Fay Griffin 0

Keep the Dedicated School Librarian Position at Strawberry Point School!

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We, as concerned parents in the Mill Valley School District, are writing to express our strong opposition to the proposal to eliminate the dedicated librarian position at Strawberry Point School or, for that matter, at any school in our district. We were utterly dismayed to hear the proposal made by the district and do not agree with the reasoning behind this decision: It is inappropriate to accelerate “right-sizing” our staffing-to-students ratio in anticipation of a forecasted budget shortfall in 3 years.

First and foremost, Literacy is a BASIC need and right for our children. We cannot understand how eliminating what is already a half-time position brings us closer to any of our District’s Strategic Plan Objectives.

  • Eliminating our librarian does not advance the Objective of “Balanced Learners.” Did you know that many Strawberry children depend on the library during lunch recess, as a Safe Haven? The librarian, on her own time, opens the library up to the children and gives them a safe, nurturing space to read or work on projects she organizes. This is an important alternative to the noisy and stimulating school yard for students who need a quiet space to recharge during lunch in order to maximize their learning for the rest of the school day. The personalized guidance provided during this time, directly contributes not only to their learning, but also to their social and emotional well being.
  • Did you know the librarian coordinates her lesson plans with the students’ classroom curricula and works with the teachers directly, creating the opportunity for multiple learning touchpoints and facilitates depth of learning and understanding? Collaboration positively impacts the quality of the program and is crucial to maintain high standards of teaching and learning. A dedicated school librarian is an effective and efficient resource to improve student achievement.
  • The librarian uses technology to teach the children how to research and document, along with safe internet practices. This promotes ‘Inquiry and project based instruction’ AND the attributes of a MVSD balanced learner (Collaborative, Communicator, Critical Thinker, Inquirer, Knowledgeable, Open Minded).
  • In addition, students who have a challenging time reading or learning to read typically fall through the cracks. The library is one of those places for a child struggling with reading to either check out or engage. We can not stress enough how having a warm, compassionate, and consistent library teacher (such as our current librarian) has and can build confidence, inspire and encourage a student to enjoy the library and choose books that interest them.
  • We cannot see how replacing a dedicated librarian position with part time/shared staff from multiple other schools will allow for the same level of instruction they are getting now. In fact we would argue the librarian position should be more than .5!

Secondly, this proposal is not Equitable to our students, to our library teachers, nor to the District’s continuous goal of bringing equity to our school communities.

  • Strawberry Point School has had 4 different librarians in the last 4 years. Because our beloved librarian, Dee Kauer (who had been with the district for years) passed away, our children are now faced with losing another librarian simply because she was the last librarian hired. We argue that this is an inequitable result which has an unfair negative impact on Strawberry students.
  • Not only would this decision affect Strawberry students, but it affects the students at the other schools, whose librarians would have to split their time.
  • It affects the remaining library staff in the district who would be spread very thin covering their own site as well as Strawberry Point. These librarians will not only have to plan lessons for multiple school sites, work to develop and maintain relationships with more students and teachers, organize and maintain a library, but will also have to travel between sites and transition each time they do. This does not promote “attracting, developing and retaining excellent staff in a quality work environment”. Teachers are now being asked to do more with less. Quality of teaching, relationships and job satisfaction are at risk.
  • Is it possible to make financial changes at the administration level? Changing/adjusting the finances at the administrative level can help balance our school district’s finances in order to have funds available to keep instrumental library instructors at our Mill Valley schools. Even the slightest most creative adjustments can be truly effective.
  • Are we rightsizing the correct area? Our dedicated school site librarians benefit every single student and every single grade. If we indeed need to make tough choices, why are we not looking at eliminating or reducing the Spanish Language program? While we all agree learning a second language in elementary school is beneficial, it falls in the ‘nice to have’ bucket when tough choices need to be made. The Spanish program does NOT benefit all students, it currently only benefits K-1st AND it is not a requirement for basic literacy. To fund a program that does not benefit all students while defunding a program that does is NOT equitable.

Lastly, Why Now? Our district currently has the funds to pay for a half time librarian. We as parents understand the need to be fiscally responsible and remain solvent as a district. But are we looking in the right places within the budget to do that? How does eliminating the salary of a .5 librarian out of a 45M budget get us closer to remaining solvent? And if somehow it does, then you have a whole community of parents who have time and time again stepped up to ‘fill the gaps’ and do what is right by our children. Between recently passing Measure E, Measure J, and our continued support of KIDDO and PTA, we have raised millions of dollars as a community. If staffing and programs continue to be diminished, we run the risk as a district, that support and funding for parcel taxes, measures, KIDDO and PTA will not be as verdant and may not survive.

So why not utilize us? If we really cannot find the money to fund a librarian, can we pay for that position out of PTA funds? Can we get an endowment fund? Can we utilize grant money? There are many ways to solve this problem. We are saying, as a parent community this is NOT acceptable to us and we are ready and willing to help.

A dedicated site librarian is not someone who just ‘checks out books.’ In fact, we have parent volunteers to do that because our librarians are busy TEACHING our children valuable curriculum they would not be getting otherwise. We strongly encourage Superintendent Rose, Trustee Wachtel, Trustee Pardi, Trustee May, Trustee Jacobs and Trustee Uhlhorn to listen to your parent community and reconsider this decision. A dedicated librarian is an invaluable part of ALL schools in Mill Valley.

Yours sincerely,

Mill Valley School District Families

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