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Smuggling of Filipino teachers to Texas

Not all Filipino teachers leaving for the US and elsewhere are lucky. In El Paso, Texas, Filipino couple Noel Cedro Tolentino and Angelica Tolentino, and his mother, Florita Tolentino were put on trial early this year for about 40 counts of criminal offenses including conspiracy to smuggle aliens, visa fraud and money laundering in connection with the recruitment of teachers from the Philippines.

The Tolentinos' placement company, OMNI Consortium, provided teachers for Socorro, Ysleta, Canutillo and El Paso independent school districts with fraudulent visas. The Tolentinos have pleaded not guilty.

A teacher from Bacolod said more than 200 teachers from the Philippines were recruited for jobs in Texas between 2001 and 2003 but when they arrived, many did not have jobs waiting for them as promised.

Two other teachers from Bacolod City said they were promised jobs in Texas but were brought instead to McAllen, about 14 kilometers away by bus.

The US government case against the Tolentinos included a series of alleged junkets to the Philippines, all-expenses paid trips during which US school administrators were expected to offer Filipino applicants teaching jobs in Texas. Those involved in the alleged junkets said those were working trips to recruit Filipino teachers.

In some cases, the job orders turned out to have been canceled when school districts scaled down their request for teachers, but the Tolentinos did not cancel the H-1 visa applicants for the unwanted teachers.

Baltimore to hire 178 Pinoy teachers

By JOSE KATIGBAK, The Philippine Star Washington bureau
The Philippine Star

WASHINGTON – Baltimore City will hire an additional 178 new public school teachers from the Philippines in the coming school year, the latest in a wave of Filipino migration to hit the United States.

This will bring to nearly 1,000 the number of Filipino teachers in the Washington metropolitan area which includes parts of Maryland and Virginia, said Consul Rico Fos, head of the Philippine embassy’s cultural section.

Fos said teachers follow a long tradition of migrant Filipino professionals supplying the global need for doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers and computer programmers.

Fos recently drove to Baltimore city in Maryland, some 50 miles north of Washington, DC, to look into press reports that 12 Filipino teachers recruited three years ago were in danger of being sent home because the Baltimore City Public School Board (BCPSB) would no longer sponsor their employment visas because of lack of funds.

He said BCPSB officials clarified that while it was true that the city lost its funding for some of its programs, it did not mean the 12 Filipino teachers in the affected programs would not be rehired.

They will instead be transferred to other schools where they are needed and where their teaching skills/specialization matches the needs of the intended school, Fos said.
Maryland suffers from a yearly shortage of about 6,000 teachers and routinely recruits from other states and countries.

The BCPSB informed Fos that by this summer it would be hiring 178 new teachers from the Philippines.

Filipino teachers recruited to the US earn on average about $40,000 a year, significantly more than what they receive back home even amid the shrinking dollar. About two years ago the dollar was worth P55 compared to about P41 now.

In another development, the local recruitment industry Monday warned that with the government’s new hiring policy, fewer highly skilled Filipino workers would get overseas employment this year.

Recruitment industry leaders said the new policy on "direct or name" hires would be limited due to the stricter requirements imposed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

The additional burden of meeting more requirements would discourage foreign employers, said Emmanuel Geslani, a consultant for the recruitment industry.

Last week, the POEA started implementing a policy that requires foreign employers of direct hires to seek approval from the labor secretary prior to deployment.

Previously, the employment contract of name hires just needs verification from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office prior to POEA processing.

The policy also restricts direct hiring to members of foreign embassies and international organizations, and foreign employers are required to post $5,000 repatriation bond aside from the performance bond equivalent to three months’ salary of the worker.

A recruitment official also questioned the POEA decision to allow name hires to pay the peso equivalent of the $125 processing fee for employment contracts.

"If the workers are paying in peso this means that they are shouldering the processing fee when it should be paid by the foreign employer," said the official, who requested anonymity.

Baltimore hiring more Filipino public school teachers

MANILA, Philippines -- The city of Baltimore in Maryland, USA will be hiring 178 more public school teachers from the Philippines by summer, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) disclosed Monday.

The embassy reported to the DFA that officials of the Baltimore City Public School Board informed assistance to nationals (ATN) officer lawyer Loy Cortel, welfare officer Oliver Flores and consul Rico Fos about the decision to hire more teachers during a meeting.

The embassy officials met with the school board to discuss the case of 12 Filipino teachers reportedly in danger of being sent home because the board will no longer sponsor their employment visas due to lack of funding.

