Climate Control

By Kathleen Vail

Morale among the 88 teachers at Capital High School was scraping rock bottom when Joe Ruzicka took over in 2003. But he quickly found one of the keys to turning it around.

Make that 88 keys -- all of which unlocked the door to the teacher prep room at the Boise, Idaho, school. The room holds the fax machine, the paper-cutting machine, and a myriad of instructional materials, but Ruzicka's predecessor had it locked promptly at 3 p.m. when the secretary left.

"The teachers acted as though I'd given them a pot of gold," Ruzicka says.

Ruzicka knows that a teacher's attitude -- whether good or bad -- trickles down to the students. But situations like the one he encountered are driving teachers out of the profession -- and it's a problem that schools of all sizes and demographics face.

We don't have a teacher shortage, says Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, "but we have a horrendous turnover and attrition problem. We are constantly trying to replace teachers who are leaving. We need to change the conditions that teachers tell us are driving them out of school."

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