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New Teachers Hard To Find

Palm Beach To Recruit Teachers In Puerto Rico

New Teachers Hard To Find

By South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

April 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002
South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

You've got to give the Palm Beach County School District credit for a valiant effort to recruit teachers, particularly in math and science, two fields in which there is a severe teacher shortage in the United States.

The district's effort is being expanded to include planned trips to Puerto Rico and Mexico, where recruiters hope to find some of the 1,000 teachers the district will need next school year, both to staff seven new schools and to replace teachers who have retired or left the profession.

It's no coincidence that the district is seeking teachers in Spanish-speaking countries. About 20 percent of the district's students are Hispanic, but only about 10 percent of its teachers are. Clearly there's a need for more Spanish-speaking teachers, and the district is wise to recognize that.

School Board member Ed García, however, questions whether the district needs to go so far to find teachers. He says there are Spanish-speaking teachers coming out of U.S. schools who would be eager to teach in South Florida. But would they?

Previous failures to attract enough quality teachers suggest otherwise.

The reasons it is so hard to recruit teachers for this state and region are legion: low pay, huge classes, disruptive students, heavy paperwork, weak support from administrators and the unavailability of part-time positions. On the pay issue alone, the state and district face a daunting handicap: Florida teachers on average earn about $36,000 -- about $5,000 less than the national average and almost $4,000 less than their counterparts in Georgia, which is hardly known as a Mecca of educational excellence.

Other states also are desperate for teachers and are mounting intensive recruitment efforts. But many are trying harder than Florida and have a lot more to offer in terms of incentives. Massachusetts, for instance, is offering $20,000 signing bonuses, and California is raising salaries for beginning teachers. Florida, with a Legislature that is unwilling to adequately fund education, just can't compete.

So it's off to Puerto Rico and Mexico, where presumably the district stands a better chance of finding people willing to work for low pay and under extremely trying conditions. Good luck.

Fact is, trying to recruit teachers for Florida is like sending out invitations to a party that won't include any food, drinks, music or fun. No matter how fancy the invitations are, sooner or later you've got to acknowledge that it won't be much of a party.

District To Recruit Teachers Abroad

By Lois K. Solomon

April 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002
South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

Recruiters will travel to Puerto Rico next week and to Mexico in May to find teachers to help fill seven new schools next year.

Although recruiters have traveled abroad before to find teachers, the trips mark an expansion in the Palm Beach County School District's efforts to find educators outside the United States.

That the district, with a growing Hispanic population, is seeking teachers who speak Spanish is no coincidence, said Nuncia Francois-Lowery, a district personnel specialist who will go to Puerto Rico next week.

"It is intentional,'' she said. "We need a good representation of teachers for our Spanish-speaking ethnic groups."

About 20 percent of students and less than 10 percent of teachers in the district are Hispanic.

School Board member Ed Garcia agreed that more Spanish-speaking teachers would be an asset to the district. But he questioned whether recruitment trips abroad are necessary.

"I want to make sure we're exerting enough time and money to find qualified teachers in our own back yard," he said. "There are a lot of eager teachers coming out of our schools here, speaking many languages, including Spanish."

Some of the recruitment trips are paid for by the state, which has agreements with the governments of Spain and Mexico to send certified teachers to the United States. The district also brought in 32 teachers from the Philippines this year to fill vacancies in math and science departments.

Francois-Lowery said she found out that the Chicago and Florida's Orange County school districts were getting teachers for the past few years from universities in Puerto Rico. In the highly competitive world of American teacher recruitment, Palm Beach County teacher-finders decided not to be left out.

Three recruiters will visit four Puerto Rican universities next week and hope to find math and science teachers, of which there is a severe shortage in the United States.

The district does most of its recruiting between January and June and is planning trips to fairs in Atlanta, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and several Florida universities in the coming months. Recruiters need to find about 1,000 teachers to fill the new schools and replace teachers who have retired or left the profession.

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