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Incentive pay suggested to recruit bilingual teachers

Sunnyside School Board member Bill Smith wants the district to start looking outside the box when it comes to recruiting bilingual teachers.

At Tuesday night's board meeting, Smith expressed concerns that the district doesn't have an adequate plan in place to expand the dual language program currently being offered to students.

The dual language program is a class the district offers at the elementary school level where students are taught in both English and Spanish.

Smith told the rest of the board he believes the district needs to look ahead at ways to hire bilingual teachers in order to make the dual language program effective for students.

Gary Vegar, executive director of instruction and learning, said the district already has a plan to identify students at the middle school level and work with them towards becoming a bilingual teacher.

Smith told the board that he was discouraged that one part of the district's plan for recruiting bilingual teachers is going back and working with interested students at the middle school level. Smith while having a plan in place is a good start, he would like to see the district's efforts begin more at the high school level.

"We need to be thinking with larger horizons," said Smith.

Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole said school officials from across the state are trying to work with the legislature to provide incentives for bilingual teachers because of the great need.

Smith elaborated that he would like to see the district use its resources to attract bilingual teachers now.

"Why can't we as a district say if you are a bilingual teacher we are going to make it financially rewarding for you," said Smith.

Cole said there are simply not enough bilingual teachers to meet the needs of school districts, especially in the Yakima Valley. Cole said the district will be working on recruiting bilingual teachers when school board president Joanne Kilian and Ruben Carrera, executive director of school and community resources, travel to Texas next month to learn more about the dual language program.

Fellow school board member Lorenzo Garza agreed with Smith.

"We aggressively need to be looking at this," said Garza.

Garza also wanted the district to turn its attention to para-educators in the district and see if there is some way to help them obtain their teaching certificates.

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