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Buffalo Schools bringing back bilingual teachers from Puerto Rico

Posted at 6:35 PM, Apr 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-18 18:35:53-04

Buffalo Public School administrators traveled to Puerto Rico last week in efforts to recruit bilingual teachers. Parents and school officials say there is a high need for bilingual teachers in the district.

"When I moved here two years ago, I was looking for a school with bilingual teachers for my two boys," said Diana Reyes, who moved to Buffalo from Puerto Rico.

Her son knew no English, until learning from bilingual teachers at the Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy and later on Lafayette.

"They come in 6th and 7th grade, with very minimal English, and by the time they come to us in 9th grade, their English is phenomenal," said Rocio Cortes Degarmo, bilingual school counselor for the Lafayette International Community High School.

The number of bilingual teachers in Buffalo is small and the need is large. John Starkey, Principal of the school says nearly 20% of Buffalo students are Hispanic, while less than 5% of teachers fit that criteria. He adds that close to 50% of students in his school are Spanish-speakers.

"We're in such a shortage because our population has been rising so exponentially," said Starkey.

"One of the things that parents look for when they're looking for schools, they want their kids to learn English because that's the language of the states and it opens doors," said Cortes Degarmo.

Principal Starkey says that from more than 60 candidates, they were able to recruit around 13 teachers, exceeding all their goals and expectations.

"It was exciting to meet some people that right away we were able to think about, 'wow, this person at an elementary level could actually fill a vacancy where we have not been able to provide a bilingual teacher'," said Starkey.