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Desperately Seeking Teachers

New Orleans needs teachers. Lots of them—at least 650, to be exact. And to fill that need, its traditional public schools and charter schools alike are courting teachers from all over the country. From job fairs featuring jazz bands and beer to partnerships with Teacher for America, New Orleans is appealing to idealistic young people willing to take on the challenges of a fragmented school system and students facing poverty and unstable living conditions. There are certain benefits, though: Because Hurricane Katrina fractured the sprawling public school district, there's no longer a central bureaucracy for potential hires to navigate. Nor are there the wage constraints of a set seniority system. Instead, newly created charter schools can set their own wage structures and pitch the merits of their particular programs to attract the teachers they want. "It feels like competition at times," said one charter school official. "[But] the teacher is going to decide, which is the beauty of the system."

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