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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Filipino teachers in Prince George’s County have largely escaped deep budget cuts that have led to the lay-off of hundreds of teachers and school support staff.

“There has been some cost-cutting, and yes some Filipino teachers were affected but they have been minimal,” explained Dr. Carlo Parapara, president of the Maryland-based Pilipino Educators Network (PEN) and Special Education (SPED) teacher in Upper Marlboro.

PG County has been hiring teachers from the Philippines since 2004. There are now over 600 of them, not counting their family members.

The PEN was formed only last February and swore-in the maiden set of officers three weeks ago.

Parapara explained that PEN aims to be the public voice of Filipino teachers in PG County.

Their objectives include uniting Filipino educators in the county for mutual assistance; help them understand their rights and responsibilities; facilitate professional development; and help promote Philippine culture and traditions.

Parapara said Filipino teachers in PG County are flourishing despite the economic recession.

Grace Genova, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher, concurred with his assessment.

They attributed this to the fact that the vast majority of Filipino teachers have kept their certifications current and performed well in their jobs.

The PG County Board of Education had eliminated hundreds of jobs – 300 of them teaching positions – slashed bus service and expanded class sizes to cope with budget cuts.

The $1.66 billion budget approved at the start of the 2010-2011 school year represented a 2.6 percent reduction from the previous year.

Parapara said they only get to know of a Filipino teacher who’s been laid off or transferred to another school through the grapevine or if the affected mentor goes to them for help.
He explained they arrange for legal advise for those who want them.

Based on that, he said the number of displaced Filipino teachers has been minimal.

He said they are more concerned with the reduction in training opportunities.

This appears to be one of the secrets of Filipino educators in making themselves recession-proof.

“Most of our teachers are pursuing higher studies,” Parapara averred.

Most of them entered the United States on an H-1B visa which is valid for three years and can be extended for another three years.

The first batches of Filipino educators are near the end of the H-1B visa validity but even here, they’re not worried.

Parapara said 95 percent of the Batch 2005 mentors – to which he belongs – have already received their immigrant visa, the so-called green card.

He said he plans to stay five more years in PG County before embarking on a major career move.

The majority of Filipino teachers have expressed the desire to stick it out in PG County although some plan to move “to a less difficult” school, he said.

“There’s a reason they hired teachers from the Philippines,” Parapara explained, “No one here wanted to fill the positions. So, some of our teachers also want to try other schools or even schools in other states.”

But even as they continue to plot their future, Filipino teachers are confident they have found a home in Prince George’s County.


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