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LA Unified foreign teacher program ending; instructors head home

LAUSD hired Roda Mongen from the Philippines six years ago during a shortage of math and science teachers. She claims that a subjective evaluation from her principal led to her visa not being renewed and she is heading back to the Philippines this December 11th.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

A shortage of math, science, and special education teachers more than six years ago prompted L.A. Unified to hire hundreds of teachers from the Philippines.
Now the shortage is over and that’s left some foreign teachers in a lurch. Many are heading home – even though they may not want to – when they were unable to obtain a visa.
One of them is Roda Mongen. She taught in Baguio City, north of Manila, for seven years before she arrived at the boot camp known as “first year L.A. Unified teacher” in 2006. She wasn’t prepared for what she found at Virgil Middle School.

“The kids talked back to me, they were even laughing at my accent. They were totally disrespectful because they know that I’m new here,” she said. Less than a year into the job, she thought no amount of money could convince her to stay.

“They could tell I’m new here, I’m a new teacher, they took advantage of me,” Mongen said.

She eventually got the hang of things, even though she didn’t always get to teach what she wanted. In the Philippines, she taught life sciences, such as biology and physiology. But L.A. Unified needed chemistry and physics teachers. She finally got to teach life science last year. Students perked up during one section.
“It’s the reproductive system. Kids love it. Every time they come to my class, you know, the first part of the hour they come to my class, they would ask me: 'Ms Mongen, what are we going to learn today?'” she said.

Last week, Mongen had dinner at fellow Filipino teacher Caridad’s Mid City apartment. A Christmas tree waited for decorations in front of a large window and a wood figurine nativity scene sat in a corner.

“I feel home now,” Caridad said.

Mongen and Caridad, who is afraid to be identified by her full name, grew close during their years in the program. But this would be their last dinner together. The district sponsored Caridad for a worker visa but chose not to renew Mongen’s visa.
“It appears that the district is allowing competent, well regarded teachers to be treated as disposable based on their immigration status and that just doesn’t seem fair,” said United Teachers Los Angeles area chair Dan Barnhart. He has tried, unsuccessfully, to help Mongen keep her teaching job.
One issue is a teacher evaluation, which was one factor L.A. Unified considered. Mongen says it didn’t include classroom observation or student test scores.
Debbie Ignagni, of LA Unified, says the district can now fill the job shortages so will no longer be sponsoring teachers to stay in the U.S.
“When the teachers were recruited there was no guarantee that permanent residency would be part of the package,” Ignagni said.

Roda Mongen has been packing up her life in Los Angeles to head back to the Phillipines. She’ll join her husband and two kids. She’s pregnant with her third child, due in the spring. She would have preferred they build their lives here.
“Most of us teachers doesn’t want to go back home. We want to bring our family over so we can be together here,” Mongen said.

Mongen has tickets for the 15 hour flight to Manila Tuesday night.


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Attorneys for Miramonte kids say LAUSD is not negotiating abuse claims in good faith

Attorneys Luis Carrillo (L) and Brian Claypool (R) talk to reporters about their clients' civil lawsuits against LAUSD over alleged lewd acts against children committed by teachers.
Vanessa Romo/KPCC

Lawyers representing 35 students who say they were abused by a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School want to pull out of settlement negotiations with LAUSD.

The attorneys - Luis Carrillo and Brian Claypool - said the school district is not making much of an effort to compensate the children who they said were victimized by Mark Berndt. Berndt is facing 23 criminal charges for feeding some of his students cookies laced with his own body fluids.

“We spent three full days in mediation, as did Mr. Carillo’s group of clients and I think only three offers were made and they were insignificant," Claypool said at a press conference in Pasadena.

LAUSD general counsel David Holmquist said the attorneys' complaints are unfounded.

“We have been working with counsel for all parties involved, including Mr. Claypool and Mr. Carrillo, to develop a reasonable and fair resolution process and reach resolutions that provide for the ongoing educational and health needs of the students," he said in a written statement.


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California sees fewer teachers as enrollment trends up

A student at Christa McAuliffe High School listens to a teacher lecture about math. “The kids are beginning to see that somebody really cares about their environment, and they’re taking better care of it themselves,” said L.A. County Office of Education Superintendent Arturo Delgado.
Tami Abdollah/KPCC

Years of pink slips have taken a toll on California's teachers to be sure, but the dim job market has also had an impact on people wanting to become teachers at a time when the state's population of children reaching school age is rising.

While the numbers do not yet signal an outright teacher shortage, officials say they point to a worrisome trend of a graying workforce and fewer entrants into what has traditionally been one of the bulwark professions of the middle class.

"We've been worrying about this for a while," said Juliet Tiffany-Morales, research analyst for SRI International who has studied education trends. "A shortage could materialize. There's definitely a smaller pool of people going into teaching."

So far, the profession is holding its own because school districts have increased class sizes to cope with teacher layoffs, and the number of retiring teachers has more or less equaled the number of new teachers, Tiffany-Morales said. Both figure in the 15,000 to 20,000 range.


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Inglewood Unified state administrator out after 2 months

A student boards an Inglewood Unified School District bus last February. State education officials took over operation of the struggling school district when it nearly ran out of money. But now the administrator chosen by the state in October to run the district is out.
Grant Slater/KPCC

The California Department of Education announced Friday the resignation of Kent Taylor, the man it appointed to turn around the financially troubled Inglewood Unified School District.

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson appointed Taylor in October to take over Inglewood Unified from the school board and superintendent. The district was projected to run out of money in the spring of 2013. The school board requested a state loan that triggered a state takeover of the school district.

Torlakson spokesman Paul Hefner said Taylor resigned after the state found out that he had signed financial agreements with the teachers union and a food company without consulting the state officials, and had signed the deals before a major financial audit.

“This being a newly taken over district, the first thing that has to happen before there is any financial commitments made by anyone, that there be a full analysis of the district’s financial picture,” Hefner said.

Taylor had worked as a superintendent and administrator in several Inland Empire school districts before he applied to head Inglewood Unified. That district’s business services chief, La Tanya Kirk-Carter, will take over while the state finds another administrator to run Inglewood Unified.


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LAUSD schools face challenge of making arts part of the core curriculum

Students dance in the after-school Greenway Arts Alliance program, a magnet program within Fairfax high school.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

Arts advocates and educators are excited that the Los Angeles Unified School District Board voted unanimously in October to make arts a "core subject."  

But making that desire a reality is complicated. Educators face a host of questions: What should be included in the arts curriculum? What should be classified as “arts?” How can the arts play a greater role in public education in a time of lean budgets, when political priorities are on improving test scores in areas such as math and English? Even determining the current amount of arts education is tricky.

The effort to redefine arts in school is not only happening in L.A.; it's going on across the country, as educators begin to implement new national curriculum standards.

The renewed focus on arts comes after what arts educators call years of curriculum narrowing following the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001; a focus on test scores has usually meant less time and resources for the arts, they say.


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