Union Leader Criticizes School District’s Puerto Rico Recruiting Trip

PERTH AMBOY — The Bay City’s pugnacious schools superintendent is defending a $6,000 junket to Puerto Rico for four administrators, insisting her district has tried everything in the book to recruit bilingual math and science teachers without success.

Superintendent Janine Walker Caffrey is sending four administrators to San Juan and Mayaguez, in Puerto Rico, from April 28 to May 2 at a cost $5,808.

Caffrey is once again blaming teachers for poor student performance without partnering with the employees to solve this complex problem, according to a key union leader.

Donna Chiera, president of Perth Amboy Federation/American Federation of Teachers, shot holes in the plan to go looking for Puerto Rican teachers who can speak Spanish because they cannot teach in New Jersey unless they have national board certification.

“I find it very difficult to believe with the (teacher) layoffs in the tristate area in the last couple of years that they need to go out of the continental U.S. to recruit teachers,” said Chiera, who is also unsure if there are positions open next year for teachers fluent in Spanish and English.

Chiera explained that teachers certified in Puerto Rico could be unqualified to teach in New Jersey unless they have appropriate certifications and she encouraged board members to look in New Jersey for solutions to the bilingual teacher shortage.

“Maybe we need to find some teachers in the tristate area to come and train our teachers,” said Chiera. “Include the staff in those discussions, and include our partner universities and… look at the AFT as a resource because we would be willing to go on campuses with you.”

Chiera outlined several deficiencies in Caffrey’s leadership, including a lack of communication, a disrespect for existing staff, neglect for more common sense opportunities to correct the problem.

District Director of Human Resources Bernice Marshall, Perth Amboy Adult School Principal Senovia Robles, McGinnis School Principal Myrna Garcia and Perth Amboy High School Principal Nestor Collazo leaving Sunday.

Bilingual students, who comprise about 20 percent of the school population, are underperforming — particularly in the areas of math and science.

Marshall told school board members that teachers would need to be dual certified, holding credentials to educate bilingual students and having qualifications to teach their specific areas of study.

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