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#696: Group wants teachers who speak Creole (fwd)
Published Thursday, October 7, 1999, in the Miami Herald
Group wants teachers who speak Creole____by HANS MARDY
Concerned about the number of Haitian children attending F schools in
Miami-Dade County, a group of Haitian educators said Saturday the
district should be hiring more Creole-speaking teachers to help the
immigrant students succeed. ``Language is the main problem,'' said
Jean-Robert Bertrand, chairman of the Association of Haitian Educators
of Dade. ``There are not enough programs for Haitian beginners. Many
Haitian students have been sent to special help programs for no reason.
The system needs to hire more Creole speakers to be school personnel.''
Several dozen members of Bertrand's group turned out for Saturday's
Sixth Annual Back To School Breakfast at the Miami Shores Country Club.
The organization is dedicated to championing the educational rights of
the Haitian community. The 30 active members of the association meet
every third Saturday at Barry University in Miami Shores to plan ways to
help Haitian students cope in area schools. Despite many improvements in
the educational system over the years, community activists said, the
10-year-old organization is miles away from its mission. ``We came from
a country where teachers have to do everything, where children
have been raised by neighbors, grandmothers and so and so,'' said
Leonie Hermantin, executive director of the Haitian American Foundation.
``Here in the U.S., there is no such thing.'' Hermantin said the
association should be able to provide community leaders with
information that can help them identify the real needs of Haitian
students in Miami-Dade schools. ``Association members should be leaders,
but not just teachers,'' Hermantin said. ``We as community leaders do
not know what's going on in the classroom. We rely on your leadership to
work in collaboration with other organizations in order to resolve the
real problem of the Haitian students in the system.'' While the school
system doesn't identify students of Haitian descent -- they are
included among black students -- officials estimate 18,000 of the
115,000 blacks are Haitian. More than 50 percent of Dade's 345,000
students are Hispanic. Only about 100 of Dade's 22,000 teachers are
Haitian. About 60 teach a Creole-based English as a Second Language.
The state Department of Education has given several schools F grades
for failing to meet minimum standards. Many are in inner-city areas. A
few, like Miami Edison Senior High near Little Haiti and Natural Bridge
Elementary in North Miami, have large numbers of Haitian students. Both
schools received failing grades by the state. Said Hermantin: ``When our
schools are graded F, it means we also have an F community.''
Added Bertrand: ``It's a serious problem. We need to have equal
opportunity in terms of service. The school system officials have a
tendency to classify Haitian students according to their age. Academic
skill should be considered instead.'' Group members think school
officials should not only advertise job openings in the Haitian
community but also send more Creole-speaking teachers to work at
schools where there are large numbers of Haitian students.