North Kitsap residents oppose cuts to school libraries

POULSBO — As the North Kitsap School Board continues seeking ways to reduce its budget for 2011-12, staffing cuts weigh on people’s minds.

“It’s going to be devastating,” Poulsbo resident Liz Dann said of the proposed reduction in elementary school librarians.

Dann’s children have progressed through the local school district, and each valued libraries — one was a “critter keeper” at Breidablik Elementary, one a “voracious” reader and the other used the library as an escape.

District administration has proposed the number of librarians at the elementary level be reduced by two full-time equivalent positions, or  FTEs.  This would leave five librarians to staff seven elementary school libraries. The pending staffing plan would reassign one librarian as a classroom teacher and the second will not return to work for the 2011-12 school year. This is based on seniority, according to district spokeswoman Robyn Chastain.

In the pending plan, each elementary school library will be staffed based on how many students are enrolled in each school. Middle school librarians may help at the elementary level as needed. According to Chastain, students and staff will continue to have access to the libraries during school hours.

District primary education director Patricia Moore said that before she joined the district, librarians were hired based on enrollment numbers at the time. She said she still values those roles in the district.

“When times were better, we were able to hire full-time librarians,” Moore said.

Recently, the elementary principals made recommendations for how each librarian should be utilized next year, Moore said. Librarians are expected to give their own recommendations.

Moore would not comment on specific librarians and where they would or would not be working.

Filling libraries is one thing, but concerns have also been raised about librarians work with technology.

“They’re always looking for new technology,” said Erin Hults, technology coordinator at the Suquamish Tribal Education Department who has a son  in the district. “They’re the forefront for the schools.”

Hults, along with librarians from around the district, attended the Northwest Council for Computer Education this year. She said librarians are more than staff that “just read and check out books.”

Along with giving teachers planning time by taking on a classroom role each week — this will change in the 2011-12 school year as the district moves to an early release model on Wednesdays — librarians help teachers determine what technology is needed for their schools, Director of Institutional Technology and Assessment Bill Every said. On top of helping teachers, librarians teach the “Big 6,” which is six learning steps in terms of finding and analyzing technology, he said.

With recommendations to staffing cuts coming up, board President Val Torrens said she knows the toll these decisions are taking on people.

“It’s understandable,” she said of reaction to the cuts. “These people do a tremendous job. We don’t want to cut anyone.”

The cuts to staffing come from the district needing to reduce its budget to achieve a budget of about $59 million next year. Librarians are two of 28 FTE positions proposed to be cut. The cuts include 10 FTE positions from the elementary schools, 13 from the middle and high schools and five from specialists, such as librarians and counselors — it should be noted some positions do not equal one FTE alone and partial cuts to different positions create a total of 28.

Even with the cuts to staff, it is expected the district will need to cut an additional $2.1 million to achieve the $59 million budget. The budget was the main topic of a public hearing during Thursday’s school board meeting, one hour after this paper went to print.


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