EBR fires Filipino teachers
June 9, 2009

Two weeks ago, the East Baton Rouge Parish school system fired 34 teachers recruited over the past two years from the Philippines.

Now, many of them are fighting back.

Twenty-two are represented by a teachers union, the East Baton Rouge Parish Association of Educators.

The union has hired New Orleans attorney Amy Maccherone to examine the legality of the firings. Maccherone said she is still familiarizing herself with the case and was unready to comment.

A union representative, Shane Riddle, said the union is concerned about how the school system evaluated these teachers, but would say little more.

If the firings stand, or if the teachers — who are here on temporary work visas — fail to find other jobs, they will have to return to the Philippines or face deportation.

The School Board approved the terminations at its May 21 meeting.

The associate superintendent for human resources, Elizabeth Duran Swinford, said a few of the fired teachers were wrongly labeled as "noncompliant."

She plans to ask the School Board to re-fire those teachers at its June 18 meeting absent the "noncompliant" label. She said she is also offering those teachers the option of resigning instead.

Even with the firings, the school system still employs about 140 Filipino teachers.

More are employed by other Louisiana school systems.

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system identified these teachers during two recruiting trips to the Philippines in 2007 and 2008.

All are certified in the Philippines, making them certified in Louisiana. They fill critical shortage areas, such as math and special education, and are working in some of the parish's low-performing schools.

They are under contract with a Los Angeles company, Universal Placement International.

Several of the fired teachers were approached for comment, but none would talk publicly.

Ian Seruelo, a San Diego representative of a small political party in the Philippines, said he talks regularly with Filipino teachers in Baton Rouge.

Seruelo said the firings came as a shock. He said the school system appears to have treated these teachers callously. "They are like disposable teachers," Seruelo said. "When (the school system) needs them, they come and get them fast, and when they don't need them, they just wipe them away."

Swinford disputed such criticism.

She said the school system has worked to ensure the teachers knew the consequences if their work performance did not improve.

Swinford said the school system gave the Filipino teachers two days of training last summer, and directed them to many professional development sessions. Even so, some had chronic problems with classroom management and language instruction, especially in elementary reading classes, she said.

"We didn't have any problem with their content knowledge or their ability to deliver instruction," Swinford said.

She acknowledged that, unlike schools in the Philippines, Baton Rouge public schools have many tough-to-teach students, disrespectful of authority. She said these teachers might thrive in less-challenging schools.

Swinford showed copies of completed written observations of two of these teachers — with names removed — administered by their principals in the fall and spring. Each form included signatures from the teacher and the principal, plus boxes where the principal indicated whether the teacher should be renewed for another year or not.

Swinford said this form, adapted from one used by the state Department of Education, was used in addition to the normal teacher evaluation form, though they were completed after the same classroom visits. She said she wanted a form that clearly spelled out that low performance might result in the teacher's termination.

Seruelo said many of the teachers' observation forms showed high marks in many areas. "They didn't really show that their performance was that bad," Seruelo said.

Seruelo said the teachers deserved more assistance than they received. "The school system should have known better how to handle these teachers," he said.

Copyright 2009, The Advocate / Capital City Press LLC

Additional Reading
  • Sarah Carr, "Recruiting agency accused of extortion; Fillipinos say they paid dearly to teach in La." The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, October 2, 2009, National, p. 1.

  • Will Sentell, "Union: Recruiters cheated foreign teachers," The Advocate, Baton Rouge, October 2, 2009, Capitol News Bureau News, p. 1A.

  • Charles Lussier, "Judge orders fees repaid; Service recruited Filipino teachers for La. schools," The Advocate, Baton Rouge, April 17, 2010 South LA. & Business, p. 1B.

From: Charles Lussier, "EBR fires Filipino teachers," The Advocate, Baton Rouge, June 9, 2009, South LA. & Business, p. 1B.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.