Nonprofit Teach for America to open Sacramento regional office
By Melody Gutierrez
Published: Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2012 – 12:21 am
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Teach for America, the nonprofit that recruits recent college graduates to teach at high-need schools, plans to open a regional office in Sacramento.

The organization will announce today that Natomas Unified School District has agreed to take between three and six Teach for America graduates, while St. HOPE Public Schools will hire between eight and 12 of the program’s teachers and Capitol Collegiate Academy plans to hire one or two.

Teach for America is in the process of hiring an executive director and manager for its Sacramento office.

A coalition of community groups and local philanthropists raised $2.2 million to launch the Sacramento program.

The financial supporters include the Whitman-Harsh Family Foundation, AT&T, Bank of America, State Farm and philanthropist Ron Mittelstaedt, the founder of Waste Connections Inc.

Salary and benefits would be paid by the school districts or charter schools where the teachers are hired.

“We are just thrilled to be partnering with Sacramento,” said Eric Scroggins, senior vice president for growth strategy and development at Teach for America.

The expansion to Sacramento has already caused many Natomas teachers to express concern that the financially strapped district is planning to hire young, newly trained teachers while experienced teachers are being laid off.

Two years ago, Sacramento was a finalist for Teach for America. Those plans called for 90 Teach for America teachers to be placed in area schools over a three-year period. However, the plans were dropped when Sacramento City Unified School District backed out.

The Teach for America program required $2.7 million to launch the program in order to pay for the selection, recruitment and support of its teachers.

Sacramento City Unified’s teachers union protested the potential Teach for America partnership, pointing out that the district was in the midst of massive layoffs and was asking its members to accept concessions to save jobs.

At the time, district Superintendent Jonathan Raymond said the district needed to establish a stronger relationship with local credentialing programs at UC Davis, Sacramento State and Fortune School of Education.

The Sacramento City Teachers Association continues to monitor and oppose any Teach for America partnerships in the Sacramento City Unified district.

Scroggins said the Sacramento office would spearhead future partnerships and expansions with area school districts.

“There are a lot of communities interested in Teach for America,” he said.

Sacramento, Cincinnati and Cleveland were each selected as expansion sites for the 2012-2013 school year. There are 43 Teach for America sites across the nation.

Scroggins said the nonprofit received a record high 48,000 applicants this year for 5,800 positions.

Teach for America recruits commit two years to teach at schools that serve impoverished students.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said he has been pulling for Teach for America to expand to Sacramento for nearly a decade. Johnson was on Teach for America’s national board, and his wife, former Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, taught with Teach for America in Baltimore.

Rhee now runs StudentsFirst, a national education advocacy organization headquartered in Sacramento.

Johnson called the Teach for America announcement a “remarkable milestone for the city.”

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Call The Bee’s Melody Gutierrez, (916) 326-5521. Follow her on Twitter @MelodyGutierrez.