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Killeen ISD rehiring sign language interpreters as 'communication facilitators'

Posted at 6:20 PM, Dec 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-09 11:51:48-05

It’s a move which outraged several parents with deaf children in Killeen ISD.

“That’s what makes angrier than anyone else is because they did this without a plan in place,” said Killeen ISD Parent Chelse Sirokman.

The district informed several sign language interpreters last month that they could not return to KISD.

“As a result we were without interpreters. In summary, and summary we did not do really great job and fully vetted and preparing and planning after the Thanksgiving break,” said Superintendent Dr. John Craft.

Chelse Sirokman’s 8-year-old daughter Kira is deaf and attends Timber Ridge Elementary. She said Kira is now struggling without her interpreter.

“What she is reporting to me and has reported to me throughout this week is that school is a lot harder. It is harder to stay on task focused. It is harder to focus,” said Sirokman.

Sirokman also said this is not the first time.

“This is the second time. She went nine weeks without a speech therapist at the beginning of the school year. They just got one in and she has only had two sessions with Kira.”

Superintendent Dr John Craft said the decision came after a program review from the TEA (Texas Education Agency) in early October revealed several sign language interpreters they contracted with were not certified, which was a violation of Texas administrative code.

“They are incredibly difficult to retain. Part of that is because the certification process, the testing process to attain the certification is delayed. Many people are having to travel out of state to attain this certification,” said Craft.

Dr. Craft says they have rehired 9 of those staff members with as “Communication Facilitators.”

“We have been granted permission from the TEA to allow these individuals to perform a lot of the same supportive functions in signing and supporting students' academic needs. Just not as interpreters,” said Craft.

Dr. Craft said the district plans to hire more communication facilitators and incorporate new technology to help. However, Sirokman said it does not work for many young students like her daughter.

“Kira fell two years behind appears only moved to virtual services,” Craft said. “That was a sign language interpreter in the zoom meetings with a class. Kira could click away from the sign language interpreter. She can close the computer and walk away.”

Dr. Craft said they plan to put several language facilitators with elementary schools' kids to make sure they stay on task.