Dear CCSD Board Members, CCSD Parents, and Dr. Lanoue:
As an Athens parent and an elementary school librarian, I’m writing to advocate on behalf of our school library media programs. Ever since the tentative budget eliminating media center paraprofessionals was approved, I have woken up sleepless, fearing that our district’s award-winning media programs, several of which have been recognized for excellence statewide and nationally, will be irreparably damaged.
I take pride in being part of a district that defeats the silent library stereotype. Clarke County’s School Library Media Centers are places where kids get excited about reading and other subjects through a variety of programs, where standards-based instruction is delivered every day, and where the use of engaging instructional technology is modeled. Our libraries are places where the academic life of all students, no matter their background, is enriched.
However, the proposed cuts will disproportionately impact our neediest kids, students who come from homes where there aren’t many books or technology, who have parents who may not have the time or transportation to take them to the Baxter Street public library. Some might not have the permanent address required to get a library card. With these cuts, you are harming the effectiveness of school libraries at all levels – elementary, middle and high- to support all students, who currently are assisted by trained library staff who know them, who choose materials considering their interests, reading levels, and curricular needs.
Selecting culturally relevant material has been one of our school’s most effective initiatives. Last year, I wrote nearly $10,000 in grants to enhance our collection, and through a partnership with UGA First Book, was even to send home two books with each student. Since 88% of our school population is minority, materials featuring African-American and Hispanic students have been purchased and promoted. Our staff took part in a workshop about the importance of utilizing these materials in instruction to engage our students in reading, a fundamental skill. These books have been a huge hit with the kids, parents, and staff.
Without a paraprofessional to provide assistance in shelving, monitoring the media center, etc., I worry that I won’t have time to write grants, provide training, or select and promote the materials that get our students excited about reading.
Preparing our students for the 21st century is a district and national goal. In our schools, the media specialist assists teachers and students in technology support, models new and emerging technology via staff and student instruction, and helps plan the goals for bringing technology into our schools. These cuts, which remove our support staff, undermine the district’s stated mission.
Currently I am helping draft the goals for our Early Adopters grant, which will bring in one hundred plus technology devices (laptops/iPads) to our school. For the first time we will have tools to lead the students in creating engaging projects.However, in light of proposed cuts, I am unsure if I will have time to support the grant. Without a paraprofessional, how much time can I realistically plan to deliver standards-based instruction implementing engaging technology? When will I model technology to the staff? Without someone to monitor the media center, how will I assist the teachers and students when their technology fails?
As an Athens parent, I am concerned about the district’s vision for the future of our school library media programs. What data was used to determine the rationale for cutting our programs? Could the district outline their long-term plan? Does the district plan to eventually eliminate school library media programs altogether? Instead of cutting our programs, could they collaborate with the school library media specialists, especially in regards to 21st century schools, in order that we might assist Dr. Lanoue and the district in reaching its goals?
In closing, I’d like to thank you all for hearing my concerns. I’d like to thank the community for advocating on behalf of our school library media centers, and for showing up at the meetings to offer their input. I also thank the Board and Dr. Lanoue for answering these questions, and for working with the school library media specialists to seek solutions.
Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School Library Media Specialist
Chase Street Elementary Parent