Bilingual school workers to get extra pay

FORT WORTH – Bilingual school secretaries and clerks who interpret for school staff members and a growing number of non-English-speaking parents will soon be paid extra for their services.

The school board voted 8-1 late Tuesday night to pay them a $ 500 a year stipend beginning in August. Trustee Jean McClung opposed the measure.

Secretaries, clerks and others who speak Spanish or other languages are frequently called upon to translate messages, notices, meetings and phone calls.

“I have to stop, right in the middle of something, and translate,” said Irma Martinez, secretary of Nash Elementary School near downtown Fort Worth. “And I have to do my regular job on top of that. “

Some principals said they couldn’t do their jobs without the assistance of bilingual secretaries and clerks.

“If there wasn’t anybody to translate for me, I couldn’t be here,” said Greg Shambaugh, assistant principal of Meacham Middle School.

“Or I’d have to hope the child translates what I say accurately to their parents. “

Many secretaries and clerks see their role as helping parents get involved in their childrens’ educations, thereby helping students stay in school.

“It’s good for them to know they can communicate with someone here,” said Josie Almanza, secretary of South Hills High School who pushed for the increase. “Then they will come and ask questions.

Otherwise, they might be embarrassed. “

Almanza said the translation is essential in phone conversations.

“In person, it’s easier to communicate,” she said.

Sonia Martinez, secretary for bilingual education director Bettie Reyes, said schools and departments that don’t have bilingual staff members often transfer calls to her.

“They ask health questions, and where to go to night school, or about their kids,” she said. “For whatever reason, they transfer them to us. “

For taking on those extra duties, about 200 secretaries and clerks will be paid extra next school year and receive two days of training.

Secretaries and clerks will have to pass a proficiency test to qualify for the stipend.

Michelle Melendez, (817) 390-7541 mmelendez@star-telegram.com



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