Canadian teachers find school daze in U.S.
BY MARTY KLINKENBERG
Saturday, September 1, 2001
School days have yet to begin, but for Canadian educators who crossed the border this year, a school daze has already set in.
Canadian teachers recruited last fall and earlier this year by New York's Board of Education say they were not exactly greeted by a welcome wagon when they arrived last month. Instead, they say they found themselves bogged down in bureaucracy and disorganization.
The new recruits complain that housing assistance they were promised never materialized, social-security cards mailed to the school-board's offices were misplaced and, as recently as last week, officials could not tell them what subjects they would teach or even at what school.
In addition, teachers say they were told they might not be paid for six weeks, at a time when they need thousands of dollars to secure even temporary housing.
"You expect a few things to happen in a situation like this, but this is nuts," said a teacher who taught for 12 years in the Toronto area. "To advertise for my skills and then treat me like dog poop? Forget it.
" ...When I return to Canada, I'm going to be blab to everyone that, yes, teaching is twice as much work there. But as Canadians we should be proud of our organization. The public there would never allow the things that have happened here."
New York's Board of Education, which has recruited teachers in Europe for several years, came courting north of the border for the first time last fall. Promotional efforts in Toronto and Vancouver netted 162 Canadian teachers.
Visas were pushed through quickly with the help of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, but the Canadians had to pay their transportation and moving expenses themselves.
School starts on Tuesday in New York, with more than a million students enrolled in public schools and a faculty of 79,690.
More than 800 certified teachers were hired to address a shortage the city calls severe. But the international recruiting efforts caused confusion and controversy.
Randi Weingarten, the head of the teachers union, said this week the school board had botched its planning and failed miserably to help recruits find housing.
The Canadians agree. "What strikes me as an outsider is that so many things in this process have gone wrong," the veteran Ontario teacher said one night last week while sitting in the lobby of her hotel in Manhattan. "And what really bothers me is that I don't think this board realizes the kids are the ultimate client. These people are not focused on the students at all."