ROSEMEAD—The Garvey School District may be setting a record for the length to which it will go to get bilingual educators. The district has recruited, sight unseen, six new teachers from Spain who were hired on the basis of taped interviews conducted in that country.
“We have never seen them, never talked with them,” said Roger W. Temple, deputy superintendent for personnel and administrative services. “All we have is their voices on tapes.”
But that was enough for Garvey school officials.
“We have a great need for them,” said Supt. Andrew J. Viscovich of the district enrollment, which is slightly more than 60% Latino.
Spain Has a Surplus
The newcomers’ arrival on Tuesday is the landfall in a statewide pilot program intended to match California’s need for Spanish-speaking teachers with Spain’s current surplus of educators. The state hopes to find employment for 88 Spanish teachers through a recruitment program begun in December as a joint effort of the California Department of Education and the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science.
The rapidly changing Garvey district — which serves kindergarten through eighth-grade students in South San Gabriel and parts of Rosemead, Monterey Park and San Gabriel — is the only school district in Los Angeles County to hire such teachers.
The Los Angeles Unified School District had initially hoped to hire 50 teachers through the program, but did not hire any because the teachers did not meet district certification standards and officials voiced concerns about the teachers’ ability to speak English.
But the Garvey officials, like those in other systems such as San Bernardino, Santa Ana and San Francisco, which also hired some of the teachers, had no requirements that the Spaniards could not meet.
Viscovich said the tapes showed that the Spanish teachers’ ability to speak English ranged “from ‘good’ to ‘they need help.’ ” Temple said he had listened to all the tapes and could understand the six teachers.
Not the First Foreigner
Garvey has reached outside the country before to recruit teachers, including one from Mexico, and is trying to hire a Taiwanese who lives in Canada, Viscovich said. He said that although efforts to hire individual bilingual teachers from other countries are not unusual, the attempt to recruit the group of Spaniards is the first large coordinated effort to get teachers from another country.
“It’s exciting and it’s new,” said Viscovich, who plans to greet the newcomers when their flight from Spain lands in Los Angeles.
The four women and two men will plunge into introductory courses that will begin the next day for all Garvey teachers, Viscovich said. On Sept. 9, the first day of school with pupils, they will have their own classrooms in separate schools.
In the meantime, the district is seeking hosts who will help acquaint the newcomers with the area. The district is seeking both temporary and permanent housing for them.
“Nobody expects them to walk in the door and take over,” Temple said. “There are many adjustments to be made, when you consider how different everything is here. This will be the first time any of them has been to America. People will expect so much from them.”
All Are Unmarried
Tirso Serrano, who headed the recruitment program for the state Department of Education, said he interviewed 125 experienced teachers in Spain, all of them single and between the ages of 22 and 35, and all could speak acceptable English. Eighty-eight of the teachers met California qualifications for credentials and licensing, he said.
Serrano said Spain has a 22% unemployment rate for teachers because “they thought they were going to have a baby boom that didn’t develop.”
The teachers rejected by the Los Angeles district have been or will be placed in other school districts, Serrano said.
Kathleen Price, administrative consultant for personnel for the Los Angeles district, said the district originally considered hiring 50 teachers from Spain, but discovered that many did not have bachelor’s degrees or the equivalent, which the district requires. Some were not qualified to teach in elementary schools, where they are needed, and others were rejected after officials listened to the tapes, she said.
“All who heard their tapes had concerns and grave reservations about their language abilities,” Price said.
Visas Are Renewable
However, Serrano said all 88 Spaniards met state regulations for sojourn teachers, a category that qualifies them for a one-year visa that can be renewed for up to five years in most school districts. Renewal is contingent on passing the California Basic Educational Skills Test required of all new teachers.
“We can’t even begin to meet California’s needs for bilingual teachers,” Serrano said. “We need 5,000.”
State law requires schools to provide bilingual education for every class that has more than 10 students who speak limited or no English.
More than 1,600 of the 7,300 Garvey students need bilingual education in Spanish, Temple said. The district also has a rapidly growing Asian population that makes up more than 30% of the total enrollment, Temple said.
The district employs 315 teachers, 25 of whom speak a second language. Besides Spanish, bilingual classes are conducted in Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.