California Educator

November 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 59

Schools, communities hurt A "For rent" sign hangs in the window of an apartment a half block from Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 School (BVHM) in the Mission District, a low-income neighborhood of San Francisco that is becoming upscale. A sign on an adjacent unit has an arrow pointing to the "For rent" sign accusing the landlord of evictions and refusing to make repairs. A phone call reveals that the price of the three-bedroom unit is a whopping $7,000 per month. UESF members at BVHM, which also had a 25 percent turnover rate last year, say increasing rents and evictions are a constant challenge for teachers who need affordable hous- ing near school. Recently a student asked fourth-grade teacher Frank L ara , " W hy are so many t e a c h e r s l e av i n g ? D o n' t they like the students here?" The student named all of the educators who were no longer at the campus. It was a lengthy list. "I told him, 'No, that's not the reason. It's just that teachers can't afford to live here,'" says Lara, who was pushed out of San Francisco by high rents and now lives in Daly City, a suburb to the south. Many students in the neighborhood come from struggling households, says Lara, and look to teachers and paraprofessionals for stability. When there's a revolving door of staff, students lose that. It takes time to learn about the community and student population they teach. David Johnson, sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher, was born and raised in San Francisco and has taught at the school for 10 of his 16 years in the profession. He lives in a rent-controlled studio apartment the size of his classroom, and worries about what will happen should he decide to move. He's thought about commuting from Oakland, but figures paying bridge toll or for public transit would be just as expensive. So he's staying put. Maribel Chavez resides in a tiny apartment shared by three roommates who converted the living room into a bedroom. At BVHM, she enjoyed c o l l ab orati n g w ith o th er f i rst - grade teachers, but they recently moved away due to housing costs. So Chavez, a fifth-year teacher, is now the " lead teacher" with two new hires. "I have lived in San Francisco for six years and have had to move eight times, because landlords have raised the rents," says Chavez. "It's not easy to be a teacher here. And it isn't easy for the kids, because there's no consistency in the faces they see each year. We are a community school, with the goal of helping each other and being involved with all grade levels. But it's hard to build community with constant turnover." Indeed, the housing crisis destabilizes schools, which ultimately hurts students, agrees Blanc. "It can take years for a faculty member to learn the ropes and hone their craft and contribute to the broader "It's not easy to be a teacher here. It isn't easy for the kids, because there's no consistency in the faces they see each year. It's hard to build community with constant turnover." — Maribel Chavez Educators from Paul Revere Elementary in San Francisco rally around colleague Allison Leshefsky aer she is evicted. Leshefsky, above and in the center at right, may have to leave the city and her job. Photos by Matthew Hardy 24 F E A T U R E

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of California Educator - November 2015