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YOUTH EMPLOYMENT

Hundreds of Students Say They Weren't Paid

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By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Samantha Baskin gets paid to be patient. One of thousands of students across the District who had pay problems in the summer youth jobs program last week, Samantha, 14, said that she doesn't actually do anything at the Washington East of the River Academy.

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"We don't do nothing," she said. The director "holds us in a room for hours."

Although she was owed several hundred dollars, Samantha was paid a nickel Friday and was finally paid in full yesterday.

Dan Tangherlini, the city administrator, said all students should have received their pay by the end of the day yesterday. He estimated that about half of the 19,000 students signed up for the program had been affected.

Pay problems are just one of the administrative issues in the D.C. summer youth jobs program, as was apparent at a news conference yesterday at the academy.

D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), who has been critical of the missteps, held the conference.

At least 200 of the 800 students in the academy indicated by a show of hands that they had not received their proper pay. In interviews, many students echoed Samantha's complaint, saying they were spending their days sitting silently in classrooms.

Dianna Robinson, the summer academy director, said students were stuck in the auditorium for the first two weeks because proper permissions for the site -- the P.R. Harris Elementary School -- had not been secured from the school system. She said programs in the next two weeks had been delayed because she was registering more than 500 students not on the payroll.

Students are supposed to be doing arts programs, such as jewelry-making, painting and singing in a choir, Robinson said, as well as learning such "life skills" as job readiness.

Just yesterday, Robinson said, she had received an e-mail from the District's Department of Employment Services asking her to accept 200 more students -- halfway through the program. She declined.

Robinson said she was excited about the remaining 4 1/2 weeks, now that everyone has been registered. But she did not think the first month had been a waste.

"Some of these 14-year-olds are the only ones earning a salary in a three-generation household," Robinson said. "If that means sitting in a hot auditorium, then I'm okay with that."


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