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Fair targets California teacher shortage

April 19, 2002|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH
  • Karen Underwood and Jesus Bedolla (left) speak with Nancy Johnson and Lorrie Shirley of the Imperial County Office of Education during a teacher recruitment fair at the Imperial Valley Expo in Imperial. don thompson photo
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Staff Writer

IMPERIAL — When President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, he said, "When it comes to the education of our children, failure is not an option."

Here in California many believe we are doomed to fail our children if we don't recruit some 300,000 new teachers during the next decade to adequately address a school-age population that increases by more than 100,000 annually.

A teacher recruitment fair Thursday at the Imperial Valley Expo in Imperial is one way that problem is being addressed. The fair was hosted by the Southern California Teacher Recruitment Center.

"Imperial County is an area we are really concentrating on because of its fast-growing population numbers," Celia Ramirez, executive director for SCTRC said from her office in San Diego this morning.

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When Gov. Gray Davis signed into law state Senate Bill 166 last year he set the stage for a host of recruitment incentive programs to be implemented. As part of those measures, six teacher recruitment centers have been set up in California to help address the teacher shortage.

"We need to aggressively recruit new teachers to the county … and we're doing that through programs such as our recruiting fair," Ramirez said, adding, "We really put a lot of effort into our efforts out here in Imperial County because a lot of people don't know where the county is located."

Ramirez has responsibility for recruitment efforts in San Diego, Orange and Imperial counties.

"We have had to be innovative in our approach to this problem and one way we've been successful is to offer potential teachers meaningful incentives," Ramirez said, "and to do that we had to have the business community come on board with us."

Corovan Moving & Storage of San Diego offers new teachers discounts on moving costs when they relocate to the Valley. McMillin Real Estate Services, headquartered in San Diego and with a branch newly opened in El Centro, has recently purchased four housing tracts under construction in the Valley and offers special teacher rebate programs on new and resale homes.

Admitting that weather-wise Southern California is an easy sell to prospective teachers, Ramirez said, "We are having success getting the word out; every morning my secretary goes through 125 e-mails on an average from countries like Canada, the Philippines, Britain, Argentina."

Soon after the fair started Thursday afternoon, Ramirez who had driven from San Diego, was busy propelling recruit Louis Uljee from The Hague in the Netherlands from booth to booth so he could talk with representatives from each school district.

"I've been to America many times and when I read that America needed teachers, I went online and found the SCTRC Web site and I contacted Dr. Ramirez — and here I am!" Uljee said.

Uljee flew in from Amsterdam three days ago and started at a recruitment fair in San Diego before driving his rental car to the Valley. Although immediately smitten with beachside areas such as La Jolla, he says the prohibitive costs of living in most of San Diego makes teaching and living in Imperial Valley an attractive proposition.

Having introduced Uljee to Calexico Unified School District Superintendent Roberto Moreno, who says his district will be hiring 25 to 50 new teachers for the 2002-2003 school year, Ramirez started shepherding Bronwen Halacy around the fair.

"I'm young, I'm almost 25 years old and I don't have too many ties back home and so I've decided the time is right to look into moving to the West Coast," the young teacher said with a smile.

"Back home" for Halacy is Chicago and she looked a little taken aback when her comment about "What a hot day it is!" was met with knowing smiles from teachers at one booth.

"Well, I suppose I could get used to the weather," she said with a thoughtful expression.

For those potential recruits unable to make it to a fair because of time or cost constraints, Ramirez has the answer.

Having linked with Kinko's to provide video-conferencing services at any of their branches nationwide, Ramirez simply has interested teachers turn up at their local Kinko's at the appointed hour and they are then able to conference electronically with personnel from a particular school district.

The Imperial Valley's satellite office for SCTRC has just received the equipment to give it video conferencing capabilities.

Julie Perez, recruitment specialist for SCTRC locally, says her office will be hosting its first video conferences with interested teachers nationwide within the next two months.

>> On the Web: www.teachsocal.or

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or dingo87@earthlink.net

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