NEW YORK – A landmark program to bring teachers here from the Dominican Republic to teach bilingual education is being reviewed by city and federal investigators amid allegations that some were subjected to a shakedown program and threatened with losing their visas if they did not pay.
As CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reports, MS 80 in the Bronx is a school in full swing. CBS2 has learned that its director, Emmanuel Polanco, has been reassigned by Schools Chancellor David Banks as city and federal investigators sift through a sea of disturbing allegations that several teachers were brought here from the Dominican Republic. allegedly forced by the manager to pay shakedown rents. or have their visas ripped off.
“I was overwhelmed by what I heard,” said the St. Louis senator Sepulveda. “I was floored. I was troubled…allegations like this are made, it’s almost a painful experience because the program was designed to change the lives of the children here and the lives of the teachers.”
Sepulveda talks about a one-of-a-kind program launched by the Department of Education this fall that brought 25 teachers from the Dominican Republic to teach bilingual education in schools across the city. Ten were assigned to the MS 80.
It is an important program. Last year, more than 22% of students in the city spoke Spanish as their first language. Nearly 14% were learning English as a second language.
Sources tell CBS2 the investigation began when Sepulveda’s office was contacted last month by one of the teachers assigned to MS 80, accusing her of being forced by Polanco to pay around $1,800 to rent a single room or lose his visa.
Sepulveda went to the Ministry of Education, which took immediate action.
Sources tell CBS2:
- The DOE obtained emails in which the principal verbally assaulted one or more of the teachers
- On October 29, Polanco reportedly held a meeting with many teachers, telling them not to cooperate with the investigation.
- One of the teachers returned to the Dominican Republic because of the threats
A spokesperson for Banks, who announced the program when it was first announced, insisted that “we will do everything we can to protect and defend our staff from employment-related abuse.”
“If the allegations are true, they create problems for the people who came here. These people came here from the Dominican Republic, looking for a great opportunity for themselves and their families. They left their families They quit their jobs,” Sepulveda said. “They shouldn’t be subjected to this.”
Polanco did not return a request for comment. Neither does the organization that brought the teachers here.
The Ministry of Education has hired pro bono immigration lawyers for each of the teachers. The agency insists that it will continue to recruit bilingual teachers from abroad.