No Response: DCPS Libraries

[The following is an email sent by DC schools activist Peter MacPherson, in the wake of the DCPS FY19 budget hearing. It got no response from its direct addressee, Chancellor Antwan Wilson, nor any of the city education leaders copied, which include the deputy mayor for education, the chair of the city council, and the chair of the council’s education committee.]

From: Peter MacPherson
Subject: Ellington, Watkins, Amidon-Bowen, Etc.
Date: November 15, 2017 at 10:34:26 AM EST
To: Antwan.Wilson@dc.gov
Cc: jennifer.niles@dc.gov, pmendelson@dccouncil.us, dgrosso@dccouncil.us, callen@dccouncil.us, rwhite@dccouncil.us, twhite@dccouncil.us, lmarks@dccouncil.us, arobinson@DCCOUNCIL.US, jennifer.boudrye@dc.gov, brian.pick@dc.gov, straussv@washpost.com

Chancellor Wilson:

I didn’t have the chance to raise these issues last night [at the DCPS budget hearing], but they remain outstanding. And they require resolution. I spoke with the librarian at Ellington yesterday afternoon. She told me the shelving and circulation desk have not arrived and the LAN drops have yet to be installed. Because of the lack of computers in the library, students are having great difficulty printing items they need for their assignments. Putting aside the issue of the extreme inadequacy of the Ellington library space, it’s beyond comprehension why giving the Ellington library even bare bones functionality hasn’t been achieved nearly three months into the academic year. This bewildering lapse is negatively impacting students and shows that DCPS is not honoring its commitments to the professional trying to administer a quality school library program.

The issue of full-time librarians at schools like Amidon-Bowen and Watkins elementary also remains outstanding. Under the comprehensive staffing model, schools of this size are supposed to have full-time librarians, yet they do not. Lack of fidelity to the staffing model in this instance is not a trivial matter. The presence of credentialed librarians and properly provisioned libraries has long been shown in academic research to provide enormous benefits relative to literacy development. And bridging the funding gap for these two schools to have full-time librarians is a pretty meager sum, given the additional funding the council made available in the FY18 budget. You have not provided me with any explanation for why you are not addressing this lapse.

The purchase of library materials also remains outstanding. The fiscal year started October 1. Yet my understanding is that book orders are not likely to take place before the end of this month. Apparently the Memorandum of Understanding with DCPL [DC Public Libraries] remains to be completed. The lack of urgency in getting these materials to the schools makes the paucity of books in many school libraries even more acute.

Given the apparent timetable for ordering, schools will not see new materials before February [2018], which is more than half way through the current academic year. Early on, I raised with the problems inherent in allowing book ordering being tied to the start of the new fiscal year. And the current scenario is reason why.

DCPS has to do better. These are inexcusable lapses, and the stakeholder community is entitled to some urgency from you in resolving this situation.

Best,
Peter MacPherson

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