School officials take Puerto Rico recruiting trip

March 16, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Technically, it is not an overseas trip, but Chambersburg Area School District officials are in Puerto Rico this week on a recruiting trip to fill the district's need for more Spanish-speaking teachers and instructors in other subject areas.

Human Resources Director William Hodge and Spanish teacher Alex Ramos went to the U.S. territory to recruit graduates from the University of Puerto Rico and attend a job fair. Superintendent Joseph Padasak told the school board about the recruiting trip Wednesday.

"People are not falling into our laps," Padasak said of the district's efforts to fill openings for math, science and special education, areas where the district is on a No Child Left Behind "watch list" because some subgroups of students have failed to meet proficiency standards.

The district needs to hire teachers in those subjects, and "aggressively recruit" black and Hispanic teachers, he said.

The district has a minority student population of 17 percent, and this year, for the first time, Hispanic students outnumber black students, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Eric Michael said.


"That's growing about 1 percent a year," Michael said of the Hispanic population.

The key to developing "small learning communities" where students can prosper includes "creating an identity the young person will connect with to enhance their educational experience," Michael said.

In a district with about 600 teachers, the demographics of the staff do not mirror those of the student population, Michael said. The district has seven black teachers and "a handful" of Hispanic teachers, he said.

To fill those content and diversity gaps, the district has made several recruiting trips in the eastern United States, Michael said.

Padasak told the board the Puerto Rico trip was comparable in cost to some other recruiting trips.

Michael said district representatives highlight salaries, access to services and housing to attract new teachers.

The starting salary for a Chambersburg teacher is $41,124. Salaries climb through a 13-step scale to $65,284 for a teacher with a doctorate, he said.

Last month, the administration proposed another recruiting tool, a $5,000 signing bonus for new minority employees and teachers certified in "curricular areas where a teacher shortage exists." Michael said it was pulled from the agenda because it conflicted with the existing teachers' contract.

The list of areas where the district has enough teachers is shorter than where there are deficiencies, Michael said. The district has adequate numbers of teachers with elementary or secondary social studies certifications, he said.

Recruiting could be especially difficult in some subjects. Pennsylvania produced two graduates with Latin education degrees last year, Michael said, even though knowledge of the dead language is useful in both law and medicine.

"We would like to teach Mandarin Chinese ... It's the number one language in the world" and increasingly important in the global economy, he said.

No recruiting trips to China are planned, Michael said.

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