Cortines saves some library aide jobs, trying to save a few more
Mike Szymanski | July 9, 2015
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In just the first week of July, the number of library aide positions at LAUSD being “separated” from the district was reduced to 14 from 22. Superintendent Ramon Cortines is trying to find ways to save the remaining positions before the school year begins next month.
“These 14 ladies got notices that say they are being ‘separated’ from the district, which sounds like a divorce, but Mr. Cortines is working with us to nail down a way to keep them before the end of summer,” said Franny Parrish, who is the political action chairwoman for the California School Employees Association, the union that represents library aides.
“School libraries are the first introduction to reading that children have, and we have to reach them in elementary schools,” Parrish told LA School Report. “Mr. Cortines has backed us up. He is looking at alternatives to making the situation better.”
With the drastic budget cuts of 2009, the district cut library aide positions, causing many school libraries to close. Now, the district is prioritizing the reopening of elementary school libraries, yet as of April nearly 60 elementary schools are still without them.
One compromise has been to split library aides between two schools to keep full-time benefits. And, if an elementary school wants to keep a full-time library aide and can pay for the extra three-hours-a-day salary, then the district will still pay full benefits.
“We don’t do this for the money; we love showing kids the joy of reading,” said Parrish, who works at Dixie Canyon Community Charter School in Sherman Oaks. “It gets a bit hard to split schools when gas prices go up to $4 a gallon.”
Parrish said she sees about 700 children in a week. She knows what many of them like to read and seeks out new popular titles for each child. She said she has been laid off four times from LAUSD and spent three-and-a-half years without health insurance.
Since January, Parrish has helped schools reopen their libraries across the district and found that up to half have have collections degraded by damaged or lost books. Teachers, teacher assistants and parent volunteers have kept some libraries going, but that is against California state law, which says a trained staffer must do the work. Even a small school library holds more than 10,000 books.
“We are finding that millions of dollars of books have disappeared,” Parrish said. “Those books have to be bought with state funding, or parents have to raise money, or kids have to sell candy.”
Parrish noted that Common Core requirements emphasize reading even more, so libraries are even more important. She said that a program last year trying to substitute public libraries for school libraries didn’t work out well because some children live in dangerous neighborhoods and can’t get to their local libraries.
“People don’t understand the importance of libraries anymore,” she said. “It’s wonderful to tweak the interest in young children and get them to read more.”