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Eight foreign teachers lined up for fall in county schools

July 18, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Eight foreign teachers have confirmed they plan to work for Washington County Public Schools this fall, said Patricia Abernethy, deputy superintendent for instruction.

System officials have conducted "extensive telephone interviews" and watched videotapes of teachers in their classrooms to narrow the field of candidates from abroad, Abernethy said. New teacher orientation begins Aug. 1.

The system plans to hire 10 foreign teachers through a contract with Visiting International Faculty Program, Abernethy said.

According to the agreement, WCPS will pay the program $345,000 for recruiting the teachers and providing them with resources throughout the year. The school system has said it will realize a savings of about $222,000 because it will not be responsible for those teachers' benefits.

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One teacher offered a job still has not confirmed plans for the fall, Abernethy said Wednesday in a phone interview.

The agreement generated controversy when it was approved June 7 by the Board of Education. Board member Wayne Ridenour voted for the plan, but compared the agreement to outsourcing.

Ridenour said Friday he still has reservations about the program

"I'm still concerned. I'd much prefer that we hire and we grow our own," Ridenour said.

Teachers involved in the program come to the country with visas that are good for three years.

According to Ned Glascock, communications manager for the program, school systems retain the rights to hire and discipline the foreign teachers, just as they would the rest of their staffs.

The foreign teachers also receive additional professional development, Glascock said. The teachers' pay is up to the school system that hires them, he said.

"They're not taking jobs, they're not in this simply to fill positions. This is a cultural exchange program," Glascock said.

According to Abernethy, the teachers come from such countries as Spain, Costa Rica, Australia and Argentina. The system especially needs language teachers, though the foreign teachers also could fill math and English positions. All will teach at the high-school level, Abernethy said.

"We have the greatest need for language teachers. We're just not producing them here ... in our state and our country," Abernethy said.

Abernethy said the system would not have considered hiring foreign teachers if it had been able to fill positions with American teachers.

According to Glascock, only about 10 percent of teachers who apply to the program are accepted. Candidates must demonstrate proficiency in English, possess the equivalent of bachelor's degrees and meet the standards of the states where they wish to teach. They also must be able to drive, Glascock said.

Since about 1989, the program has brought about 7,500 teachers from about 50 countries to the United States, Glascock said.

"These are cultural education teachers, so not only are they going to teach core subjects, they're going to teach students about the whole world," Glascock said.

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