``We're going to be the group that changes the mentality in our town,'' school district Director Dale Lynch vowed.
In the early 1990s, Hamblen County schools enrolled maybe 35 students a year whose primary language was Spanish. The numbers exploded in the past five years.
This year, 11 percent of the children enrolled districtwide are Hispanic, and about three-quarters of them need help learning English.
Sitting on a table in Lynch's office is the book Help! They Don't Speak English Starter Kit. But he could also use a manual on dealing with parents angry about the extra cost of educating non-English-speaking students.
``We didn't see rebellion from parents until it became an issue with the county commissioners,'' Lynch said.
$6,800 per child
The school district budget is funded by the county, and former Commissioner Tom Lowe stirred up a tempest last year when he began lobbying for the federal government to pay the county's share of educating non-English-speaking students.
Officials said it costs about $6,800 a year to educate a child in the district and that they do not separate into a separate budget category the additional cost of teaching non-English-speaking students. Clearly they're reluctant to display an amount of money that would trigger more hard feelings in the community.
Beginning in December, the district plans to provide half-day intensive language training at an ``International Center'' for about 120 students a day, those with the least-developed English skills."
More of that article here, with additional stories here on immigrants and farming In Hamblen County, and other reports here, here and here.
I spoke and emailed with Kim numerous times over the last few months as she worked on putting the series together. It is by far some of the most in-depth examination of legal and illegal immigrants in East Tennessee. She noted the one irony in this cultural change which I have seen as well -- jobs disappeared in the 1990s into Latin America and then in the late 1990s, Latin America began to relocate here - for better pay, better health care, better lives.
There are sadly many misperceptions about immigrant communities, but the fact remains the same - the change has already happened. Some residents are simply angry that change has occurred. Most are adapting to a larger Hispanic community, finding ways to assist them in almost every level of business and culture.
I just wonder why it took a reporter from Texas to find the will to develop and report the issues.
One part of the series discussses the major federal case which East Tennessee media has barely bothered to report - the Garcia Labor indictment.
"But the federal government nabbed a big fish in July, obtaining indictments of the owner of a Morristown-based agency supplying temporary workers to factories and farms throughout the region on charges that he operated a "large-scale illegal-alien-employment and money-laundering scheme."
Prosecutors charged that Garcia Labor Co. Inc. knowingly hired about 1,000 illegal immigrants for an air cargo company in nearby Ohio and brought some of them from Mexico to take the jobs.
Max Garcia and two other company executives pleaded guilty this month, agreed to forfeit $12 million in company earnings and face up to 10 years in prison.
Now there is an obvious question: Did Garcia have a personnel pipeline running between Mexico and Morristown, too?"