Soon after Hollister schools Superintendent Diego Ochoa took on the job earlier this year, he heard about claims of lacking Spanish translation for students assigned to “Individualized Education Plans.”
The IEPs are a mandated part of education for students with disabilities, and the local chapter of League of United Latin American Citizens had concerns about Spanish-speaking students in particular. LULAC President Richard Perez set up a meeting with Ochoa and gave him a rundown of the problem.
With contracts in place to have vendors translate those IEPs, Ochoa initially heard back from those contractors that they were, indeed, translating the plans in Spanish. After some digging, however, Ochoa soon found out the work wasn’t getting done. He had a report pulled that showed there were 200 IEPs left untranslated in a district with about 800 IEPs overall.
“It was a major issue,” Ochoa told San Benito Live.
School administrators, though, worked with the union and came up with a solution. They offered additional work hours for district employees who were certified in English and Spanish.
“We basically took the approach of, let’s do this in-house,” Ochoa said.
Educators developed a plan in June, and six qualifying teachers came in and translated eight hours a day until finished.
“I’m proud to say all 200 IEPs were translated as of July 26,” the superintendent said.
That means when students return to school next week, parents will receive the translated IEPs.
Doing it in-house saved the district significant funds as well. Vendors would have cost up to $150,000 or so to do the translations, but the district now expects the translation cost to be about $40,000.
It’s a big improvement over prior practices, said Richard Perez, president of the local LULAC chapter.
“Some of the material was not in Spanish and they did not have translators available at the time,” Perez said. “A lot of the parents were frustrated with the answers they were given at the school.”
He said there was a feeling Latino students were “being pushed to the side because the language barrier was a problem for the school.”
Both Ochoa and Perez credited Special Education Director Gwen Baquiran for helping to revamp the system and get the district’s IEP program in line.
Perez said LULAC’s goal is to ensure everyone is treated fairly, and the organization has been pleased with the relatively new administration’s approach.
“To me, it’s been more of a turnaround with the amount of communication back and forth,” Perez said.