During the meeting, officials of the school board clarified that “while it is true that the city lost its funding for some of its programs, it does not mean that they will not rehire the Filipino teachers in the affected programs,” the embassy report said.

They said “the affected Filipino teachers will instead be transferred to other schools where teachers are needed and where their teaching skills and specializations match the needs of the intended school.”

Fos told the 300 Filipino teachers who attended the meeting that the embassy will continue to closely monitor their situation and is ready to render any assistance, including a forum on income taxation for newly arrived Filipino teachers.

The forum aims to help them learn about their rights and privileges under federal and state laws.

Filipino teachers in Georgia

The acceptance of Filipino teachers in the US is also seen in Georgia where 41 Filipino teachers who took up residence there last August were given boxes of foodstuffs and supplies from the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System that hired them.

The Filipino teachers including Ammi Hernandez and Girlie Acasio helped fill the school’s teacher vacancies for the current school year.

The teachers were given boxes of materials with toiletries, paper products and nearly everything they would need to start their kitchens - from flour and sugar to canned goods, rice, oil, salt and pepper.

Savannah-Chatham County Public School System has at least 49 schools and satellite facilities in the district with over 34, 500 students in pre-kindergarten to Grade 12. It is one of the largest school systems in the state of Georgia.

It offers foreign teachers $1,800 signing bonus for a 190-day contract for fully certified Math, Science, Foreign Language and Technology Education or Special Education teacher relocating to Savannah.

Under its Alternative Education Program, foreign teachers are given $900 monthly salary plus incentives.

Nearly 200 new Filipino teachers hired

This year’s recruitment of nearly 200 educators almost doubles that of 2006.

About 200 Filipino teachers will come to Prince George’s County schools over the next 12 months as school officials attempt to lessen teacher shortages.

Teacher vacancies — including special education shortages — have brought officials to the Philippines to recruit teachers over the last five years. There are more qualified teachers than jobs in the Philippines so Prince George’s personnel and school board members have coordinated with school systems and teacher associations there, arranged hundreds of interviews and brought more than 400 Filipino educators back to the county since 2002.
Twenty-eight teachers recruited during the trip are slated to start in county schools this month, while another 170 will begin teaching in the 2008-09 academic year.

The county recruited 107 Filipino teachers in 2006 and 80 in 2005. Filipino teachers are sought because accreditation requirements are very similar to American requirements, officials said.

‘‘We’re not training the teachers in the United States, so we need to start looking at places where there are more teachers,” said school board chairman Owen Johnson, who helped interview teacher candidates. ‘‘They recognize our shortages. ... They have been very aggressive in getting us to come and recruit.”

Johnson said more than 300 candidates were screened and interviewed and 200 were offered a contract to teach in Prince George’s, the second-largest school district in Maryland and the 17th-largest in the nation.

A $300,000 advertising campaign aimed at filling teacher vacancies netted about 1,000 teachers over the summer, but left 200 spots open — most of them in special education — when the school year started Aug. 20. The open classrooms were filled with substitute teachers, human resources workers said.

Maryland universities and colleges graduate about 2,500 teachers annually. Prince George’s County, which hires more than 1,000 new teachers every year, must compete with 23 other state school districts for those new teachers.

The new hires are not expected to end the teacher shortage, as the school system loses about 1,000 teachers every year, school officials said.

‘‘There is no question that the state of Maryland does not produce enough teachers to fulfill the needs of Prince George’s County,” said board member Rosalind Johnson (Dist. 1) of Laurel. ‘‘There just aren’t enough teachers.”

Arrowhead Inc., an organization that helps school systems recruit Filipino teachers, finds apartments for teachers when they arrive in Prince George’s, said Robert Gaskin, the county’s recruitment officer. The teachers can teach in the county for six years with temporary citizenship. After that period, teachers must seek citizenship or return to the Philippines, Gaskin said.

In the Philippines, some of first-grade teacher Evangeline Salvivar’s classes ranged upwards of 60 pupils. In such a large classroom, she said, it’s common for some students to get left behind in their instruction. Salvivar, now a second-year teacher at Samuel P. Massie Elementary School in Forestville, said the most noticeable difference in American public schools is that everyone is given an equal chance and equal support.

Having taught pre-school in her home county for eight years, Massie pre-K teacher Shiryl Maglangit came to the school last year so she could learn new teaching strategies and help her family financially. In the Philippines, Maglangit said the average monthly salary equated to $350 a month.

