Dear Parents, Library Supporters, Friends and Colleagues,
We urge you to write a letter to the Bellingham School Board in support of our elementary school libraries. We ask all those who support libraries, have children currently enrolled or graduated from the Bellingham School District, and those who recognize the importance of reading literacy and information literacy in our community.
As you may know, our Bellingham Public School Board developed a prioritized list of programs that will be cut as a result of the 2010-2011 budget shortfall. The shortfall is $1.6 million dollars and funding for our teacher-librarians in all of our elementary schools is now reduced to .5 FTE. The most disturbing portion of this School Board decision is, that when funds are restored, those funds will become discretionary funds. The funds will be allocated to the principals in each building to distribute amongst specialists as needed. That means that former full-time teacher-librarian salaries will be chopped up and distributed across a range of specialists: reading specialists, literacy specialists, speech specialists, teacher-librarians, etc.
This plan creates inequities across the district; some children will have full access to reading programs, information literacy and information technology and other children will not. It creates inequities in quality across the district; some classroom teachers will have technology support, curriculum collaboration and information resources and other classroom teachers will not. It creates an environment of the “haves” and the “have-nots”. The School Board needs to commit to full-time certified teacher-librarians at ALL our elementary schools. ALL of our children deserve to have the same opportunity to succeed academically.
These are difficult economic times, but we can not have short-term solutions become long-term policy. We need to take action now to support our elementary school libraries.
The important point to make is:
Please make the commitment to fully-fund permanent full-time certified teacher-librarians at all our elementary schools. Baseline teacher-librarian staffing should be one full-time certified teacher-librarian at each school in our district.
Some talking points:
1. The mission of a library media center is to ensure that students are effective users and producers of information and ideas.
2. The 3 essential functions of a teacher-librarian are to provide information technology instruction, reading advocacy and information management.
3. Access to age-appropriate reading materials and reading programs (storytime, Sasquatch Books, "Reading Around the World", etc.) directly impacts reading achievement.
4. Teacher-librarians work closely with classroom teachers to identify unit materials, create assignments and develop curriculum.
5. Teacher-librarians teach information literacy which increases student success--they teach students how to identify information needs, access information in a variety of formats, evaluate that information and synthesize that information into a project/paper.
6. Teacher-librarians manage the information technology in a school--they run the labs, instruct the classroom teachers on using technology, and troubleshoot technology problems.
7. Describe what you see in your school library (whether it be elementary, middle or high school), how children engage with their librarian and library materials and resources. Describe how important the library is to your child or children.
8. Describe how the elementary school library made a difference in helping your child succeed (reading, research skills, technology skills) and move forward in their education to middle school, high school and college.
Letter writing points:
When writing a letter, try to keep it child-centered and learning centered. This is not about staff and positions--it is all about giving our children the tools, experiences, skills, and knowledge they need to succeed. It is about academic achievement. The School Board's decisions are not personal, they are trying to do the best they can with the money they have. It is up to us to tell them how a school library impacts student learning and success.
Always thank the board for their work--it is hard to please everyone all the time--but we want them to focus on the bottom line--student success and achievement. You probably know some of the board members, they are regular moms and dads like us!
I have attached 1 customizable letter and 2 letters that I've written to the school board as examples. My letters are written from an academic librarian's viewpoint--don't feel that you need to replicate the feel--write from your experience. The letters can be short or long.
Send your letter as soon as possible:
1. Send a hard copy directly to the school board:
Attn: School Board
Bellingham Public Schools
2. E-mail a copy to each board member, Sherrie Brown (Acting Superintendent), our new Superintendent, Gregory Baker, and your child’s principal.
· Dr. Kenneth Gass: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Ann Whitmyer: email@example.com
· Kelly Bashaw: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Steven Smith, PhD.: email@example.com
· Dr. Scott Stockburger: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Gregory Baker: email@example.com
3. Cut and paste your letter into the school board’s listening post:
· Budget Savings Plan (see item #23)
Thank you for your time and consideration of writing a letter in support of our school libraries! Feel free to call or e-mail with any questions--and if you know of other friends, parents, grandparents, colleagues and acquaintances that would support our effort--please feel free to forward this link. The more letters the board receives, the more awareness they will gain of the importance of school libraries on equipping our children with the skills they need to succeed!
Robin Angeley (Parent of 2nd and 3rd graders at Wade King)
Sylvia Tag (Parent of an 12th grader at BHS and a junior college student)
Michele Shenkin (Parent of a 5th grader at Wade King and 8th grader at Fairhaven Middle School)