EASD addresses library rumors BY DEAN LEE EVANS, Correspondent
Ephrata Area School District board president Timothy Stayer assured parents that district libraries would continue to remain fully staffed and open for business as usual.
Stayer's comments, which came prior to the start of business at Monday's school board meeting, were in response to some recent emails that raised concerns about the future of the district's library staffing and hours of operation.
"There was never a decision made to have one librarian serve four elementary schools," Stayer said in response to one email rumor.
Some emails about changes in the libraries began circulating following the announcement in February that elementary school librarian Mary Ann Hagen would retire at the end of the 2012-13 school year. Last week, officials posted a statement on the district's website in response to concerns about cutbacks.
Stayer said Monday that Hagen's position, which was not immediately advertised as an open position in the district, would be filled with a current district teacher who has the proper certifications to be a librarian.
He added that no district libraries would close or have their hours reduced.
Ephrata resident Joel Burkholder, the parent of a kindergarten student, thanked the board for their commitment to staffing district libraries.
Burkholder, an instructional librarian at York College, stressed the importance of library services and education at an early age to properly teach students the library skills they would require in the future.
"A lot of students coming to the college from public schools were not prepared for the research they were expected to do at the college," he said.
Burkholder said this wasn't due to any deficiencies at the public school level, but was an example of "antiquated library programs" within public school systems.
Stayer agreed with Burkholder, recalling the difficulty of having to learn how to look up books using card catalog systems.
Ephrata resident Kim Buehler, the parent of a first-grade student, acknowledged the difficult position school districts are in when it comes to limited funds.
"Times are tough and (other) districts are cutting special services," she said while thanking the district for being up front about the current library issues raised in the recent emails.
Buehler outlined six key points on the importance of proper library staffing and access, including research and library skills as well as technology and Internet skills.
She said that research shows that students who have access to properly staffed libraries and library services score higher on standardized tests of reading and writing.
But comments last week from Brian Troop, assistant superintendent for secondary education, as reported in a newspaper article, rubbed Nick Thomas the wrong way.
Thomas, quoting from the article, stated that Troop said the situation stemming from the rumors "had people unduly concerned."
Thomas said that parents had a right to be concerned and that even though Troop stated in the article that protocols for the review of district programs were being followed, issues remain.
"I am very concerned this district is being run like a business," said Thomas, adding that he thinks students need to come first.
"You work for the students and the taxpayers. Please don't take this lightly," he said, adding that staff in the district is "being stretched thin."
Stayer said he was pleased with the turnout and compassion residents and parents showed regarding the library issue. He added that public turnouts like this usually only occur with discussions on "football coaches and the budget."
But Stayer also sounded a note of caution, acknowledging that while funds for library operations remain unchanged, and that the district is currently in good financial shape, the future of district funding deeply concerns the board.
Stayer said the board has charged the administration with keeping a reign on spending, but due to limitations on tax increases, the district "cannot cover expenses even with full tax increases."
After the board meeting, Kim Schlemmer, assistant superintendent for elementary education, said the district remains committed to its libraries even though the state Department of Education does not mandate library operations.
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