FWCS Interpreter Center garners state recognition

May 6th, 2016


News Coverage:

May 6, 2015

FWCS Interpreter Center garners state recognition

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

Understanding teachers and notes sent home from school pose challenges for the local Fort Wayne Community Schools immigrant community, where 70 different languages are spoken.

The school district consolidated its effort to reach these parents by establishing an Interpreter Call Center in August 2013, and it won recognition Thursday from the Indiana Department of Education.

The Fort Wayne district was named one of 28 districts to establish Promising Practices, part of a list that will eventually grow to only 200 in the state. The number coincides with Indiana’s Bicentennial celebration this year.

The district consolidated the work of many temporary-as-needed interpreters into the work of 10 part-time interpreters, four at the center located in the Career Academy at Anthis on Barr Street and six dispersed to groups of schools, said Emily Schwartz-Keirns, the English Language Learner manager who oversees the program. The interpreters handle calls and queries in Spanish, Burmese and Mon.

Spanish and Burmese are the top two languages, but other languages can be offered on an as-needed basis. About 5,000 students out of a population of about 30,000 total students in the district are estimated to need the service, Schwartz-Keirns said.

She said the district does not track the number of calls the center receives because the time taken to do that would take away from the time the interpreters need to help parents and staff.

Schwartz-Keirns said the use of the interpreters has grown as staff and families become aware of the program and feel comfortable using the resources.

According to the DOE release, Promising Practices “are student-centered and focus on positively impacting students through innovative programming and activities that provide high-quality learning environments and experiences. In addition to publicly recognizing selected schools, each program is shared across the state as an example of best practices that positively affect Hoosier students.”

“We’re proud of what we’ve done,” said Schwartz-Keirns. “It really did just grow out of the need.”

The work includes attendance calls as when a parent calls in or a school calls trying to track down a student, Schwartz-Keirns said. It could also be a school nurse checking up on immunization records or a school calling to set up an interpreter for a future conference.

“So a lot of it is the typical things that any English-speaking parents would talk about,” Schwartz-Keirns said. “Sometimes they get notes or phone calls they don’t understand and they call us.”

“I couldn’t function without the call center interpreters,” Anna Hartmann, an FWCS nurse was quoted as saying in the DOE citation. “When dealing with medical issues, you have to have that piece of the puzzle to communicate immediately.” 

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