In Prince George’s, the average starting salary for a teacher with an undergraduate degree is $43,841, leaving foreign-born teachers with much more to support family members.
‘‘We are changing economies here,” Massie Principal Sharif Salim said of the money sent back to the Philippines from those posted in the United States.

Maglangit’s husband arrived in the United States this year, and she said she plans to stay here through the rest of her career.

Early next year Salim also plans to visit Puerto Rico to recruit Hispanic teachers. There are currently two Puerto Rican and eight Filipino teachers at Massie.

Salim said he likes to personally recruit teachers to make sure his classrooms are ready at the start of the year.

‘‘Every year I am losing four to six student teachers due to certification issues,” Salim said. ‘‘It’s good to have a ready pool of teachers.”

Kansas school recruiting Filipino teachers in 2008

In Kansas, Maria Santiago was among the 40 Filipino teachers who arrived in the US state to fill teaching vacancies in Math, Science and special education classes. During the summer break, she took her children from the Philippines to live with her in the US.

According to Superintendent Winston Brooks, they choose Filipino teachers over other nationalities because most regular teachers in the Philippines are also college professors. Many have applied for overseas jobs to earn better wages and provide well for their families in the Philippines.

In January, representatives of Topeka Unified School District 501 will be traveling to the Philippines to recruit teachers who can provide instruction in areas where US schools are finding it increasingly difficult to fill for the next school year.

Springfield, Missouri-based HealthQuest Enterprises will finance the recruitment trip.

Currently, 18 teachers from the Philippines are employed in 11 other district schools in Kansas. Seven of them work as middle or high school science teachers, four as math teachers, five as special education teachers and two as elementary teachers, one of whom is certified to teach English second language learners and the other with math concentration, the report said.

Of the 18 Filipino teachers, 13 had a master's degree or have completed one since being hired.

Alabama hires more Pinoy mentors.

School officials in Alabama recruited 14 Filipino teachers this school year to teach Math, Science and special-education instructions there.

Baldwin County is the first school system in Alabama to lure in foreign teachers to the state. It sent two officials to the Philippines to recruit competent teachers.

The school system offered jobs for 16 teachers from the Philippines but only 14 of the applicants met the requirements. GMA News

Phonepatch interview about being a Pinoy Teacher in the US

This was recorded when Teacher Sol was just a newbie teacher in one of the inner city schools in Washington DC, Wednesday, April 6 2005. She blogged about an AMBUSH INTERVIEW by Michael Vincent, programming director of Metro Plus AM 1044 radio in Hong Kong. This interview was in mixed Tagalog and English which took place at 11:30 pm.

2 accused in teacher smuggling plead guilty

Two key figures in a white-collar smuggling scheme to import Filipino teachers to Texas schools pleaded guilty this week in federal court in El Paso to conspiracy to defraud the U.S.

Noel Cedro Tolentino and his mother, Florita Cedro Tolentino, were accused of procuring work visas for teachers for jobs that were not confirmed and that often did not materialize.

They and Noel Tolentino's wife, Angelica Tolentino, had been indicted on about 40 counts, including conspiracy to smuggle aliens, visa fraud and money laundering. Noel and Florita Tolentino pleaded guilty Jan. 2 to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. in exchange for the dismissal of all the other charges.

Plea documents showed they admitted to "failing to tell (the U.S. government) the alien teachers did not have confirmed employment."

They face up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines at their sentencing, scheduled for March. It wasn't clear Friday what happened to the case against Angelica Tolentino.

Manuel Barraza, one of Florita Tolentino's lawyers, declined to comment. The other lawyers could not be reached for comment Friday.

The case went to trial a year ago, but U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone declared a mistrial at the end of nearly two months of hearings because two jurors said they read a newspaper article about the proceedings. A new trial was supposed to start Friday.

During the trial, prosecutors described the alleged fraud that involved school officials from several Texas school districts, including Socorro, Ysleta, Canutillo and El Paso school districts.

Prosecutors said the Tolentinos would take Texas school administrators on junkets to the Philippines, all-expense-paid trips, during which the school administrators were expected to interview teachers and sign a certain number of letters of intent to hire. The letters were then used by the Tolentinos' company, OMNI Consortium of Houston, to file I-129 petitions for H-1B work visas in the U.S.

Using the visas, Filipino teachers, who had paid OMNI a fee as high as $10,000, according to the indictment, emigrated to the U.S.

