Arizonian School Librarians Plan Rally to Protest Cuts
Mesa Public School librarians and their supporters will rally at 6 p.m. Tuesday, an hour before the school board meeting, to protest media specialists being cut in the district.
Grappling to cut about $20 million from next year's budget, Superintendent Debra Duvall and her team recently met with employees in three areas and told them that librarians, nurses and speech experts will be cut over the next three years and replaced with assistants and aides in an effort to save millions.
"It's not just about Mesa, but nationwide librarians are disappearing because of budget cuts," Ewbank said.
Although the employee cuts are not on the meeting agenda, the Mesa school board meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday to vote on another cost-saving measure: whether to close Jordan Elementary.
Kirk Hinsey, president of the Mesa Education Association, which represents about 4,500 district employees, said, "(The media specialists') biggest concern is that they were not part of the process."
The savings associated with the new changes are unclear because that will depend on personnel changes over the next few weeks, as employees are reassigned.
Now, there are media specialists at every school regardless of its size. They are certified teachers, so they will be asked to move back into classrooms.
A new position will oversee the school libraries called resource center specialists, which the district will develop and train over the summer.
The new model depends on the size of the school.
• All elementary schools will have one resource center specialist. Schools with 600 to 849 students will have an additional aide for 19 hours a week, and schools with more than 850 students an aide for 29 hours a week.
• All junior high schools will have a resource center specialist and an audio-video specialist, while those with fewer than 850 students will have an aide for 19 hours a week and those with more than 850 an aide for 29 hours a week.
• All high schools will have a resource center specialist, an audio-video specialist, and an assistant, along with additional audio-video aides to be decided by the school.
Many school nurses will be replaced with health assistants, which will be placed for the first time at all 87 regular school campuses. A nurse will oversee several schools depending on the special needs of students and the size and location of the schools.
The district has a $900,000 contract with a company to provide speech language experts that help special education students and others with learning disabilities.
District spokeswoman Kathy Bareiss said the district would phase out of the contract and hire those with a "technical" four-year degree, who will work with classroom teachers.
Overall, Mesa administrators estimate having to cut about $20 million in the upcoming budget year, which begins July 1, because of a 1,500-student decline in enrollment, increased costs of teaching English learners, along with food, gas and other rising expenses.
The librarians' rally will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Curriculum Services Center, 549 N. Stapley Drive, then the school board meets at the same location at 7 p.m.
The Arizona Republic, AZCentral.com