I was looking for a file on the laptop that does not seem to exist although I know I wrote it, when I came across a letter I wrote back in 2009. The context is that because of the crappy economy the school system was having to make even more budget cuts, and one of the strategems they were forced to employ was to eliminate the media center clerk position in every school.
Let me note that those employees were not fired; they were mostly shifted to other positions in the school. My beyond-excellent clerk, Robin, became a kindergarten classroom aide and is still there. But my letter explained how—in my media center at least—the reduction in staff would have serious consequences. I post it here because it is well-written and I liked it.
It was not against the law to be a lesbian in Victorian England.
Here’s why: when the Queen was presented with the legislation criminalizing homosexuality, she came to the part about lesbianism. She quite frankly did not believe such creatures existed, and so she struck that part of the law out.
Back when Newnan Crossing hit 1,000 students, I went to the SACS standards to see if I would be joined soon by a second professional media specialist. I was surprised to see that while the standards called for a second professional for high schools at that number, there was no such standard for elementary schools.
It finally dawned on me why: when the standards were written, no one could imagine anyone in their right mind building an elementary school with 1,000 students in it.
But people in their right minds have built elementary schools capable of holding 1,000 students. Your rationale has been that it’s more “cost efficient” to do so. The usual argument is “economy of scale,” which is generally taken as being cheaper to buy toilet paper.
The real economy, of course, is the salaries of those of us who serve the entire student population. Instead of two schools of 450, with two media specialists and two music teachers and two cafeteria staffs, you only have to pay one of each.
And that’s fine until you start actually serving the kids.
My circulation figures are running more than 30,000 checkouts a year. Yesterday, our circulation was nearly 300, and that’s a normal day. That’s 300 books to check out and 300 books to shelve every day, and that is my media clerk’s job. This means that 35% of our school walked in and out of the media center yesterday.
(I will also add that if this were at Elm Street, 35% would be fewer than 150 students, half the number I must serve. Even in good times, I am asked to do two jobs. Now, I’m being asked to do four? Without a lunch break? Once again, “economy of scale.”)
You perhaps imagine the media center as a place where classes arrive on some kind of schedule, do their checkout in a 20-minute slot, then leave, thus giving me time between classes to teach or to shelve. It is not. The media center is a constant flow of individual students arriving to check out books, to take AR tests, to do class research and projects, plus the classes scheduled for checkout and for instruction.
Next year, without a fully staffed media center, this will not be the case. In order to preserve the instructional program, I will shut down the foot traffic. Students will not be able to come to the media center on a needs basis, but only when their teacher has scheduled their class. The reading program will take a huge hit, but it’s all about limited resources—isn’t it?—and in this case the limited resource is my time.
How big a hit will this be? Out of the 300 checkouts yesterday, only 40 of them were from classes who actually signed up to be in there. That means around 200 students (estimating for multiple checkouts) were able to get a book when they needed one simply by getting a pass from their teacher and walking in. Next year, that’s a 1000 students a week who won’t get a book when they need one. How do you think that will impact reading at Newnan Crossing?
The really bad news is that study after study has shown that the single most important factor impacting student achievement that a school system has under its control is an appropriately staffed and funded media center. We lost funding this year, and next year we lose our staffing. I wonder, how much money will you spend on “programs” trying to boost achievement when you’ve gutted the one program that could save you?
As it happens, I was only there for another year and a half before I retired from Coweta County and went to the Dept. of Ed. to be the director of GHP, but believe you me I would have started compiling data in that third year to show exactly how the reading programs had been impacted.