Island Schools Plan for Brazilian Teachers
The island-wide school committee was briefed on a plan to recruit teachers from Brazil during a meeting on Thursday evening. According to Matt D’Andrea, superintendent of Martha’s Vineyard, discussions and decisions regarding the plan will be made within each of the local school committees on the island.
“We are always looking for opportunities to bring more diversity to our staff on the island,” D’Andrea told the committee. “We have had a substantial increase in the number of our English Language Learners (ELLs).
To meet the educational needs of the island, a plan has been developed to partner with the Maryland-based nonprofit Teachers Council to bring in teachers from Brazil on H1B visas. According to Boundless, an immigration assistance company, the H1B visa is a “nonimmigrant work visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers for skilled jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or equivalent.” The visa is valid for three years and can be extended for up to six years. The H1B visa holder’s spouse and children under 21 can accompany them on H-4 visas. The H1B visa holder can apply for a green card later if they wish.
Leah Palmer, ELL director of Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools, said the plan would help the island find people for hard-to-fill positions, such as bilingual school counselors, ESL teachers and language teachers. Portuguese.
“These positions have been very difficult to fill, and they would really benefit from having a multicultural and multilingual perspective,” Palmer told the committee. She said there were two bilingual counselor positions and one Portuguese teaching position to fill this year at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
By bringing educators from Brazil to the island, Palmer said it would allow schools “to really have a staff that reflects our students.” Of the 2,191 students attending public schools on the island, 21% of them are learning English. A graph presented by Palmer showed that the total number of students attending public schools in Martha’s Vineyard has remained stable (2,133 students in 2016 and 2,191 students in 2022 in January). However, the number of students learning English has more than doubled over the same period (210 students in 2016 and 461 students in 2022).
Palmer said English students have been predominantly Brazilian over the past 10 years. In another graph, Palmer showed the number of students with a first language other than English. Portuguese speakers eclipsed other language-speaking populations with 398 students. The schools have 15 Spanish-speaking students and four Mandarin Chinese-speaking students.
“Really promoting the strengths of multi-bilingualism and multi-biculturalism is really something that we’re trying to embrace within our school system,” Palmer said. “It will also diversify our staff and educational experiences.”
According to Palmer, each H1B hire will cost Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools $1,560 due to legal, visa and fraud prevention fees. Successful applicants can only receive the H1B visa with the stipulation that they must work in the Martha’s Vineyard public school system.
“Housing is not a component of [H1B]. Have you looked at any requirements we might have in the accommodation? Up-Island school board member Robert Lionette asked.
“We don’t have any housing requirements with this one. We would obviously, like anyone we hire who is new to Martha’s Vineyard, we want to make sure that we help them as much as possible with the housing crisis that we have,” Palmer replied.
Palmer said there are already people applying for Martha’s Vineyard Public School positions from Brazil, so the plan is to roll out the process as soon as possible.