Monday, January 20, 2014

Cutting Librarians From Allentown Schools is Undemocratic

Back in 2011 I wrote about the Allentown School District's short sighted decision to cut school librarians to balance the budget. Click here to read the post. Since then, even more librarians have been slashed, and currently there is only 1 librarian to serve 15 elementary schools, and the district has eliminated two of the four middle school librarians. The two remaining are teaching six classes a day, three at two different middle schools. They are not able to do their regular librarian duties as they are teaching full time. My son's school no longer has a book fair or before/after school library. When I spoke with my son's librarian at Trexler Middle School, she said that her role is very different this year. While her title is that of 'librarian', she is actually a full-time related arts teacher and her schedule does not allow time to work in the library.

Allentown SD is an 89% low SES/high poverty district where access to books is important to offset the impact of poverty on learning. Independent reading greatly improves literacy. These deep cuts will not heal, and our children only get this one chance at an education. They must be given opportunities to choose books at school, right now.

How can schools prepare children to be informed and engaged citizens in a democracy without access to books at school?  It's undemocratic and immoral to cut librarians in schools that serve poor children, while schools that serve more affluent children employ full time librarians. Library funding should be increased, not decreased, in Allentown SD, where it is needed the most. My 7th grade son has taken out one book this entire school year. And it is unfair that our children will be denied a Book Fair this year.  The Book Fair is a fun family/school event that children look forward to all year. Children should never suffer because of budget cuts and bad decisions by school board.

At a recent Trexler Middle School PTA meeting, parents expressed their concerns about the library.  I encouraged parents to attend school board meetings and to speak up. Parents must demand reinstatement of certified librarians. Any state funding must be used to bring back librarians. Legislators must hear from parents. Every building should have a full time librarian. The library is the HEART of the school, it should never be closed! There will be no "renaissance" in Allentown without fully funded and fully staffed school libraries!


Diann Garnett said...

Thanks so much for your post! We need more voices like yours to be heard!

Diann Garnett said...

Thanks so much for your words here....we need more parent voices to be heard!!!

Anonymous said...

It actually was not until I was dismissed as a librarian that I fully realized the difference I made. I currently teach at the same building where I was the librarian. I can't begin to tell you the number of times students in the hallway stop and beg me to come back as their librarian. "It's just not right", they tell me. They know what they are missing. Teachers know what they are missing. YOU know what they are missing. I fear that there are still some people who don't know. Maybe they never understood. Our current library is basically just shelves of books. Just a room housing books. THAT IS NOT A REAL LIBRARY! A librarian takes that room and transforms it into a place where children exercise their imaginations. A librarian bonds with children and researches endlessly to meet their individual needs (5th graders still hug me and remind me about stories that I read to them YEARS earlier). Did you ever see a troubled child turn the world off a lose themselves in a book? I have. They knew that the library was a safe zone... no assessments there. Freedom-imagine. Quite heavenly for our stressed kids. Life exists as it is today because someone had an imagination. I am sure that "someone" also had a school library... and a librarian. I feel so sorry for our youngest students. They may never know what they are missing.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Thank you Anonymous, for sharing your thoughts, and showing the human side of these dreadful budget cuts. And Thanks Diann, for your support. Parents need to take the lead and speak up for our kids! Many parents do not know the scope of what has been lost. These relationships built on trust and respect, between librarians and students should be valued. We need to vote out school board members who approve of cuts to librarians, and who are not working to bring back teachers. I know for a fact that Scott Armstrong and David Zimmerman are in support of more teacher cuts. These anti-teacher board member must be voted out. They do not belong on the school board. All school board members should be advocating for students right now. And Mayo should be working on finding ways to restore what has been lost, not conducting studies to find out what the minimum staffing requirements would be, or making videos about how we must streamline how we do "business". A school is NOT a business, and this is unacceptable. ASD schools must be fully staffed to properly meet needs of every child. This would never happen in suburbia, it is an injustice to poor minority children. Where is the leadership in Allentown? It's a disgrace that our kids are not a priority.