Newton County schools to search for international faculty

COVINGTON - Newton County School System students could one day learn about Australian, English or South African culture while in math or science class.

The school system is looking into participating in the Visiting International Faculty, a national cultural exchange program that brings teachers from more than 50 nations to teach in participating school districts.

"VIF is the largest international exchange program for U.S. schools and teachers," said Donald Dunnigan, associate superintendent for human resources for NCSS, at January's Board of Education meeting.

According to the program's Web site, www.vifprogram.com, it has sponsored more than 7,000 "highly qualified and experienced" educators in more than 1,500 U.S. schools. Teachers come from such places as Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, South Africa, Spain and more than 50 others.

"Not only are they good teachers, they bring their culture to the school," Dunnigan said. "And then they'll take what they learned in U.S. schools back to their country."

The program, which was founded in 1987 and began in 1989, has teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade teaching in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, California and other states.

In Georgia, 13 school systems, including Walton and Gwinnett, are participating in the program for the 2007-08 school year.

"There are ... 240-plus teachers assigned to 200 schools in the various school districts," Dunnigan said about Georgia's program. "These teachers touch the lives of over 6,000 students during a school year."

He said the VIF teachers, who must be proficient in English and go through a background check, would only serve one to three years at a time because of visa restrictions, but they could return later.

"They have the opportunity to reapply with VIF and do that as many times as they want," Dunnigan said. "It could take six months to a year to be processed."

He said the teachers would be working for the school system but employed by VIF and are paid on the same pay scale as a U.S. teacher based on their experience.

"(Human Resources) would have the opportunity to go with VIF to interview and recruit teachers for our system," Dunnigan said.

He isn't sure when NCSS will start to participate in the program, but he said the school system plans to use it "in the future" to fill teaching vacancies.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.