Letter to the editor: MUMS students will be at a loss

Our students at Middlebury Union Middle School are coming back to school with a distinct disadvantage this school year. There will be no licensed school library specialist in the library. Instead the position has been gutted to half time and an emergency license has been acquired for a math teacher to be in the library. School library specialists (librarians) work with students to become lifelong readers and proficient researchers. They guide our students toward critical thinking and critiquing the validity of information. Giving this position to someone who is not trained as a school library specialist with the necessary skills is wrong.
A number of taxpayers and former teacher attended the ACSD board meeting on Aug. 7 to voice their concerns about the cutting of a licensed school librarian and asking for the position to be reinstated, but there has been no change to this board decision. When I talked to the ACSD board members, almost all privately told me that they were disappointed at the cut and had great support for the full-time librarian position. Yet publicly they let this decision stand and by doing so endorsed this action by Superintendent Burrows and MUMS Principal Kris Holsman-Francoeur. Many states have lost school librarians, but Vermont worked hard to make sure it was included in the Vermont Education Quality Standards. Yet, at MUMS, by having only a part-time emergency licensed person heading up the library, we are turning our back on these standards.
If the real reason for this cut is “budgetary constraints” as our superintendent, Peter Burrows, stated in the waiver request, then it is time to look at how much our district is spending on the International Baccalaureate program. Could other cuts be made?
If you are interested in seeing how much is being expended for IB, you are told to look at the budget. Unfortunately there is no easy way to discern actual costs since IB expenditures are not clearly designated. But know that we have been spending large amounts of money for training, IB fees, hiring additional staff, and travel as we have flown educators all over the country for IB workshops.
The position should be put back at full-time and a substitute should be hired until a licensed school library specialist can be found.
If you are a parent of a middle school student or someone who believes our student deserve to have a certified library media specialist at MUMS, then this cut should raise questions for you.
I urge you to call Peter Burrows, ACSD superintendent, 382-1274, and the members of the ACSD board to share your concerns. If you have any concerns or questions, feel free to contact me. This is not a cut that our middle school should be making. MUMS students deserve and need a full-time certified library specialist.
Barb Karle
Retired MUMS
School Library Specialist

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