WASHINGTON – Prince George’s County was not alone when it decided to take its search for teachers to the Philippines.
A handful of other school systems around the state have looked overseas, searching as far as Russia and India, as they try to solve chronic shortages of teachers in specific subject areas back home.
“There are simply not enough qualified teachers here in the United States to fill the need,” said Bill Boden, a human resources officer for Baltimore City Public Schools.
Baltimore City considered recruiting teachers from Ghana and Great Britain, where the language of instruction is English. But the Philippines was more attractive because not only do the teachers speak English, but the educational system is American-based.
Boden said his staff has interviewed teachers in the Philippines and offered positions to more than 40 special education, math and science teachers for the 2005-2006 school year.
The Charles County Public School system has recruited math and science teachers from the Philippines and Russia in the past, said Katie O’Malley-Simpson, a school system spokeswoman. But it decided against recruiting from abroad last year, she said, in part because the foreign teachers it did hire remained in the district for only one year.
Cecil County Public Schools have had no such problem. The county hired three high school math teachers from India about five years ago when it was in critical need of math teachers, said Robert Davis in the human resources department. All three are still teaching in the county.
But a check with other school systems around the state found few who were interested in recruiting overseas. Some said they were open to the idea, but others said they do not feel the need or they see problems with the approach.
Anne Arundel County Public School officials considered hiring teachers from abroad, but dropped the idea because they foresaw too many problems.
“They need a visa to work in the United States and that’s no easy feat,” said Art Smelkinson, a human resources specialist for Anne Arundel schools.
And even after they get a visa, they would not be able to start teaching until Oct. 1 — more than a month after the late-August start of classes.
“It’s increasingly difficult to find qualified math and science teachers, but we were able to get that done without having to put a substitute in place and then wait for a foreign teacher to take over the classroom in October,” Smelkinson said.
But Prince George’s County officials have no such qualms.
When Robert Gaskin, the county’s teacher recruitment coordinator, heard from California school districts at a national conference that they had hired Filipino teachers, he decided to give it a shot.
Gaskin flew to the Philippines in November 2003 to interview candidates and contacted Arrowhead, a teacher-recruitment agency based in the Philippines, to sponsor them.
“We’re not looking to employ the majority of our teachers from the Philippines,” Gaskin said. “We’re just trying to employ a small segment to help us in the areas that are critical and the country has identified as critical shortage areas.”
The county’s 30 new Filipino teachers are teaching special education, math, science and English.
Gaskin visited the Philippines again in November of this year and said he plans to hire more teachers from the Philippines next year, mostly for special education. He is contemplating recruiting from Puerto Rico and India, too.
For Boden, looking overseas was a necessity.
“There’s only so many things you can do, one of the things being to recruit outside the United States.”
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