This letter went today to all candidates for open School Board seats, as well as to all sitting Board members and to the sitting Board of Managers.
The candidates are: Savant Moore (unopposed, D2); Dani Hernandez (D3); Fe Bencosme (D3); Pat Allen (D4); Meg Seff (D4); Placido Gomez (unopposed, D8).
Dear HISD School Board Candidates,
Students Need Libraries in HISD is organized for the purpose of raising awareness among HISD leadership, parents, and community about the importance of strong school libraries. We want all students to be successful in life. Reading is an important factor in their success. We know that presently the district leadership has lost sight of that understanding by closing libraries in some schools, but we believe that the Board of Managers and the elected board can provide the needed correction to develop proficient readers district-wide, a correction that should include campus libraries district-wide. HISD has many fine library programs and top-notch library professionals across the district.
Research tells us that schools staffed by certified school librarians are better able to raise literacy rates and standardized test scores. “…[T]he benefits associated with good library programs are strongest for the most vulnerable and at-risk learners, including students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities.” (Lance, Keith Curry and Debra Kachel. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan, 26 Mar 2018.) Additionally, “A 2022 study by Rutgers University found 1st-year college students who had prior high school research experience, especially those from schools with certified librarians, felt more confident in their academic research skills.” (Philadelphia students navigate school without access to school libraries. Pennsylvania Capital Star, 24 Oct 2023).
SNL is led by Debbie Hall, a retired HISD librarian; Dorcas Hand, another retired school librarian from Houston but not HISD; and Lisa Robinson, a former HISD teacher turned library staffer and now retired. We represent a grass-roots organization of HISD school library supporters from across the district. Our membership includes active duty librarians, parents, community activists, retired librarians, and others who support school libraries. We have seen the impact that strong resources and programs organized by trained professionals can have on students hungry to learn, both in and beyond the classroom. We are working toward the goal that all students in all HISD schools will benefit from an active, engaging library program which will allow them access to resources they need to grow as readers and learners.
Our SNL website is packed with information for you as Board candidates and members, as well as for all advocates for and stakeholders in HISD school libraries. Today, we offer you current and retrospective data about library staffing in your Board district. We know how hard you will work for students in our district, and want to help you have accurate information about ways to help them even more. Thank you for all you hope to do as an HISD Board Trustee.
The graph below offers you an overview of current staffing compared to last year and to 2019. We note that in 2022, library staffing and libraries were reactivated in most campuses that had been without. Most of the 2022 staffing were certified librarians or teachers. This year, under Mike Miles, most of that progress has been lost - especially in low-income neighborhoods of color, areas where students are least likely to have ready access to a convenient public library or other book sources, areas likely to be considered “book deserts.” Given that raising literacy skills and scores is a top priority of the district, this loss of access to a variety of age-appropriate books to support student interests and academic needs is heartbreaking and counterproductive. We also remain concerned about the $1.4 million in ESSER funds invested in these reactivated library programs, funds that are now unaccounted for on too many campuses.
The numeric data that supports this graph can be found by scrolling down on the Houston Independent School District School Board page. If you are interested in the details for each elected Board district, please click on the appropriate district on that same page. You may also want to “Choose Your Own Adventure - you can Discover 10 Ways Effective School Librarians Support HISD Students.” Read one or several, in any order. Short reads, every one.
We look forward to meeting you, to answering any further questions you may have, and to building a relationship that will serve the students of HISD well after you join the elected Board in January to support the Board of Managers in deeper understandings of the role libraries could play in improving student STAAR scores. We welcome you to advocate with us whether you are elected or not.
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.