Published on Nov. 6, 2019
Hiring Teachers from the Outside
SLZUSD looks overseas for teachers to hire to address the shortage in special education teachers.
By Vivian Liu and Nanda Bean
Despite moving to California only recently, special education teacher Ramira Ballocamug was already up on her feet and expected to teach students of a culture she was not accustomed to. Compared to the Philippines, California, let alone the entire United States, was a foreign and whole new experience. For Ballocamug, her first few days were the most memorable.
“[It was] nerve-wracking. Of course, coming from the Philippines, it was a culture shock for us and we had different adjustments with the weather and the culture. It was pretty difficult for us, the first few days the first few weeks,” Ballocamug said.
Ballocamug was one of the two teachers that were hired from the Philippines and came to work at Arroyo as of this school year. A total of 16 teachers from the Philippines were hired overseas in the district, and they were hired from the Alder program. The Alder program is designed to offer teachers residency while allowing them to further their teaching career. For teachers like Ballocamug, this was an opportunity to experience the United States while teaching students.
For the past few years, there has been a shortage in teachers, particularly in the special education department. The role of a special education teacher is not for everyone as teachers must be aware of emotional states of their students as well as keep them on track with their academics. The district decided to alleviate the shortage in special education teachers by partaking in the Alder Program, and attempting to recruit more teachers from elsewhere.
Amy Capurro, director of special education and health services in the San Lorenzo district, offers insight on the shortages within the district. She believes that the shortages have been ongoing for a long time, and have become increasingly prominent in the last five or six years.
“So this year we just started our teacher residency program. It’s called the San Lorenzo USD Teacher Residency Program at the Alder Graduate School of Education. So we’re partnering with a graduate school, non-profit graduate school, so that we are recruiting for teachers in our community. So we’re recruiting for people that have their bachelor’s that might be interested in teaching and then they get their Masters degree and their credential in one year and they’re paired all year long with a master teacher in our district. So we have four special education teacher residents right now. They’re in the classroom all year long and learning how to be a teacher in a practical way with one of our master special education teachers, at the same time that they are... finishing their program to become a teacher,” Capurro said.
English teacher Robert Guarino is part of the teacher union. He believes that teachers are not receiving enough benefits to keep them at schools in the district.
“See, part of the current problem is high turn-over. You know so it’s not just a question of filling vacancies. It’s long term and the only solution to the high-turnover and the vacancies are health benefits and salaries that are competitive with surrounding districts...and the money is there, so that is the greatest frustration. The school district has run surpluses now for over a decade. So the money is there. So anybody who tells you if the money is not there is not being straightforward. They’re playing games with the budget,” Guarino said.
Assistant principal Kristian Hinz talks about the district taking action to recruit teachers from other places.
“I think the district was going out and recruiting in different places. So not just abroad in the Philippines but other communities. You know there are a couple of factors that make this complex too is the Bay Area is very expensive to live. I think that’s what the district is trying to do–expand recruiting opportunities,” Hinz said.
Although the teacher shortage continues to be an ongoing issue, Hinz believes supporting special education teachers will be a collective effort on the part of the district, the school, and the special education department.
“Can the district operate in a more effective manner to support [special education] teachers? Absolutely. Can Arroyo and the site and the administration operate more effectively to support special ed. teachers so they don’t leave? Absolutely. Can the department itself—the special ed. department and the personnel in it—operate more effectively to support special ed. teachers so we don’t lose them and we retain them? Yes, absolutely.” •
Statistics at a Glance: Teacher Shortage
Amy Capurro, director of special education and health services in SLZUSD, attributes the shortages in teachers to an ongoing teacher shortage crisis that is impacting the entire state of California. According to the CTA (California Teacher’s Association), here are some statistics on the issue in California.
DECREASE IN ENROLLMENT IN TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAMS
NEW HIRES LEAVE THE CLASSROOM WITHIN THREE YEARS
STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO IN CALIFORNIA
NATIONAL AVERAGE OF STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO
AMOUNT OF TEACHERS CALIFORNIA WOULD HAVE TO HIRE JUST TO GET TO THE NATIONAL AVERAGE