State paves way for school districts to hire Puerto Rican teachers


  • Esteban Gonzalez Perez says goodby to his mother, Gesmarie Perez Santiago, as he gets on the bus for the Bridge Street school in Northampton in November, 2017. He is here with his family and others from Puerto Rico until they can find housing. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 12/18/2017 11:25:36 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Local school districts may be in a position to take advantage of a recent decision to allow school districts to hire teachers from Puerto Rico as “exchange teachers.”

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced its decision earlier this month that Puerto Rican teachers displaced by Hurricane Maria will be exempt from normal licensing requirements until the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

“If possible, employers should verify the license and employment status of these educators, but in many cases, obtaining documentation may be difficult,” acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson wrote on Dec. 8 in his weekly update. “In such situations, ESE encourages the district to obtain an affidavit or notarized letter regarding the educator’s status as an educator in Puerto Rico.”

The education department’s Office of Professional Practice Investigations can help districts conduct background checks on candidates, and the department will also check to ensure that an educator’s license hasn’t been suspended or revoked.

School officials in Amherst and Northampton said that while there are currently no teachers in the district that have taken advantage of the decision, they would welcome Puerto Rican teachers applying to open positions.

“That was something we were very excited and looking forward to,” Amherst human resources administrator Jennifer Ortiz said of school officials’ reaction to hearing the decision. She said no teachers had applied yet, but if they do they’ll be treated as any other candidate.

In Northampton, the district has a contingency plan to add another English-language class if the number of English learners exceeds 24, and to add two more classes if they get to 30 ESL students. So far, current staff would be able to meet those needs by taking on more hours.

“If we go beyond the contingency plan, then we would most likely need to hire new staff,” Superintendent John Provost said.

The decision allowing for the hiring of Puerto Rican teachers would be helpful in that situation, he said.

In other districts, the decision has already been useful, as was the case in Holyoke. There, teachers have already been hired under the new policy, according to Judy Taylor, the district’s communications director.

A similar situation took place when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, according to Jacqueline Reis, a spokeswoman for the education department. Educators who relocated to Massachusetts after that disaster received a temporary licence.

Teachers from Puerto Rico, however, are being considered exchange teachers, Reis said, so a more similar comparison would be to the small number of teachers that come to the state from Spain and Portugal each year.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at
Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Daily Hampshire Gazette Valley Advocate


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy