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School Board Hears How Media Centers Are Coping With Cutbacks

The media centers were affected by budget cuts this school year.

Although parent volunteers have stepped up to help out in Rochester Schools' media centers, there is still much to be done to fill a void left by cuts in the distric this year.

A budget shortfall in the district for the 2011-12 school year.

On Monday night, Rochester Board of Education members heard firsthand from school administrators and media specialists about the impact of these cuts.

Jeff Mozdzierz, director of educational technology, presented a media centers update to the board, detailing how some of the schools have responded to cutbacks in the media centers.

"We knew the media program would be deeply affected," said Mozdzierz, adding that the media specialists have worked hard to increase volunteers.  

But although there is good support in the community, parent volunteers are not always able to meet their commitments if another child is sick or there is a family emergency.  

Lisa Kelley, the media specialist at , addressed the board.  She cited an incident last week when most of her scheduled volunteers did not show up due to a flu that was spreading through the school.

As a result, Kelley had 900 books piling up to be shelved and her lesson plan had to be scrapped.

"It (volunteers) is not a reliable way of doing it," she said. "It is not a solution to what we are facing."

The board has asked Mozdzierz to come back with options to consider regarding how best to meet the needs of the students under the current circumstances. This may include an alternative staffing or delivery model as well as funding to properly train volunteers.

"I really don't want to lose a whole year.  We have to support these folks.  I want to see what the action plan is," said Board President Barb Cenko.

Mozdzierz will bring back options based on best practices in other districts.  He also urged the board to consider what the district wants our library programs to be in the future. Board member Beth Talbert asked him to quantify what the district can't do any longer.  

"We will have less money again ... we need you to bring it forward," she said.

  • In other business, board members discussed the possibility of a districtwide recycling plan.
  • Superintendent Fred Clarke addressed board members on pending legislation that would have an impact on Rochester schools.
Jeremy Nielson October 25, 2011 at 03:30 AM
The sad reality is that last year's budget was $158 million. This year's is $161.5 million. Next year's budget is initially projected at $166 million, before any "cuts" are made. . As you prepare to vote in November's election, consider the question: Why are we spending more money each year, and getting less for our educational dollars? . Over the last 4 years, the school board has laid off teachers, para-professionals, and media assistants. They've cut programs that help our kids and jeopardize our kids' futures. They're asking parents to shoulder more of the burden for their kids education and enrichment. . Yet they're spending the most money that they've ever spent in a single school year- and next year, they'll spend even more! . I'm running because I believe this is wrong. I believe our kids deserve the best education our tax dollars can afford. I'm willing to bring up ideas and discussion at the board table that spending more money should mean MORE programs for our kids. Not less! Don't you agree? . We can do better! http://www.jeremynielson.com
so sad October 25, 2011 at 11:30 AM
Sorry Jeremy, but rhetoric will not fix the problems. Be specific. I believe we have had enough of politicians who offer plans of change and hope without any substance. In response to the article, I have observed a loss of after school programs that were run by the media specialist. Catching up on clerical tasks after school, that were previously completed by the assistant, has been cited as the cause. Volunteerism in our building is half that of last year due to the economy. After a visit to the public library, I noted the different people I saw working there: Librarian Reshelver Circulation clerk Person who gets new books ready for checkout Computer technician Check in clerk (I assume there was a director along with others unseen) Our media specialists do all of these tasks, and then they TEACH our kids. I have 2 children in elementary school. I have observed that our wonderful media specialist cannot be in multiple places at once. Helping children choose books, conducting check out, working with them on computers, checking out books, maintaining the library, maintaining building technology, and assisting teachers with their needs are all going on simultaneously. I am not sure how they get it all done. Putting money into training volunteers is shortsighted and foolhardy.
lmc October 25, 2011 at 11:57 AM
At the high school level the media assistant cut is significant. The media assistant is irreplaceable by volunteers due to her knowledge of the technology utilized in the building. Anything from classroom videos; media center supervision and assistance to students with technology needs while in the media center; technology assistance to teachers and staff; checking out and in of media center materials; troubleshooting of techonology glitches and shutdowns = ALL these issues cannot truly be handled by a volunteer, no matter how well trained they might be. The media assistants were part of the secretarial union, which has received multiple, continual cuts - yet the residents of Rochester still expect the exemplary service they are accustomed to receiving from the Rochester Community schools secretarial staff. These cuts have been felt deeply at the high school level secretarial wise.
Jeremy Nielson October 25, 2011 at 12:41 PM
We may agree on more than you might think. Why is our school board "hoping" things get better? . In their own words: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrDNM2Wy_9Q . Our board is spending more money than last year, and more money than ever before... But we have fewer programs to help our kids? How can we spend millions more than just a couple of years ago - and yet we've had to layoff teachers, para's and media assistants? . Why will our district spend even MORE money next year? The board is warning parents that there will be more cuts: eliminating busing, athletics, Learning Consultants and Media Specialists (see the budget recommendations put off until next year on page 21: http://media.rochester.k12.mi.us/download/111912?token=OCaRojCyVwc%3d). All while spending goes up. . Hope isn't an effective budget strategy. . We have to get our spending under control. I've outlined several ideas on my blog www.jeremynielson.com/blog. One idea is to move to a Three-Year Rolling Budget, like the county, so you can forecast revenue and spending. How foolish is it to make 3 year contracts without a view of the fiscal picture 3 years out? . If my opponents have ideas on preserving programs and getting our district's spending under control, then by all means let's talk about it. I believe we should have a vigorous discussion of how to provide the best education our tax dollars can buy. . We can do better! http://www.jeremynielson.com/blog/?p=1142
Mike Reno October 25, 2011 at 01:18 PM
The elephant in the room is the one union that did not face cuts, but instead received a raise. Let's sidestep any discussions about "shared sacrifice" and note that even a "freeze" by that one group would've saved these media assistants. (And that "freeze", by the way, would've only impacted half of the group... the other half still would've seen increases of 7-10% in their contractual steps.) We all need to clearly understand that this was a CHOICE the school board made. They had a CHOICE between balanced approach, or instead giving raises to some, while issuing layoff notices to others. They weighed these choices, and made their "tough decision." I haven't looked at the numbers, but I'd bet that the bonuses given to that one group (described as "one-time payments off the salary schedule") would've been enough to save the media assistants. Make no mistake... this is all about choices made by your school board.
Kim K. October 25, 2011 at 01:29 PM
Our media specialist is phenomenal. But she cannot clone herself! She is doing the work by herself that two people used to do. We no longer have video announcements. This was a vital way of bringing the whole school together every day and creating a building-wide feeling of community. As much as I'm dismayed by this cut, I am even more fearful of next year -- I've heard they are looking at eliminating the media specialists.
Kim K. October 25, 2011 at 01:31 PM
Also, volunteers are not a solution. More and more parents who have previously stayed home to raise children are being forced by economics to return to the workforce. No parents at home during the day mean no parents in the schools volunteering. My daughter's first grade classroom had no one volunteer to be the Room Parent. We are just stretched too thin.
Kristin Bull (Editor) October 25, 2011 at 01:42 PM
If elected, Jeremy, how would you work to support the school media centers? I would also be interested in hearing the other candidates' thoughts.
Jeremy Nielson October 25, 2011 at 01:59 PM
Thanks for the question, Kristin! . First and foremost, we have to get our spending under control. Our budget is expected to go up about by $4-6 million next year. And our school board is talking about eliminating Media Specialists - 20 FTE's to save $2.7 million. Or eliminating Athletics to save $1.2 million. They're going to layoff 24 teachers to save $2.3 million. . Very simply, that sounds like a spending problem. After all of the "cuts", spending went up $3.5 million this year, and will go up again next year. . We can't cut our way to prosperity. We can't keep increasing spending without knowing what money is available. Our school board is making promises they can't keep, and our kids are being hurt in the process. I think that's wrong! . Inevitably, some anonymous and fake accounts will attack me, and not my ideas. But we need to have a vigorous debate about how we're going to spend $161.5 million to best meet the needs of 15,000 kids - and why we're spending more and getting less than last year. . I'm very interested to hear the ideas of my opponents, and how they want to address the issue. But I caution them - simply committing to "looking at the problem" is no commitment at all. . Perhaps this could be an article, similar to the "Council's Views on the new Sign"? The character limit doesn't allow a full exposition of this deep topic. . We can do better! http://www.jeremynielson.com
Kevin October 25, 2011 at 03:17 PM
I wish we could hear from more candidates besides Jeremy on this issue. Is the board really looking at eliminating media specialists?
Mike Reno October 25, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Kevin, I'm curious... doesn't it bother you a little that you even need to make that sort of comment... to "wish" that candidates would be out campaigning, and sharing their thoughts and perspectives? Where are these other candidates? They don't attend board meetings, they haven't gone to the podium and spoken on any issues. Their websites and printed literature is filled with generic platitudes. It's as if they toss their names in on a whim, and with help from the "in" crowd, will get elected. Of course, if they do come out, they have to face the sort of challenges Jeremy has faced -- including the snide comments and anonymous sniping -- which is probably why they remain hidden. But don't we deserve some feedback from these candidates? Kristen has made overtures (even here) to the other candidates for feedback, and I have not seen one single response from ANY of them, aside from Jeremy.
Kristin Bull (Editor) October 25, 2011 at 06:26 PM
Just to clarify: there is no plan to eliminate media specialists in the district. When Jeff Mozdzierz was presenting other district models for staffing media centers, he mentioned that, in some school districts, clerical staff run the media centers. In Rochester, media specialists are certified teachers; they manage the media centers and provide instruction. There is no plan to change that model right now.
Jeremy Nielson October 25, 2011 at 06:40 PM
I'm not so sure that's entirely true. . The district's finance teams - a separate team from Mr. Moz - has a rolling list of items identified and prioritized for elimination. You can see the remnants of the list on Page 21, here: http://media.rochester.k12.mi.us/download/111912?token=OCaRojCyVwc%3d . The items on that page were originally projected to be cut this year. The school board decided to preserve those programs for another year. In the meantime, funding for them was pulled from the "Rainy Day" fund balance. . Just so we're clear, here's what the Rochester school board and district are going to consider eliminating when this is brought up in May 2012... Here's what's at stake: - Teachers: Learning & Program Consultants (24 FTEs): $2.375 million - Non-mandated transportation (busing): $3.9 million - Athletics subsidy: $1.4 million - Media Specialists (20.6 FTEs): $2.7 million . Again, why are we going to spend more money next year, and we're going to end up with less to show for it? Why are we going to cut people and programs that help our kids learn, while we spend more money than this year? We have a stake in these decisions being made! . We can do better! http://www.jeremynielson.com
Joshua Raymond October 25, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Kristin, one media specialist I've talked with has expressed concern that media specialists will be eliminated or shared between schools.
Rochester Mom October 25, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Mike is right that the cut to the Media Assistants was a choice made by the BOE to balance the budget. The issue here is the BOE has made decisions that affect the student learning environment due negotiating an REA contract that our district could not afford. There would be more money in the budget for things like Media Assistants if the REA contract was for less money. Media Specialists cannot clone themselves and the ones I have known throughout the district are phenomenal who do not have the time to process books and teach. Parent volunteers (which I am one) in the Media center cannot replace trained, qualified, held accountable staff - whether that be the Media Specialists or Media Assistants. I agree, it is short sided & irresponsible to spend money to train parent volunteers. Many schools had parent volunteers even with the Media Assistants. It’s true parent volunteers are going back to work - making their schedules less consistent or flexible. Do we really want to be a district that relies on volunteerism to staff our Media Centers where learning to use Excel, Power Point, the Internet for research is taking place? What about having easy access to books for school projects & reports? The Board needs to examine their decision making and ensure that our students have the resources/tools they need to be college, career, life ready. Staff/teachers need to realize that if their contact is expensive, the reality is there is less money for other staff & supplies.
RH Mom November 04, 2011 at 02:15 PM
With possible intentions of bringing in "outside" volunteers (not affiliated with the school in anyway), do they intend to send them for background check and fingerprinting and make them pay for it as the do the staff? Safety could also be a big issue.

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