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Manteca High parents sign petition to reinstate library teacher position

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Manteca High seniors Elizabeth Zuniga and Andres Oregel use one of the computers at the school’s Library Media Center after school to do Internet research on their assignment. In the back is Zuniga...


POSTED September 12, 2013 10:14 p.m.

All five comprehensive high schools in the Manteca Unified School District have a Library Media Center.

But for five years now, these learning and research centers have been without a library teacher to provide assistance to students on how to evaluate and selected appropriate web sites when doing research, for example, or how to determine if the Internet site they are accessing is a hoax, and how to use Internet information without committing plagiarism.

Students are left to figure out those things on their own.

At the Tuesday Board of Trustees meeting, Manteca High School teacher and mother of three East Union High alumnae Nina Horton asked district officials to restore the library teacher position “to be prepared for college and the workforce” and that “students need to be able to do more than just FIND information; they need to be able to evaluate and apply the information as well.”

She further pointed out to the board, “When money was tight and cuts had to be made, the position was eliminated. Now, the school budgets are stronger. It is time to replace a position that was removed due to an economic crisis and not because it was …unnecessary.”

The request has the support of 158 parents of students at Manteca High who signed a petition last week during Back to School Night urging the restoration of the library teacher position. Many of the parents were surprised to learn that the position has been eliminated five years ago, she said.

The petition stated in part: “A library teacher will be able to expand the use of the library as a more effective tool. Students need to know how to use technology effectively, and that means more than doing a ‘Google Search.’ The library teacher will be able to instruct all students on proper research techniques and assist them with evaluating materials.”

The students were not the only ones deprived of the library teacher’s expertise, added Norton. “A valuable teacher resource has also been eliminated. When there was a library teacher position, collaboration between the library and classroom teachers was a regular occurrence. The library teacher helped with designing lessons, locating resources, both print and electronic, and was a regular part of the English curriculum, teaching information literacy and advanced research skills.”

Other ways that students’ learning has been impacted by the loss of a library teacher, as pointed out by Horton:

•they can no longer go to the library/media center to complete alternate assignments when they are not able to participate in PE due to an injury;

•they can no longer make up missed tests in the library due to absence, while the rest of the class are reviewing the test results;

•those who need help in doing research can no longer be sent to the library to work on papers and projects.

That’s because the staff that has replaced the library teacher, the library clerk, is a classified and not a credentialed employee. Library teachers have two credentials – as a regular teacher and as a library teacher. Horton, for example, whose position as library clerk at Manteca High, is now teaching history.

Manteca High library clerk Mary Buchanan is “doing an awesome job in the library,” Norton said.

However, as Buchanan herself explained, she does not have the credential nor the authority to provide the services that a library teacher can give to students as well as the classroom staff.

“I can assist, but I can’t teach,” she said.

Besides, she added, she is already inundated with so many tasks especially assisting the hundreds of students “on any given day” who want to check out books from the library. Book circulation as well as textbook inventory also have been added to the work in the library media center. So, “not only did they cut the position but added responsibilities” as well, she said.

Students utilize the library before and after school, during brunch and lunch, Buchanan said. Besides the library teacher position being eliminated, the library hours have been cut shortened. Now, the library is only open to 3:30 p.m. instead of 4:30 p.m.

Siblings Elizabeth Zuniga, a senior, and Jackie, a freshman, who were using the library Thursday afternoon said they could use the help of a library teacher in doing research work. Elizabeth, with friend Andres Oregel, was doing online research using one of the more than 30 computers in the library. Jackie was working on her math homework.

Horton said she was well cognizant of the fact that library teachers were not the only ones to fall victim to the severe budget cuts that the district had to do five years ago. Several counselor positions at all five high schools likewise were felled by the fiscal axe. The schools no longer have career counselors but just a regular counselor and a part-time psychologist on campus.

She also admitted that the request she made before the board, and the petition was solely made on behalf of Manteca High. Maybe what they are doing may become the catalyst for the other schools to do the same thing, she said.

As to when, and if, the library teacher position will be reinstated at all five high schools, school district officials responding to a phone call on Thursday said that there have been no discussions about the reinstatement of those eliminated positions, and that they “don’t know when we’re going to start talking about those positions.”

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