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Texas Officials Court ESL Teachers in O.C.

June 16, 1998|MARCIDA DODSON

Texas school officials set up shop in Santa Ana on Monday to recruit bilingual teachers in the wake of Proposition 227's passage, but few were interested.

The recruiters interviewed three applicants--none of them currently working for school districts--and hired one, a recent graduate from a university in Missouri who came to California looking for a job.

The recruiters from the Arlington, Texas, Independent School District move their recruiting office today to Culver City in the hope of signing up bilingual and English as a second language (ESL) teachers in Los Angeles County. On Wednesday, they interview in San Diego.

The Arlington schools are jumping at the chance to hire teachers affected by the passage earlier this month of a ballot measure that essentially dismantles California's bilingual education programs.

They were sent to Southern California by their superintendent, Mac Bernd, formerly superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

The Arlington schools want to hire about 20 teachers fluent in English and Spanish for their elementary schools and 25 ESL teachers for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

A Chinese national who recently received her master's degree at Central Missouri University was hired Monday. Mei Lian Pan, 34, said she has never been to Texas but that Arlington "looks like a very beautiful city." She signed employment papers on the spot.

The credentials of the two other applicants were being checked, said Anita Buttram, the school district's personnel director. One now works part-time as an ESL instructor for a nonprofit organization that assists Latinos in immigration matters; the other recently left a job as an ESL instructor for youths in custody of the California Youth Authority.

The school district is growing by 2,000 children a year, Buttram said. About 18% of Arlington's 54,500 students are Latino, double the percentage of a decade ago, and the Vietnamese student population also is increasing.

The bilingual staff has grown from nine to 120 teachers in the past six years, while ESL teachers have increased from 39 to 200, said Gloria Alvarez Evans, director of the bilingual and ESL programs.

"In Texas, there is a strong stance for bilingual education," Evans said.

While California's bilingual teachers still have jobs in their classrooms, "maybe they will want to work where their training can be exercised," Evans said.

The recruiters came equipped with packets of information about housing in Arlington and local newspapers bearing stories about the historical society, shopping, anti-drug education programs and other neighborhood issues.

But the toughest part of the recruiters' pitch may be the salaries. Arlington schools start teachers at $26,500, with average salaries around $35,000. California teacher salaries average $43,114. But Arlington has a lower cost of living, recruiters said, pointing out that many homes sell for less than $150,000.

Ana Maria Paez, 51, of Costa Mesa said she remains interested. Paez, a translator, teaches ESL part-time for an immigrant advocacy group.

The passage of Proposition 227 underscored her concerns that she should look for work "someplace that understands that we are living in a multilingual society."

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