BOE Budget Passes. Library Rooms Stay But No Media Specialists

At the May 6th in the Robert Gordon Elementary School library, the Board Of Education (BOE) unanimously voted to approve the 2014-15 school year budget. This vote moves to put into place full-day kindergarten starting in September.

Additionally, discussions regarding the status of library rooms and librarians – known as Media Specialists – were addressed by School Superintendent Pedro Garrido. The superintendent spoke of the need of full-day kindergarten versus the concerns of over 50 parents who attended an April 9th Board Of Education (BOE) meeting to express their desire to keep school libraries and media specialists when they heard that full-day kindergarten would require a cut in funding for other programs; which turned out to be the libraries and related staff. Mr. Garrido stated that the Board did consider using the computer labs for classrooms but had concerns about whether they would be adequate with space and other issues. After revisiting the issue of classroom space, computer labs, and libraries, another option was discussed.

“We looked at every aspect and I’m very happy to report,” Mr. Garrido said to a room of three residents in attendance, “We have a very good chance, unless something really critical comes up, that we will be able to save our library space [and] make them media center spaces where instruction will be held here, where our access to the books will remain as is. Obviously, it does impact our library staff but the libraries will become media centers if the plan continues to go forward.”

“We heard the public loud and clear at that April 9th Board meeting and we all put our heads together and came up with the plan to make the libraries media centers,” said Robert Gordon School Principal Frances Kenny, who was also in attendance. She added that this decision has moved the purchasing of laptops, which were already budgeted so that the computer labs would not need to be re-wired.

As outlined by Mrs. Kenny, computers from all elementary schools will be moved and incorporated into the libraries to become media centers that will house library books and computers. The computer labs will be reconfigured to become classrooms although not necessarily kindergarten classrooms.

In addressing how the library books will be maintained, updated, and cataloged, the Robert Gordon School Principal said, “We’ll need volunteers to run the libraries, or count on our teachers.”

Later in the meeting, Mr. Garrido stated the Board would publicize to look for volunteers from the community to help with library duties before and after school. Troy Gerten added that such a volunteer program already exists with the Sherman School PTA.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Jodie Foy, who had previously expressed her concerns at the April 9th meeting, remarked, “I just wanted to thank Mr. Garrido and the administration and the Board for listening to all the comments at our last meeting. It definitely feels good to know that our thoughts and our wishes for our schools and our children were heard.”

Mrs. Foy smilingly added that her third-grade children were planning on having lemonade sales to save the library but now they could use their profits for something else.

Some parents, although glad that the library space would remain, were still upset by the decision to not have media specialists in the elementary schools. Elaine Weaver commented, “I am happy that the library is remaining as a structured room. I am skeptical though about how it will be maintained in regards to updating the books, organizing them, maintaining them etc. I don’t think volunteers are going to be able to keep up with what is required to maintain it. I will miss Mrs. Fox as will my son.”

Other parents expressed concerns about the re-arrangement of rooms. Jeanine Goodis wondered, “Why would they move out of the computer room in Sherman? That room is in the new part of the building and it was my understanding that it was built to house the computers [with] extra outlets and climate control.”

Superintendent Garrido – when asked how he would address remaining questions from parents at the April 9th meeting that were not addressed by the decision to keep the library spaces – responded that he will have them placed on the district website (link) under an FAQ or similar section. He did not provide a timeframe as to when they would be completed.

The next BOE meeting will be held at the Robert Gordon School auditorium on Tuesday, May 20th, at 7 in the evening.