Improving Working Conditions at the Haitian Multi-Service Center

Sara Jorgensen, Adult Education Program Director at the Haitian Multi-Service Center in Dorchester, interviewed by Andy Nash

Sara Jorgensen

When you became adult education director, what did you do that affected staff working conditions?

First, I built a culturally representative management team of long-term staff. I gave them some hours paid at a higher rate to do administrative tasks and improve our tracking systems. We share leadership – decision-making, planning, problem-solving, hiring. We meet every week (the full staff meets every other week). It was this management team that decided to move toward more full-time jobs.

Talk more about this move to full-time jobs . . .

Three years ago, there were 14 teachers on staff – 7 part-time and 7 full-time. Now we have 10 teachers, 9 of whom have full-time, benefitted positions. As our contracts changed, some people left and it gave us the opportunity to hire new staff at full-time, or to cobble together full-time positions for the part-timers (putting together teaching and counseling, or teaching, testing, and computer lab). We had to mix and match responsibilities to do that.  For the two staff who do split shifts, we have waived some staff meetings and they have alternate Fridays off.

One reason we’ve been able to develop interesting school-wide projects is because we have full-time staff who have time to plan together. Our current staff is much more stable and we get a lot more done.

How else have you addressed working conditions?

I try to treat staff well. This is a nice place to work – there’s a cooperative team, ideas are heard, people have opportunities to further their own vision by developing school projects. We are converting to portfolio assessment, and the teachers are doing their own. They use work time to organize their credentials in a way that helps them prepare to guide students as they also reflect on their own careers.

For a strong program, I recommend four things: share leadership, develop a democratic workplace, offer full-time jobs, and support staff growth.

  • Has your director made changes to improve working conditions at your program?
  • What changes would you like to see at your own program to improve working conditions?

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  5. Gentlemen, I glad you are here to help us. As you might see, I manage the language but I cannot find a job; I had one before, sickness empeach me to be there and They cannot have me back whenever I asked for it… As I am a well-educated person, I amnot discouraged. I amnot far to be eligible for retirement but I’ll keep working. Please, help me, I’ll be grateful to you.
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