Below is from the April 7, 2015 Duval County School Board meeting:
In 2013-14, the number of high school classes was increased by 14%, without properly funding extra teachers. This led to many elective and core classes having 50-100 students. Teachers were not hired to relieve these huge classes in many cases until over two months were gone into the school year.
In the meantime, secondary principals were given a choice to convert their librarian position to a teaching position. Given the situation above, I believe this was a false choice.
As a result, roughly 70% of existing middle school libraries, and roughly 80% of existing high schools libraries, were closed. Some will tell you they were open, but what they mean, is that the libraries were unlocked.
Twenty-eight librarian positions were eliminated for a cost savings of $1.8 million out of a roughly $1.8 billion dollar budget (1/10 of 1%). Meanwhile, the School Board and Superintendent agreed to save and set aside over 60 million extra dollars in a rainy day fund according to Khris Brooks of the Times-Union. Saving money is wonderful. But not when you are closing libraries and having math classes of nearly 100 students, as reported by First Coast News.
This is not new information. In fact, Joey Frencl, Duval County Teacher of the Year, told you about these library closings nearly two years ago in June 2013. Yet we continue to close down libraries. According to Denise Smith-Amos in the Florida Times-Union front page story last Wednesday, there is only one high school and one middle school left with a librarian. This hurts everyone, but most of all low-income children who have neither Internet access nor a ride to the public library.
Who is making sure books aren’t stolen? Who is doing inventory? Some have suggested volunteers and students could fill the gap. Meanwhile, retired librarians like Susan Santos have stated, “$600 digital projectors, $300 presentation carts, DVDs… cameras are walking out of the library.” I have heard reports from various reliable sources that thousands of books have gone missing from our libraries during this time without librarians.
I encourage those of you who are interested to read further information at miketheteacher.com. Also, please read the Times-Union article on librarians becoming an endangered species, my guest column in the Times-Union, and Superintendent Vitti’s rebuttal to my Times-Union column.
School Board, Superintendent, you have a chance to undo some of the damage. We must hire media specialists, and fund our libraries. Thank you.