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Caribbean staff can make it in New York

United States

City trawls islands for role models to motivate black pupils and ease its teacher shortage. Leslie Goffe reports New York is attempting to solve its twin problems of teacher shortages and failing inner-city schools by recruiting up to 8,000 teachers from the Caribbean.

This month the city's board of education will begin sending dozens of recruiters to Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados to convince teachers there to take up jobs in poorly performing schools in Brooklyn, where many Caribbean immigrants have settled.

The city's schools chief, Harold Levy, believes Caribbean teachers can bring a no-nonsense traditional approach - strong on discipline and the three Rs - and provide a model of black achievement. This, he hopes, will lead African-American and Caribbean students away from teen pregnancy and gang violence and towards improved academic performance.

"We've made an effort to reach out to Caribbean teachers because they have ability with so many of the children who are in our system," Mr Levy explained.

"The New York City school system is a system of immigrant children, and we are very eager to have teachers who have had experiene with children in their native countries come here, particularly those from the Caribbean because they have such strong backgrounds in maths, science, and English."

Not everyone agrees that Caribbean teachers will have all the answers. Kelson Maynard was born in Trinidad and has taught in New York public schools for almost 20 years. He argued that simply coming from the same country or being the same colour as a student would not change poor test scores.

"Caribbean people, like people from Europe, come here with certain biases about the native black population, about children they will have to teach and interact with," he said. "Resources should be spent here to upgrade teachers and ensure that competent teachers are willing to go into the profession."

There is little doubt there will be a flood of applications from Caribbean teachers for the New York jobs, given that the average $44,000 salary is four times their pay in Jamaica and they will have the promise of permanent resident status in the United States.

The successful candidates will join 78,000 other teachers in the city's public school system, which educates more than one million children.

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