Parents stand for Monroe school librarians against cuts
Angela Cooper-McCorkle photo
Parents and educators gathered Monday, May 14 at the school board regarding the proposed changes to school librarians.
MONROE — Some families and educators are unhappy with a change that takes librarians out of the school district’s elementary and middle schools.
The district plans to replace librarians with digital learning teachers and library specialists next year.
The changes prompted more than 150 people to crowd the Monroe High School gym for the district’s board meeting on May 14. About a third wore red “I teach Washington” or similar T-shirts, and many bore picket signs.
Students, educators and union representatives spoke in favor of keeping the district’s five certified middle and elementary school librarians where they are.
Some signs asked, “What was the levy for?”
The district said during the levy campaign, they noted the state funded 6.96 librarians and the levy funded an additional 84 percent of one position.
With the new staffing structure, the district will employ 11 library staff members, district spokeswoman Tamara Krache said, for a net increase of 3.2 positions.
The staffing change is not about cutting costs. Krache said the district is spending an additional $500,000 on the staffing budget which “will enhance our libraries, making them robust resource centers in our schools.”
The district issued involuntary transfer notices to five K-8 librarians total; three will take teaching positions in the district, one of them is retiring and another has accepted a position in another district according to Krache. The librarians were all guaranteed teaching positions within the district, Krache said.
Each library will have a minimum of one half-time digital learning teacher and one full-time library specialist after the changeover. Digital learning teachers will be fully certified. Library specialists will only be required to have an associate’s degree and library experience.
All told, the district will add four library positions to the roster in the form of the digital learning teachers. These four will split their time between the middle and elementary schools.
The staffing structure at the high school’s library is not changing.
While the library program is going increasingly digital, bibliophiles have the district’s word that the goal is not to go book-free. “While we believe it is important to prepare students to be responsible, 21st century digital citizens, we believe traditional books are equally as important in a child’s education,” according to the district’s website.
Monroe High School librarian Brian Saulsman told the board that research showed the presence of a full-time certified librarian increased test scores, a sentiment also seen on some protest signs displayed at the event.
He asked the board if they were okay with abandoning low-income students. “Don’t be deceived, this is not an improvement,” he said.
Saulsman’s wife, Jerralee Echterling, is a librarian at Chain Lake Elementary.
At the meeting, Monroe Education Association (MEA) union president Shaerie Bruton alleged that the school district has violated an Aug. 14 agreement about librarians.
Bruton said afterward that the MEA had filed grievances against the district but she did not expect to hear back before May 31. “They’re the boss,” she said.
“The agreement describes the planned shift in our library program. As stated in the agreement, we provided professional development over the past three years to our Librarians and the MEA was aware of the shift that would occur,” Krache said in a later email. “As with any new job title/role development, current employees must apply to the new job.”
The district will discuss the library programming shift at its 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 29 board meeting, which will now be held at Fryelands Elementary along Fryelands Boulevard.
Updated May 29, 2018 after meeting location was changed.
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