Providence Union Head: Bilingual Pay for School Clerks Unfair
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
"When you talk about diversity, let me start by saying that we are incredibly diverse," said Jo-Anne Micheletti, President of the Local 1339 Clerical Union. "I've got 192 active members, 97 of those are minorities."
"When I first became President, being bilingual was going to supersede seniority, so what we agreed upon was that if you took a class to be conversational in Spanish, you could get $250 for the year. That breaks down to forty-eight cents an hour, " continued Micheletti. "My starting members make $21,000 a year. And we wonder why it's so hard to hire."
"The city just brought on a number of translators at $55,000 a piece. I have no problem with that, they probably deserve more than that," said Micheletti. "But what happens is, when I get clerks being pulled away to help with translation duties, especially the native Spanish speaking clerks, they get pulled into classrooms and pulled away from work."
"I've got 34 positions that are budgeted that they refuse to fill," said Micheletti. "All I hear from schools is, "We have 700 kids and three clerks, we can't meet the need."
Addressing the Need
"And what happens is, when the [Spanish-speaking] clerks get pulled away to translate, the work falls on the other clerks, and it creates an unfair environment for everyone," said Micheletti. "Is there a need for more Spanish speaking people in the school? Absolutely."
Micheletti said that program that the city had years ago "taking women off welfare" to get paid to help in the schools was something she thinks the city should revisit.
"We had the program in place a while back -- it wasn't just for translating, but I'd like to see it used for that now," said Micheletti. "They pay was through community centers, not the schools. It could come from grants. You can get women who want to spend a few hours getting paid, get a sense of what's going on in the schools, get a paycheck."
"We get volunteers now who come in and come help behind the counter -- we don't need that," said Micheletti. "We need them in the halls, with the teachers, helping with translating."
Editor's Note: Micheletti corrected that the Spanish class was not offered last year but can still be offered this year.
Related Slideshow: The RI High Schools with the Most Absentee Students
Below are the rates of chronic absenteeism for public high schools across the state. Figures are taken from the InfoWorks database maintained by the Rhode Island Department of Education. As the state defines it, a student has become chronically absent when he or she has missed 10 percent of the school year. With a 180-day mandated school year, that comes out to at least 18 or more days of missed school. Data is for the most recent academic year, 2013 to 2014.
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