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SEEN UP NORTH – Teacher recruiter reflects


Tony Best

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“West Indian teachers did extremely well in the public school system and if some of them are laid off, it would change their lives dramatically.”
That sympathetic reaction came from Stephen Hinds, a Barbadian educator and administrator in New York City, who spearheaded the recruitment of hundreds of West Indian teachers, scores of Bajans among them, to teach in schools in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan and the Bronx a decade ago.
He was reflecting on the plight of many of the classroom professionals who are worried about the prospect of losing their jobs as the Department of Education (DOE) tries to close a billion-dollar budget by laying off as many as 6 000 teachers this year.
“My hope and prayer is that something is done to prevent the teachers from being laid off, from losing their jobs,” added the DOE consultant who since retiring three years ago acts as a hearing officer or administrative judge, on appeals lodged by teachers and others in the public school.”
Hinds, a Fulbright scholar with master’s degrees in educational administration and supervision from City College of the City University of New York guidance and counselling from Long Island University, was sent to Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico and Panama in 2001 to recruit teachers.
What he found there were well educated, highly motivated professionals who were looking for new challenges in the classroom.
“By and large, they have done well,” he stressed.
After serving for seven years as the principal of Intermediate School 285 in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush community, he had just joined the Board of Education’s managerial staff in charge of recruitment and professional development when he was sent on a recruiting mission to the West Indies.
Back then, the city had to fill hundreds of vacancies created by an exodus of experienced teachers who had either retired or had left the city for greener financial pastures in the suburbs or elsewhere in New York.
Now, in a report entitled Broken Promises, some of those teachers, most of them from Jamaica but some from Barbados, are charging they could end up being deported if they are laid off because they have not received the promised permanent residence or green card.
But Hinds, an educator since 1975, disagreed with the teachers that they were hurt by the DOE’s failure to live up to a litany of promises.
“I don’t subscribe to those broken promises,” he said. “There is nothing they can say were broken promises in that respect. Housing was not promised. The system agreed to assist them in finding housing and that’s what the system did. Secondly, about lay-offs and deportation, there is nothing that’s definite about that. No decision has been made by the Department of Education about that. The teachers may be jumping the gun.”
 
Have permits
Hinds, who was born and grew up in St James before coming to the United States, said many of the teachers had immigration permits which allowed them to work during the time their applications for green cards were being processed by federal immigration authorities. Others had received green cards and wouldn’t be deported.
“It’s not as if they are without visas,” he added.
Hinds gave the Caribbean educators full marks for their commitment, dedication and professionalism and said they shouldn’t be singled out for dismissal during the budget crunch.
“They should be treated just like any other teacher,” said Hinds, whose sister Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix is the administrative judge of the Civil Division of the New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.
“The West Indians should be given fair treatment. If they are performing in the system and delivering effective instruction to students, then they should be given due reward. I don’t see how you can summarily dismiss anyone if that person’s performance is effective.”
“In some early cases, the system was at fault in that some teachers came and were not readily put to work because of the fact that logistically, they couldn’t be placed in one borough or another,” he said. 
“There was a lapse in that. But I would say that by and large the system has responded. It strived to ensure that everyone who was brought in was placed in a position.”
Hinds, the father of four children – two attorneys, an environmental engineer and a dietitian – insisted the recruitment was an overall success.
“We went out to the West Indies and recruited well qualified teachers,” he said. “I pushed for their recruitment because they were from our neighbours next door in the Caribbean and they were able to respond to the needs of the children since they have a similar cultural orientation. By and large, the West Indians did extremely well.”

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