The annually beleaguered D.C. summer jobs program began this week with a variety of glitches, management snafus and complaints from youths and parents.
Some teen-agers were told to report to the wrong sites, some were given incorrect starting times and others did not receive the orientation and identification cards they were told they were supposed to have before they could begin work.
At a few work sites, only about half the young people assigned have reported in the confusion. Program officials said that of 14,100 youths who were to report to work Tuesday, 1,200 failed to appear because of a variety of problems that officials were scrambling to correct.
As of yesterday, only 68 of 100 applicants reported for work at Howard University, about 40 of 62 at the Soldiers and Airmen's Home. At one site, 15 teen-agers waited for job supervisors who never came.
"My daughter Tonya and 14 others stood outside of Johnson Memorial Baptist Church at 800 Ridge Rd. SE from 9 a.m. to noon and nobody came, nobody was there," said Barbara Newby, an angry Northeast Washington resident. "When I got home, my daughter was in the bathroom with the door locked, crying. It made me angry and I said I wasn't going to have them do that to her." Newby said she went to the summer program office, complained and Tonya's application was reprocessed.
"What I want to know is, what happened to the other 14?" Newby asked.
Matthew Shannon, director of the seven-to-eight-week program that has become one of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's pet projects and a constant source of embarrassment for him, said that the problems this week resulted from a number of factors that should be correct by Monday.
Shannon said some employers, including the D.C. Department of Recreation, did not alert the jobs program about starting hours so some of the youths came to work at the wrong time. He said his office assumed that the hours, 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. or noon, would be the same at all sites -- an assumption that was incorrect.
The program was supposed to begin at some sites Tuesday with other teen-agers scheduled to start work at other jobs over the next several days. However, most employers apparently were unaware that the starting dates were to be staggered. Employers interviewed yesterday said they were told that the program began Tuesday and that all the youths would begin that day.
Vanessa Sheffield of the Kingman Boy's Club, 1529 Kingman Place NW, said she had "no idea" why only 15 of the 24 youths assigned reported to work. She speculated that past bad experiences with the program might have been a factor. Repeatedly this week, she said, youths asked her, "Will I get my paycheck?"
"Ideally, all 100 that we requested should have reported Tuesday," said, Michael Bell of the Washington Urban League and a summer jobs program coordinator. "I know that because of computer entry errors things inevitably go wrong. But it is reasonable to expect to have them all by Monday."
"We had problems because some employers gave us their requests late," Shannon said, "and because when we had to change assignments, some young people were confused by the letter we sent them to disregard the first job assignment."
Program officials said 22,700 youths from 14 to 21 years of age had registered for 18,300 summer jobs funded by $4.8 million in city funds and $8.6 million in Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) federal funds. Under the program, young people receive a minimum wage of $3.25 an hour for a 20- or 25-hour work week. They are employed by city and federal government offices, nonprofit corporations and local businesses.
Bell said there were many more youths who need jobs but who did not sign up on time.
For Tonya Newby, who did sign up on time, the experience so far has been particularly bitter.
"I was counting on this job," said Newby. "I wanted to be able to buy little things for myself. Now I'm without a job and I don't know what I'm going to do."