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TEACHERS RECRUITED FROM INDIA

Arizona rural schools search for educators

By Pat Kossan
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 22, 2003

Three educators from rural Arizona have traveled halfway around the world to New Delhi, India, looking to hire experienced teachers for math and science classes.

They interviewed scores of teachers, with some candidates riding up to 16 hours on trains, Jack Harmon, Pinal County schools superintendent, reported in an e-mail earlier this week.

"We've met some outstanding educators," wrote Harmon, who was due home Friday. USA Employment, a 2-year-old Houston company, is paying for Harmon's trip, and for the trips of two school officials from Yavapai and Gila counties. Jay Kumar, a Houston businessman, started the company when he saw a national shortage coming, and has placed 75 teachers from India in 15 school districts in Texas, Indiana and Connecticut.

Kumar said the teachers, mostly women, have left behind classes of 50 students, pay that is the equivalent of $2,000 a month and a tight job market where up to 1,000 teachers vie for one job at a good school.

The teachers, who have at least five years' experience, pay their moving expenses and a $6,000 fee to USA Employment, which helps them through U.S. immigration. The school districts hire the teachers and help them obtain certification in their state.

Six months ago, Edgar Dansby moved from head hunting for corporations to recruiting teachers for Texas' North Forest Independent School District in the Houston area. The North Forest district, which has 10,000 students from predominantly poor and minority families, had 100 unlicensed long-term substitutes on staff and was losing licensed teachers to nearby districts that paid better.

"I had to come up with something pretty quick," Dansby said, "and pretty radical."

International recruiting was nothing new for him. In the corporate world, the most sought-after position is engineers; in education, it's teachers.

The district has 27 licensed teachers from the Philippines working out so well that Dansby's curriculum director spent January interviewing in India and hired 48 teachers. As the new recruits pour in, the competition is forcing unlicensed substitutes back to school to keep their jobs, Dansby said.

Isha Gangopadhaya of New Delhi is finishing her first year as a third-grade teacher in Texas. In India, she faced a class of 53 students; here, it's a "very comfortable" 17 with few discipline problems.

She eventually won hugs from her most skeptical African-American kids, and is impressed with the school's technology, as well as the flowers and letter cards at the local teacher supply store.

"We had to make those in India," Gangopadhaya said. "You can get everything here by snapping your fingers."

Global recruiting sounded exotic to local educators, surprising even Arizona teacher union President Penny Kotterman. She worried that it won't solve the rural schools' second-biggest problem: keeping the teachers. Kotterman said she expects the Indian teachers, who are usually higher educated, will move to higher paying jobs in suburban schools, "unless some of the other problems, such as salaries and working conditions, are addressed."

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