Mesa Board Cuts Librarians

Mesa Board Cuts Librarians

“It’s not over. We’re going to continue to do what we can both in Mesa and in Arizona,” Fund Our Future Arizona (FOFA) spokesperson Ann Ewbank told American Libraries June 27, three days after the Mesa Public School board implemented as part of its FY2008–09 budget the replacement over three years of every school library media specialist in the district with library aides.

Also slashed from the budget to achieve a $13-million savings were the district’s counselors and nurses.

Ewbank received an e-mail June 2 from Mesa Schools Superintendent Debra Duvall rejecting FOFA’s proposed alternative for being almost $2 million more than the board’s plan. Asserting FOFA’s respect for the “very difficult situation” the board was in fiscally, Ewbank said the group returned to district officials with three other alternatives, the most frugal of which “would have saved the same level of expenditure” through a regional model “where one librarian would be responsible for overseeing 5–8 schools.”

But after spending two weeks “attempting to meet with the superintendent and the board president in private,” Ewbank had to conclude that “unfortunately, they did not choose to meet with me.” Nonetheless, she credited “as instrumental in making our voices be heard” at the outset a national letter-writing campaign involving most of the state affiliates of the American Library Association’s American Association of School Librarians, as well as guidance from ALA’s Office for Library Advocacy and Chapter Relations Office.

“It’s been a tough year for lots of districts,” Ewbank went on to say, because “the state of Arizona does not fully fund education.” Among the school systems eyeing the cost of school library programs is the Humboldt Unified School District in Prescott Valley and the Glendale Elementary School District. HUSD officials are depending on adult and student volunteers to fill in the FY2008–09 gap created by cutting five of the district’s 10 library aides, according to the May 22 Prescott Valley Tribune. GESD was poised to eliminate half its librarian posts if a property-tax override fails in November, the Phoenix Arizona Republic reported June 26.

Inspired by an effort to save media specialists in Spokane that mushroomed into a Washington State campaign for school librarians, Ewbank told AL that FOFA plans to “work with state leaders this legislative session and really focus on the state.” Predicting that the coming academic year would be particularly hard on the 32 Mesa schools lacking librarians versus the 46 whose libraries will still be staffed by certified professionals, she noted, “It’ll be very interesting to see the different level of service in the schools.”

Posted on June 27, 2008. Discuss.