But school districts then scaled down their request for teachers. For example, the Brownsville Independent School originally wanted to hire 55 teachers but later said it needed only 19. The government said that instead of canceling the H-1B application for the unwanted 36 teachers, the Tolentinos continued the process. They allegedly shopped the teachers around to different schools from the ones the visas were obtained for, which is illegal.

The U.S. attorney's office has said that 273 Filipino teachers were brought to the U.S. during 2002-04 and that fewer than 100 actually had jobs waiting for them.

Some El Paso school officials were also charged in the case.

Mario Aguilar, former superintendent of the Socorro Independent School District, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of failing to report gifts to a public official and was sentenced to one year of probation. Raye Lokey, former Ysleta Independent School District associate superintendent for human resources, was sentenced to six months of probation for aiding illegal entry.

As part of the their plea, the Tolentinos also agreed to forfeit assets, including a 1996 Mercedes Benz, a 1999 BMW, real estate properties in Houston and McAllen, and money from five bank accounts.

BCPS fails to renew work visas of a dozen Filipino teachers

BALTIMORE - The jobs of about a dozen Filipino teachers who were recruited three years ago to fill gaping teacher shortages in Baltimore County public schools have been jeopardized after their work visas expired.

According to Cheryl Bost, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, each of the instructors is certified. However, if their visas are not renewed, they may be forced to look for work in other districts.

Bost said that for the past several years, the teachers union has attempted to work out the issue with BCPS but to no avail.

“They go over there [to countries like India and the Philippines] and recruit the teachers, give them money for their expenses, provide extra training to acclimate them to the U.S.,” she said.

“Then after three years, the school system says they can no longer sponsor them. It’s a revolving door of highly qualified teachers who have had successful evaluations.”

Bost said that each time she’s addressed the county Board of Education, officials have said it would be too costly to assist the teachers’ transition to the next level of the visa process.

“This has been going on for six years and they’re letting go of good teachers who are needed in the areas of math and science,” Bost said. “In effect, they’re adding to the teacher-retention problem.”

To help offset Maryland’s yearly shortage of between 6,000 and 8,000 teachers, recruits are routinely imported from other states and countries. The Filipino teachers, who earn an average $40,000 a year for first-time teachers, are paid significantly less back home.

BCPS spokeswoman Kara Caulder said the teachers were aware when they were hired that their visas would expire in three years.

“We have met our obligations,” Caulder said, adding the teachers would “probably” have to return to the Philippines.

She also said the loss of the teachers was not a factor in teacher retention.

Maryland State Department of Education spokesman William Reinhard told The Examiner this past summer that most shortages are in special education, science and mathematics. He said the schools particularly look for more male and minority teachers. The Examiner

Filipino teachers likely to lose jobs as visas lapse

BALTIMORE - Baltimore County's teachers union says about a dozen teachers from the Philippines recruited three years ago by the county schools stand to lose their jobs because their work visas have expired.

The president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, Cheryl Bost, says the teachers are certified and have had successful evaluations, but she says the school board has refused to cover the costs of extending their visas.

The teachers were recruited to fill shortages in math and science.

Schools spokeswoman Kara Caulder says the teachers were aware when they were hired that their visas would expire in three years. She says the school system has met its obligations. The Examiner


Dear colleagues,

Have a good laugh!!!

by Jeff Foxworthy

1. You can hear 25 voices behind you and know exactly which one belongs to the child out of line
2. You get a secret thrill out of laminating something.
3. You walk into a store and hear the words 'It's Ms/Mr. _________'and know you have been spotted.
4. You have 25 people that accidentally call you Mom/Dad at one time or another.
5. You can eat a multi-course meal in under twenty-five minutes.
6. You've trained yourself to go to the bathroom at two distinct times of the day: lunch and prep period
7. You start saving other people's trash, because most likely, you can use that toilet paper tube or plastic butter tub for something in the classroom.
8. You believe the teachers' lounge should be equipped with a margarita machine.
9. You want to slap the next person who says 'Must be nice to work 7 to 3 and have summers off.
10. You believe chocolate is a food group.
11. You can tell if it's a full moon without ever looking outside.
12 You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says 'Boy, the kids sure are mellow today.
13. You feel the urge to talk to strange children and correct their behavior when you are out in public.
14. You believe in aerial spraying of Ritalin.
15. You think caffeine should be available in intravenous form.
16. You spend more money on school stuff than you do on your own children.
17. You can't pass the school supply aisle without getting at least five items!
18. You ask your friends if the left hand turn he just made was a good choice or a bad choice.
19. You find true beauty in a can full of perfectly sharpened pencils.
20. You are secretly addicted to hand sanitizer and finally,
21. You understand instantaneously why a child behaves a certain way after meeting his or her parents.

