District puts library staffing rumor to rest

By on April 17, 2013

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

This past week leaders at the Ephrata Area School District have found themselves dealing with rumors regarding the future of the district’s library program.

Those rumors may have stemmed from the recent announcement that elementary school librarian Mary Ann Hagen would retire at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. When that opening was not immediately posted on the district website, district officials feel that may have started a rumor that the position might not be filled.

Instead, said Ephrata Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop, the district instead took the opportunity of Hagen’s retirement to carefully review staffing levels, student needs and evaluate what was in the overall best interest of the district-wide library program.

"The district administration has completed a preliminary evaluation of library staffing and is pleased to share that we have decided to fill the upcoming retirement with a certified librarian," stated Troop. "Misinformation and rumor circulating in the community regarding elementary school library access and staffing had people unduly concerned. In this situation, we followed our standard protocol of examining current programs and considering multiple options for improvement. We believe we owe it to our students and our community to take time to fully consider opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of services."

As explained by Troop, this was the same protocol that has been followed across the board in recent years whenever dealing with a staff vacancy. One approach used by the district to cut costs in the light of a decreasing revenue stream has been to find creative ways of reducing staff through attrition. They have also been able to absorb or transfer personnel within the district in an effort to reduce the number of new hires made necessary to fill those positions.

According to Deb Kachel, who had been the library supervisor and high school librarian at EASD for many years until her 2006 retirement, the strength of the library program can be seen in the number of staff assigned to it.

"EASD has ten music teachers, ten physical education teachers, and six art teachers to serve the district’s student body," said Kachel. "But (the district has) only five librarians this year, and four librarians for next year, if the retiring librarian is not replaced. There are nine certified librarians employed by EASD — four working in other educator positions, but not as librarians. If the district really values its library program and used research and the recent PA evidence to guide their decisions, they would reassign some of those librarians back into the libraries where they work with every teacher and every student in the district."

Troop somewhat agreed in the final analysis. He stated that there were three internal candidates already working within the school district who were being considered to replace the opening created by the Hagen retirement. It is expected that one of those three will ultimately be named as the district’s fifth librarian for the 2013-2014 school year.

That move could happen as soon as Monday night’s school board meeting which is scheduled to be held at the Ephrata Intermediate School at 7 p.m.

While Kachel may have retired from EASD, she remains quite active in the library sciences and maintains a healthy concern for Ephrata Schools. She explained her interest this way:

"I keep in touch with people in the Ephrata area," said Kachel. "In addition, I serve in a voluntary position with the PA School Librarians Assn. as co-chair of the Legislation Committee. One of the initiatives of PSLA is to contact superintendents and school board members in districts where librarian positions are being considered for elimination or reduction. My committee sends these letters which I have sent to (Ephrata Superintendent) Jerry Rosati and the board a week or so ago. My committee and PSLA act as advocates for school library programs and try to be proactive in these situations by providing research on the impact of the school library program on student achievement. It is important that school leaders base their judgments about staffing on the latest research on what impacts kids most."

Kachel also spoke to the importance local parents place on having a strong library program.

"Ephrata parents really care about their kids having access to a library and the instruction of a school librarian," added Kachel. "I am sure you will hear this from the community."

Indeed, that was the buzz of the community over the past week.

Rumor of further reductions in library staffing indeed raised the concerns of parents who even took to the popular social media phenomena, Facebook, to raise awareness.

It now appears the district has heard those concerns and included them in their final analysis of a path forward.

Parents and residents are always invited to attend public school board meetings such as the one scheduled for Monday night. At each meeting, the public is also given the opportunity to speak both to things on and off the agenda. The exception of that rule is that the district never comments directly with regard to personnel issues.

For additional information on EASD, visit easdpa.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your feedback, comments and questions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More LIBRARY, page A16

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