Saturday, April 2, 2011

Texas School Districts Fighting Against the Governmental Assault on Public Schools

I started working on this post over a week ago. Time is way too scarce these days. Still I want to tell the story. About 10 days ago we had our bi-annual Teacher Job Fair and Sam Houston State University. The coliseum floor is filled with tables and displays from area school districts, and the aisles are crowded with graduating and newly minted teachers. There are giveaways, sign-up sheets, and lots of bright and shiny faces. I find it touching to watch the hopeful applicants wait their turns to visit with prospective employers. This time the feeling is bittersweet. For the first time ever, I wonder if all grads will find jobs. I worry that if they do, they will be faced with oversized classes and undersupplied classrooms. Seems like all of the sudden, after the November 2010 elections, we learned that the economy was NOT hunky dory in our state. After hearing our “governor” brag about how his leadership kept us from being “like California,” we learned the real truth of his words. We are different all right…we are worse off. I know these young grads are well prepared. Our programs are exemplary. Just ask our accrediting body, NCATE. We are a model of what a College of Education should be.

While I am bragging, a word about my niche, the Department of Library Science. NCATE likes us so much that we are on their website as an example of how a program should present itself. Also…YES FOLKS…we have ALA accreditation. Our program is single-purpose, preparing school librarians. Our AASL accreditation is the appropriate one for such a program and we are rated exemplary there too. Our MLS grads are sought by districts all over the state. But if I’m worried about those new teachers, I am even more worried about our new librarians. Because our state is suddenly declared in a fiscal state of emergency, with lots of scare talk and no real facts from our “representatives,” there is a lot of fear for our schools, K-20. I should add that graduate programs are in some ways even more threatened.

Thus with a measure of consternation, I walked the aisles of our event and talked to the HR representatives and administrators from districts large and small, urban and rural. I asked each person I met these questions: “Are you staffing your libraries with certified librarians? Are you trying to maintain these positions?” The first 2-3 people I approached shook their heads no. I don’t remember all the districts with that response, but know that two were Hearne and Splendora, where some or all positions were actually cut before this year. Then a funny thing happened. I started to get positive answers. Each encouraging conversation left me feeling a bit more hopeful. Many educators said they were holding fast and not jumping the gun. They hope, as do I, that things will not be quite as bad as the rumors. Others went so far as to say they would not cut librarians in any case. Yes, they might have to cut aides and other positions, including one district that is drastically cutting assistant principals, but I was heartened to hear the courageous and thoughtful words of so many. By noon I had talked to reps from THIRTY DISTRICTS who are fighting to keep their librarians. I want to send a public shout-out to the districts listed below. They are in no particular order. Some are small, some are large, and demographics vary widely. But they share the attribute of trying to put kids first and not make the easy choice to cut positions.

One of the best conversations I had was with a young man from Lamar Consolidated ISD. He was very proud of his district and had high praise for the district uperintendant. Anyway, this young man told about long meetings to discuss budget cuts. He said every single time they talk about an adjustment, says, “Is this a quick fix or a real solution. We are not going to pass any quick fixes that we’ll regret later.” I even stopped in my tracks and wrote down those words so I could quote them accurately. Kudos to this district and its leaders! And hooray for all the other districts that are fighting what seems to be an all out assault on public education in Texas.

Here is the Honor Roll of districts giving me reason for hope. If one is yours, thank your decision makers and encourage them to continue fighting the good fight. Here they are:

Conroe ISD
Huntsville ISD
Houston ISD
New Caney
College Station
Ft. Bend
LITTLE ROCK ARKANSAS—I was pleased to see them at our event.
Deer Park
Spring Branch
Anderson-Shiro (keeping their one K-12 librarian, an SHSU grade)
Cypress Fairbanks
Lamar Consolidated
Cedar Hill (did cut some elementary librarians along with AP’s and counselors but hoping to restore)
Texas City

If you are a Texan, you will see that most of these districts are from Southeast Texas, though some are from the Dallas area and there were the nice folks from Arkansas. I would love to hear about other districts that are trying to stand firm against the assault on our schools.

Repeated Posting of Previous Message

NOTE: Due to some formatting errors, the previous posting appeared twice. I have deleted the 2nd rendition, but am leaving this behind because of the comments attached.