By Dorcas Hand
On its face, Site Based Management seems like a good thing. It puts the decisions about how a campus budget is spent entirely in the principal’s hands: who to hire, what positions to fill, what extras to offer, etc. HISD is the only district in Texas to still use this method; it was a trend for a while, but other districts realized they needed to exercise some central control while still giving schools some local control over decisions and budgeting. They, for example, require a nurse, counselor and/or librarian on each campus – and they adjust campus funding so that these roles are centrally funded leaving the campus to decide the rest.
Several things have affected the HISD culture around libraries, but I want to focus on two.
The decision lies with HISD administration and will require careful thought and a slow timeline that includes educating all HISD principals to the benefits of having a school librarian and a fully funded library on every campus as well as an in-house Alternative Certification Program to train librarians for the positions that job insecurity over the last 15+ years has vacated.
The ESSER money being spent this year and next to update the book collections of all campuses not meeting the state definition of “Proficient.” [Wait, you say? There are Texas Standards and Guidelines for School Libraries? Why yes, there are. These include recommended quantities of books per student among other definitions - see p.43.] Having books on the campuses that are current, include popular titles, and are ready to inspire even reluctant readers at all grade levels to read for pleasure as well as for information. And that is only one aspect of the impact school libraries can and do have on the students who use them. Students who graduate from schools served by school libraries with certified staff are more successful in college. [Farmer, Lesley J. and Skyler Phamle, “Transitioning to college: Impact of high school librarians”]
Our job as advocates of school libraries is to speak up often to campus administrators and district staff, including our Superintendent, and to our SB members, asking why students in the most challenged areas of the district have the least access to library resources and staff to help them grow as learners. While SNL does this often, we need parents and community members to speak up, too. It is your children that are in school now and will soon be heading to jobs, trades, the military or college. Every one of those students deserves a fully stocked and fully funded school library staffed by a certified librarian.
Takeaways from this post:
by Dorcas Hand
The Committee on Library Advocacy of the American Library Association published this infographic recently to illustrate the benefits to every K-12 student of open access to a fully funded and fully staffed school library. Students Need Libraries in HISD offers the image to support all the advocates across HISD who are speaking up for equity of access to school libraries for all HISD students. Sadly, it is those neighborhoods with the most challenges that are least likely to have a fully funded school library staffed by a certified school librarian. We are working together to convince Superintendent House, his staff and all the campus administrators across the district to step up for school libraries on behalf of our students and in support of stronger literacy achievement.
The image above is the front page. The back page includes supporting documentation for each point, as illustrated by these examples.
Parents, parent organizations, teachers, and community advocates need to speak out often about the fact that HISD has only about 55 certified librarians for 280 schools. Another 75 or so have certified teachers staffing the library. That leaves approximately 140 schools with either non-certified staff (50) or a closed library. We can do better.
Please share this information with your campus community to be sure they speak up frequently. Start with the campus principal who currently makes that decision - but don’t forget the district, because both the Superintendent’s office and the School Board need to know what benefits students miss out on when not served by a library adequately staffed and stocked with up-to-date, compelling materials.
This blog is primarily authored by Debbie Hall and Dorcas Hand, but guest authors are welcome. If you have an idea to share, please contact our email below. Debbie is a retired HISD librarian and Library Services Specialist. Dorcas is a retired school librarian who remains active in AASL/ALA. Both support increased equity in school library access and support for all HISD students and campuses.