DepEd chief: RP education has sunk to its lowest level

MANILA, Philippines -- It was the Department of Education that first raised the alarm in 2006 that the quality of education in the country had sunk to its lowest level, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said.

“The problem is systemic. The entire system is [seriously affected],” said the DepEd chief, reacting to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s admission that the state of education continued to worsen during a consultative meeting in Baguio City Monday.

In a phone interview, Lapus minced no words in disclosing the woes faced by his department.
“Everybody is aware that education is a primordial concern in our country. From the start, we have raised the alarm and it succeeded in getting national attention and support and involving the private sector,” he said.

No overnight solutions

However, Lapus said improving the quality of education could not be done overnight.

“The issues confronting us are the [result] of decades of under-investment, understatement ... English has had to take a back seat. The reading skills also suffered with many Grade 6 students unable to read,” he said.

Consider this: Of the elementary school teachers tested for English proficiency in the school year 2006-2007 by the DepEd, only 60 percent passed.

The secondary education teachers fared worse -- only 20 percent passed, 70 percent were below the desired proficiency and 10 percent failed the test.

Impact on education

These are full-fledged teachers, said Lapus, pointing to the tremendous impact on the entire educational system of teachers who fail to master English, the medium of instruction in all public schools.

“How many thousands of students are affected by this? We have our hands full. This will take time but we’re doing everything to address these [educational problems],” he said.

With regard to the students’ proficiency in English, Lapus said the problem started in the primary level.

“The biggest dropout rates are in Grades 1, 2, 3,” he said, disclosing a dropout rate of 25 percent in the three grades.

Day-care as preschool

Only 40 percent of those in Grade 1, Lapus said, passed the readiness test, an examination to gauge the pupils’ familiarity with the three core subjects of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.

The solution could take the form of an “intervention” during the formative years, he said.

Some 50,000 day-care centers [already established in barangays] can be transformed into preschools with standard instructional materials and trained day-care workers, according to Lapus. The target is 1.8 million 5-year-old children this year, and 2 million children next year.

This would reduce dropout rates in succeeding years and increase the “holding power” of schools, he said.

But the scheme would need an additional budget of P2 billion, on top of the proposed DepEd budget for 2008, which at P146 billion, is already the biggest among the departments.

Retraining teachers

During a meeting with education stakeholders in Baguio City, the President said she had earmarked P500 million for the retraining of teachers in English proficiency to arrest the declining quality of education in schools.

Ms Arroyo expressed alarm over the teachers’ proficiency in English, stressing that teachers, not just students, needed retraining.

The sooner the deficiencies are fixed, the better, she said.

The President made no bones about her concern over the current state of English-teaching, recalling a comment by Sen. Richard Gordon that many of the semi-finalists in a recent English competition could not “verbalize” their answers to interview questions.

In the past several weeks, Ms Arroyo has met with various academic groups and education stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to discuss reform measures intended to upgrade the quality of Philippine education.

Written, not spoken

Lapus said teachers were not proficient in English because it’s mostly used for writing but seldom spoken.

“The defect is oral. So we plan to put up speech laboratories. You won’t learn to speak [English] unless you hear and say it,” he said, disclosing the mentoring scheme in which English-proficient teachers teach their colleagues basic grammar and other nuances of the language.

Small victories

Lapus also talked about his department’s small victories in the battle against illiteracy.

He said the national achievement test results improved last year, albeit far from commendable.
There was an average improvement in the three core subjects: English, 12.45 percent; Math, 12.3 percent, and Science 10.2 percent.

This is an 11. 8-percent improvement on all three learning areas, compared to the mean score in 2006.

“We’re very proud of that,” he said.

Lapus said that after the Grade 3 pupils were taught “effective reading and comprehension,” there was an improvement in reading skills in both English, 9.6 percent, and Filipino, 12.5 percent, compared to 2006 scores, or a composite difference of 11 percent.

National awareness

“We have a myriad of problems in the education sector. But we can say that we have aroused national awareness and participation in education as a societal concern,” he said, pointing to the “adopt-a-school program” which encourages private companies to invest in selected schools.

“We have raised P4 billion in contributions and pledges from the private sector for basic public education,” Lapus said.


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