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Staffing Strains on Library, School

By Rutul Patel
Published: November 2010

Due to Newton’s ongoing fiscal deficit, South staffing has suffered several cuts, forcing the library to close during Monday J Blocks. Principal Joel Stembridge noted that this is not an isolated incident and believes it is only a matter of time until budget cuts hit the classroom.
Though financial troubles have already begun to put a strain on staffing, Stembridge is committed to minimizing their impact on students and teachers.
“Both North principal Jennifer Price and I are determined to have the [budget] cuts impact the classroom as little as possible, he said.
Following up on this promise, Stembridge made departmental cuts instead of possible course and teacher cuts; the secretarial and library departments and the administration took the heaviest hits.
One assistant principal position was cut, leaving Mary Scott to fill the role of Vice Principal, as well as one secretary position was from the main office. The library also had about $6,000 cut from its budget.
As a result of these cuts, the library now has no department head and has one part-time librarian, Marnie Bolstad. With less staffing and an increased number of students, the librarians were forced to initially keep the library closed during Monday J Blocks.
“The problem was that staffing was reduced, so as a result of that there wasn’t enough supervision, Stembridge said.
“We have almost 250 kids in the library on an average J Block, and we just don’t have enough librarians to cover all the kids, Head Librarian Dorothy McQuillan said.
South budget cuts come as a result of a citywide financial crisis. Mayor Setti Warren’s office released a statement on October 18 predicting a deficit of as much as $8 million by fiscal year 2012. This deficit would result in cuts to the school system, among other city needs.
Stembridge attests that though this is nothing new, improvements are a long way off.
“You’ll see that there are less staffing positions at South than years before, and going forward, the budget looks bleak, he said.
The school system has been hit hard due to cutbacks for several years now. Two years ago, the Wellness Department suffered a large cut which dropped both teachers and courses. This year, the administration is looking to cut more positions, the exact number of which is yet to be made clear.
The librarians, however, are making ends meet with the resources they have available. After being relieved of their advisory duties, which were transferred to other teachers, they have more time in their schedules for other work.
“The librarians don’t just manage the library floor– they have curriculums that they [collaborate on] with teachers, like the freshman history papers, Vice Principal Mary Scott said. “They don’t just tell the kids what to do. They’ll demonstrate how to work everything, from the search engines, to the online textbooks and the physical materials, and [are responsible for] managing the website.
To alleviate the staffing burden, the administration transferred campus aide hours to the library in hopes of reopening it for student use Monday afternoons.
“We have to ensure enough supervision; it took us a while to find a way to do that. We took a few aide hours from other areas and added eight hours to the library, Stembridge said.
Monday J Blocks in the library are expected to return in the near future as soon as all the final adjustments are made. Beyond these J Blocks, however, the library is also planning to open earlier in the morning.
“We are hiring the aide to make the library available at 7:10 AM in the second semester, Scott said.

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