Tremendous response to NY recruitment
Hundreds of teachers at Le Meridien seminar By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
January 20, 2002

Several hundred teachers and persons interested in obtaining teaching jobs in the New York City public school system turned up at a seminar at Le Meridien Pegasus on Friday afternoon in response to a New York City Board of Education (NYCBOE) advertisement.

The grounds of Le Meridien Pegasus literally swarmed with teachers -- some just out of the Cyril Potter College of Education -- and others including senior public servants, University of Guyana lecturers, head teachers and heads of department.

Teachers told Stabroek News that they were from the city, Linden, Corentyne and the Essequibo Coast. However, many were disappointed as they were not subject specialists and the NYCBOE recruiters were looking for teachers with the minimum qualifications of a bachelor's degree and trained teachers' certificate in Mathematics, Science, Spanish and Special Education.

Noting that no one teaches in the New York system without a bachelors degree, member of the recruitment team Stephen Hinds, who did the briefing with those interested, said that "hopefully the West Indies will give some concern to this and try to adjust to meet the demands of the world outside."

Deputy Superintendent with responsibility for recruitment and placement Brenda Steele told Stabroek News that the NYCBOE had no intention of depleting the local education system of its human resources. But she could not say how many teachers were needed in the US system or how many they were seeking from Guyana.

Thanking the hundreds who showed up at the seminar, Hinds said he was overwhelmed with the response noting that he had not seen such great interest elsewhere in the region and had never been asked as many questions.

In the current recruitment drive teachers are being offered a base salary of US$31,910 annually. Years of experience after obtaining a bachelor's degree along with other tests would augment that salary. Credits in other areas are also considered.

Teachers who will teach in the special schools (where children are struggling to achieve academically) or high risk areas would receive an additional US$3,400 bonus on their annual income for working in the environment as well as have the opportunity of working overtime with an increase of 15% of their salary.

At the seminar, potential applicants' documents were given a cursory look by a screening committee headed by Steele and evaluated to see whether documents met the required criteria. These would then be taken back to New York. Those eligible would be informed by letter and invited for an interview to be conducted in February.

The successful applicants would be issued with two-year visas. Within the two years they would be expected to take the New York City teachers' examination and if they were successful their visas would be extended to five years.

Successful applicants would be in New York City by August 4 to begin an orientation from August 5 to August 9. During this period the teachers would be fingerprinted, fill in social security forms and obtain health documents.

On arrival they would be met at the airport and offered two weeks free accommodation at a hotel, after which they would be required to pay for their own accommodation. During the two weeks, a real estate agency would assist them in securing accommodation. A good one-bedroom apartment, Hinds said, costs between US$700 to US$1,000 per month in New York.

He said that successful applicants must be prepared to meet the expenses that the environment would demand. They would receive their first salary on September 16. Teachers are paid twice a month. "There is no `tiding over'. Do not expect the system to subsidise you," he warned.

The NYCBOE, he said, could not provide any teachers with additional benefits as they would be operating on the same level playing field as American teachers. Teachers recruited from other parts of the Caribbean would be accorded the same treatment as those recruited from Austria, Spain, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Switzerland and Australia.

While he noted that family was important, he advised teachers not to arrive with their families, but to first set themselves up and then send for family members.

Hinds also said that the system was not going to give teachers a green card. "Whatever you have to do, that is your business."

The NYCBOE, he said, had said to governments of the countries it was visiting that the objective was to provide teachers with the opportunity to become better professionals so that when they became `super teachers' and returned to their country of origin they would be able to contribute to the academic development of those countries.

Many teachers left disappointed but with information about possible future recruitment.

There were quite a number of people on the ground monitoring the situation, including former education minister Deryck Bernard, who, when asked to comment on the recruitment, said it was "a tragedy, This is embarrassing, this is disastrous." He said that during the PNC administration there were problems "but we never had anything as disgusting and obscene as this. The whole of Pegasus is crawling with all of our teachers just trying to get out."

Noting that Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, held a press conference earlier in the day, Bernard said that all the wonderful things he was going to do for the education system could not happen without teachers. "This could be a very serious national crisis. I am very, very disappointed that we have come to this as a country."

The reaction to the advertisement, he said, meant that the minds of all the teachers in school would not be there as they too would be preparing to leave. He said the country had no chance at development unless there was a working education system, which could not function without teachers. Noting that government was borrowing another US$50 million, he said, "You don't need money to build buildings. What you need is teachers who are motivated and knowledgeable."

Responding to the recruitment drive, Dr Jeffrey said, "anytime we lose teachers it affects the system negatively." The ministry, he said was working with the unions to make things more comfortable for teachers, and had decided to give them house lots, hardlying allowances and allowances for additional qualifications.

Strictly from a material standpoint, he said, the government would not be able to compete with salaries paid regionally and internationally. In this era of globalisation, "we have to try to do what we could and to train more people and attempt to use technology as best we can to take up the slack." He said there was talk about training more teachers in the region for export but this would have to be discussed. In terms of compensation, he said that the international community was assisting Guyana and countries in the region financially with their educational needs and that was good enough reason for dialogue on the current mass export of teachers.