear of the horrible things that are happening," she said. "But I think if you take the initiative, you can make a difference in a few things.
"I'm the eternal optimist. There's always a silver lining in every cloud. I think we can turn it around if we have patience."
Nancy Cohen of Sherman Oaks, a mother of two children enrolled in the district, said that she wants her youngsters to be assigned to a qualified and experienced teacher and expressed concern that hastily hiring teachers may not yield the best candidates.
"Some teachers who are not experienced are excellent. But I hope people are not just teaching because they need a job," Cohen said. "I want them to teach because they love children."
A newspaper advertisement prompted Maria Schneider, 28, to give up her hopes of finding a teaching job at a college and take on a class of second-graders.
"There aren't many jobs for professors, but there are plenty for teachers," said Schneider, who is bilingual in Spanish.
Another teacher, Elaine Bienenfeld, 65, is a double statistic. She retired in June, disgusted with the 10% pay cut. She was rehired Tuesday as a substitute teacher, filling a sorely needed special education position at North Hollywood High School.
"I said the hell with this and I quit," Bienenfeld recalled. She said she was drawn back to the classroom because she is devoted to her students. "But now I am working on my own terms," she added.
For the 700 new teachers standing at the head of the class for the first time this fall, Bernstein, a veteran high school history instructor, offered this advice:
"Believe me, the people standing in that line at the district are going to be in for a big shock. For anyone to assume they can walk off the street and the next day be a classroom teacher, they are absolutely fooling themselves. My first advice to those people is to find another job."
* SCHOOL SHOOTING: A 15-year-old boy is critically wounded at Dorsey High. B9