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May 24,1999

LCSD cuts librarians, axes block scheduling, violates Oregon Schools for the 21st Century Law

The News-Times of May 12, 1999, reports LCSD Superintendent Jack Stoops defends the decision to eliminate certified librarians in Lincoln County schools, saying he has heard no complaints about last year's media specialist cuts -- which reduced the district's librarians from 18 to just four. Apparently Mr. Stoops does not consider the loss of their librarian at Waldport High to be among the complaints voiced by students in their walk-out/strike at that school earlier this month over elimination of block scheduling and other damage that budget cuts have done to their education.

As I am the parent of a 12-year graduate of Lincoln County schools who is now struggling in college with requirements for weekly research papers, and as a parent of a middle school student who I hope will also attend college, Mr. Stoops' remark is a stinging reminder that I have not attended school board meetings to protest the lack of trained librarians and other deficiencies in local schools. That my older child is playing catch-up in college, after graduating with an A-minus GPA, indicates to me that more, not less, preparation for doing research reports is essential for LCSD students who hope to go on to college.

In the News-Times of 5/14/99, Diedre Conklin, Director of the Lincoln County Library District, gives numerous examples of the knowledge and skills that a certified librarian brings to students. From my 20 years of listening to an almost daily review of a high school librarian's efforts to work with students, I would like to add to Ms. Conklin's list. A good school librarian is primarily a good teacher. The librarian's students learn to access, evaluate, and organize information and research materials. In most instances the librarian teaches these research skills in small groups or in one-on-one contacts, while the classroom teacher is back in the classroom -- perhaps reviewing lessons with less advanced students. High school librarians are at-large teachers, whose work includes essential preparation for those going on to college, but this also frees up the regular teacher's time for helping other students. The librarian helps all students with assignments which allow them to explore subjects of individual interest that would not otherwise be covered in their classes. This is all about making school relevant to students' personal interests; that's part of what keeps them in school and working at it.

In my years of listening I also learned that not all school administrators understand the function of the teacher-librarian; as a result, some do not encourage their staffs to correctly utilize these services. In a time of increasing class sizes the availability of an at-large teacher in the school library is of particular importance because this permits classroom teachers to separate and instruct students in smaller groups according to need. In the future, assistance from a librarian will be vital to a student's successful completion of the work-sample portfolios that are required to meet the CIM assessment benchmarks set by the 21st Century Schools reforms. The high school guidelines for the CIM include research papers in social studies, language arts, biology, and art (Oregon State Dept. of Education online at: http://www.ode.state.or.us/ ).

It seems there are divergent agenda for public education, both in LCSD and at the Oregon State level. There are plans underway to invest considerable resources in experimental "charter schools," which are touted to promote creativity and innovation in education methods. At the same time, LCSD has insufficient resources to continue the relatively small investment in the innovative and creative block scheduling curriculum which has been successfully implemented in several LCSD schools for over six years. Worse yet, we cannot even afford the traditional academic asset of trained librarians.

The new LCSD administration says the district's number one priority is the implementation of the 21st Century reforms, yet the recent decision to abandon block scheduling at several schools was made without consultation or authorization by either the school board or the local school site councils which were responsible for the adoption of the schedules. This unilateral centralization of the decision-making process appears to conflict with provisions in the Schools for the 21st Century Law (ORS 329.704(b) and (c), plus ORS 329.690(e)) which give responsibility for such programs to the site councils, subject to school board approval. Additional commentary on the charter school issue, 21st Century school reforms, and the recent override of local site council authority, can be found online at http://www.quixote-quest.org/public_education.html .

All this is to say nothing of the shame of allowing the beautiful $500,000 Boone Center Library at Newport High to go without a trained librarian in a time often referred to as "the information age." The Boones' generous donation has been inadequately respected by LCSD.

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