Lafayette Parish School Board members heard about some ongoing issues with parish sign language interpreters at a committee meeting today.
For some time, there’s been a problem with the job description for the job, because there are three lead interpreters who aren’t paid for the extra work they do, the group says.
There’s also a problem with the pay scale, because it’s well below that of other parishes – in fact several interpreters have begun commuting to Calcasieu Parish because the pay is better there, the group says. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, because, staff says, interpreters’ salaries come from federal special ed funding, not from the parish general fund.
There was a lengthy discussion at today’s committee meeting, and Superintendent Don Aguillard said he’s working with the group on the job descriptions and the pay issue, and plans to bring something to the board for consideration at the first meeting in January.
Lafayette’s program is a vital one in Acadiana, the group says, because students from four other parishes also come to Lafayette for services.
Melissa Welch, the lead interpreter at Lafayette High, said this battle has been going on for 16 years, with interpreters trying to get the school system to write accurate job descriptions that are revised as the profession evolves, and to institute a proper pay scale that will attract interpreters and retain the ones Lafayette has.
“It all came to a head about two years ago when Calcasieu Parish passed a fabulous pay scale and took four of ours. That created a shortage for interpreters, who are already in critical storage,” Welch explained. “We’re worried about our kids, concerned that they’re not getting their services as laid out in their IEPs, so we petitioned the school board once again, and we’ve been battling with HR to get things ironed out.”
Welch said Tuesday’s meeting was a step forward.
“Tonight seemed really positive. We have a date, which we’ve never been given before, to meet and come together and find some compromises,” she said.