Overwhelmed media specialists from Palm Beach County public schools are pleading for help, stating their jobs are getting to be too much to handle, including dealing with book bans.
The specialists, or so-called “library squad,” went before the board Wednesday, wearing red shirts.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Education
“Many media specialists now are considering leaving, going back to the classroom, even paying to have their media certification removed from their teaching certificate,” the media specialist from Timber Trace Elementary in Palm Beach Gardens said to the board.
Many said they have felt supported by the district in the past but are now asking for change, stating there’s not enough time to successfully complete their jobs, which now include the new state legislative tasks on evaluating books.
“I love my job and I love my students, but something has to give,” the Marsh Pointe Elementary media specialist said. “I am not able to help them find their just right books and foster their love of reading because I am a slave to the vetting process. I don’t want my students to suffer.”
The specialists said they’re not trying to go against what is being asked from them, but instead that they need help in order to get those tasks done.
“An elementary school media specialist they might have morning duty, afternoon duty, lunch duty, plc (professional learning community) duty and they have to teach 7-9 classes with standards-based lessons a day and if they don’t have a media clerk then they’re also running the entire library,” Lisa Seymour, the advocacy chairwoman for the Educational Media Association, said to the board.
Seymour went before the board with the following requests:
Funds to assign a media clerk to every library media specialist
Ensure media clerks are kept in the media center and not utilized elsewhere in the school
Relieve media specialists from morning duty, afternoon duty, lunch duty and professional learning community coverage
Elementary media specialists to only be on “the wheel” half time
“My school for example has 1,130 students at the elementary school level and I see every child,” the media specialist from Barton Elementary School in Lake Worth said. “It’s an incredible task, it’s an incredible joy but the joy is being taken from us. And we’re not able to do the truest part of our job, which is helping students to find their love of reading particularly our struggling readers, which we know there are plenty in Palm Beach County.”
The School District leadership said they understand recent legislation has made media specialist jobs more complex and they are meeting with them next week to see if they can collaborate on a possible solution.
“I empathize and my heart goes to educators right now who feel they don’t know what their rights are,” Pranoo Kumar, the owner of Rohi’s Readery in the Square in downtown West Palm Beach, said.
The social justice-driven children’s bookstore is hosting a workshop called “Everyday Reading for Joy & Justice'” on Thursday to fight back against what Kumar said is a censorship of teacher voice.
“There’s all of this policy and all of this work that’s coming out that people are not really understanding what OK my rights are? What can I do, what can I not do? and so we don’t want people to stay in a place of fear. We want people to be activated to do good work in a place of empowerment,” Kumar said.
The workshop will take place at the Rohi’s Readery at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“When you’re taking away their ability to do what they have come to do and what they love to do, you’re creating a process that no one really wants to be a part of and that’s how you’re going to lose really great education media specialists,” Kumar said.