From Paper to Digital, In-Person to Online: Supporting Language Needs Across CCSD

Salomé Rodriguez and the CCSD Translation & Interpretation Team meet increasing needs for interpretation and translations services district-wide through creative use of technology, connecting parents and teachers to ensure Student Success.

Although Covid-19 has certainly changed the way our world is operating, with leadership from Salomé Rodriguez, Cobb County School District’s Language Facilitators have met the challenge head-on.

The International Welcome Center is home to the district’s Translation & Interpretation Team, 10 full-time Spanish Language Facilitators (LF), along with part-time staff. For the past nine years, Salomé Rodriguez has been a part of this team and has used her bilingual skills and expertise in organization and technology to help T&I function at a high level. Educated at Choate, Rosemary Hall and at Boston University, Ms. Rodriguez says that she was “always interested in education and providing services within the schools setting.” When the opportunity came to relocate to Atlanta, she found herself drawn to Marietta and to Cobb County, “Cobb just seemed like the best place to live, work and raise my family.” She currently coordinates scheduling for the T & I Team to optimize efficiency and support top quality communication between multi-lingual parents and CCSD schools.

Traditionally, schools submitted their requests for LF to interpret at meetings via fax, and LF travelled from school to school to interpret in-person at local schools. Managing all the details to get the right interpreter to the right school at the right time was challenging, “Sometimes faxes did not come through or were sent to the wrong number and handling the paper requests manually was work intensive and slowed everything down. For each request, 5-6 steps had to be completed consistently. And, because interpretation was in person, we had to constantly account for travel time and the possibility that meetings could run long. This made it very difficult when we had a lot of requests for the same dates and times. Travel time limited the availability of fulltime LF, and part-time staff could only be called upon to travel between meetings that were located close together.”

All this started to change in spring 2020. When CCSD implemented remote learning due to the pandemic, the T&I Team quickly adapted to conducting interpreted meetings using remote applications such as Zoom. They have excelled at transitioning from being “Roomers” to being “Zoomers!” Ms. Rodriguez notes, “Interpreting meetings online has changed how we operate. We don’t have to focus on location and account for traffic, time of day, and travel time. We have more flexibility within the schedule, can match the right interpreter to the meeting, and better balance people’s schedules.”

As T&I made the transition from in-person to online meetings, Ms. Rodriguez also led a transformation in how schools submitted requests. Drawing on her technological savvy, she worked hand in glove with colleagues in Technology Services who developed the new CCSD “Electronic Language Request,” or ELR. After extensive testing over the summer and in the early part of the school year, the ELR went live district-wide in October. “Response time on the scheduling side can be faster now. Just a few clicks are needed to assign an interpreter. The only bottleneck is the current large volume of requests!”

Asked whether anything has been with the transition to interpreting meetings online, Ms. Rodriguez grew thoughtful. “We may have lost a little bit of the personal, human connection. It is hard to replace those initial moments when you meet the parents and they realize that you are there to help them understand and communicate about the needs of their children. But we have responded by doing more preparation ahead of time. Instead of just reminding parents of the meeting date and time, we introduce ourselves, let them know what the topic is, and help guide them through the technology. Often, learning how to connect on Zoom and use Google Translate empowers our parents to communicate directly with their children’s teachers and participate in online parent engagement activities!”

As the T&I Team works to keep parents and schools connected while students are learning in-person and remotely, the workload is heavy. But they know that allows them to continue to support our mission: One Team, One Goal: Student Success. As Ms. Rodriguez put it, “Seeing the parents’ and teachers’ faces when they are able to reach an understanding is very rewarding. It is a good feeling to be able to assist with that!”

Amy Perkins
Program Manager, International Welcome Center

Contributing Author: Elizabeth Webb, ESOL Supervisor, ESOL & Title III

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