Imported bilingual teachers cause stir

SCHOOLS: One Santa Ana board member sees the instructors from Spain as a cultural threat.

SANTA ANA, CA—To district administrators, the recruitment of 11 teachers from Spain is an opportunity to ease the shortage of bilingual instructors.

But to Santa Ana Unified School District board member Rosemarie Avila, the Spaniards represent a threat to the American way of life.

“How can we impart American values and an appreciation for our country if we hire teachers from other countries? ” Avila asked. “I think Europe as a whole is more socialistic than America. I believe that the values our country was founded on _ freedom, free enterprise, justice for all _ aren’t appreciated as much in other countries as ours. “

In a debate that highlights the growing shortage of trained bilingual educators, the school board voted 3-2 Tuesday night to hire the Spaniards, who were recruited through an exchange program run by the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles. Avila and Tom Chaffee voted against the program.

Some board members were upset that the Spanish teachers, the first of whom arrives in Orange County on Friday, were recruited without their knowledge. But the majority said Avila was off-base in her fears.

“It sounds pretty paranoid to me,” board member Robert Balen said.

Audrey Yamagata-Noji, another board member, said she wasn’t worried about the teachers warping students’ minds.

“One period of geometry a day I don’t think is going to turn kids into socialists,” she said.

Most of the Spanish teachers will work with students in kindergarten through third grade, while a few will teach math and science in intermediate and high schools. The elementary teachers begin their jobs this summer at year-round schools while the others start in September.

Two dozen California school districts employed 162 of the Spanish teachers this past school year, including districts in Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Pasadena, Whittier, Pomona and Compton.

Anaheim Union High School District assigned six teachers to Cypress and Katella high schools. Two of them had their contracts renewed, said Allen Brase, director of human resources for the district.

“They’re well-trained, bright, capable and they had at least 14 years of experience,” he said. “If there’s a problem, it’s that they’re expensive. They come in near the top of the pay scale. “

In Santa Ana, the teachers, who are responsible for their own air fare, will be paid $ 27,500 to $ 43,000, depending on their credentials and experience.

“I think they’ll be good teachers of our kids,” said Anaida Colon-Muniz, coordinator of bilingual education, who interviewed the teachers and spent the summer of 1990 in Madrid through the same exchange program. “I made sure they were sensitive and understanding of the population we have. ” Of Santa Ana’s 34,000 students in special programs for speakers of English as a second language, more than 80 percent are native Spanish speakers. The district needed 571 Spanish-English bilingual teachers last year but had only 320 with credentials, Colon-Muniz said.

Don Champlin, assistant superintendent for personnel, said Santa Ana recruits bilingual teachers from as far as Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. He said he didn’t think he needed board approval to hire the Spaniards.

“Nobody’s losing a job because of these people,” he said.

Avila’s objections brought the issue to a vote.

Bill Shanahan, executive director of the Santa Ana Educators Association, said he was less concerned about the Spaniards’ taking jobs from qualified Americans than the Spaniards’ ability to adapt to American schools.

But Avila said she is worried the Spaniards will give students the wrong lessons. She feels like Davy Crockett defending the Alamo.

“In Santa Ana, we’re trying to preserve American culture,” said Avila, a native of Guatemala who immigrated to the United States at age 6. “Schools are supposed to pass on our country’s values. “

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