A year after they began lobbying to join a union, Denver’s educational sign language interpreters got a step closer to their goal Thursday when district officials announced they were willing to talk about the interpreters joining the Denver teachers union.
The interpreters publicly thanked Denver Public Schools officials at a school board meeting, but didn’t let up in their advocacy. The interpreters took the opportunity to remind the superintendent and board of the reasons for their request: an improved evaluation system and a better pay scale that would attract more highly qualified interpreters to the district.
“We provide an invaluable service that cannot be duplicated,” interpreter Claire Wagner said.
Denver Public Schools employs 15 educational sign language interpreters to work with students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Although interpreters must be specially certified, they are not considered “specialized service providers,” a category that includes nurses, counselors, and psychologists. Such providers are already part of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which led a successful strike for higher wages this past winter.
In addition to the interpreters, Superintendent Susana Cordova said district officials are willing to talk about the possibility of another group, career and technical educators, joining the Denver teachers union. Career and technical educators are non-union instructors who teach classes such as auto mechanics, cosmetology, computer science, and engineering.
Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, has said he is supportive of the groups joining the union, which would provide more job protection.