Testimony of Deborah Grill to the BOE, August 20, 2020

Action Item 13, concerning the contract for the purchase of new furniture for Powel Elementary and Science Leadership Academy Middle School, indicates that the school will have 32 classrooms, special education and small group instruction spaces, music, art, makerspace and science labs, but no school library. I find it ironic that a school that is a joint venture with Drexel University, an institution of higher learning that offers specialties in library and information science and information systems, would not include a school library.

Drexel understands the importance of libraries and librarians to learning. It has 3 libraries on it campuses. It describes them as “dedicated to providing access to authoritative information regardless of format, to building learning environments and to making connections across disciplines.” I am astounded that a quality school library program is not part of the PSLAMS plan.

Many of the students of this new school will go on to higher education, maybe even at Drexel. Without a quality school library program, how will they know how to access the information that a university library contains? How will they be able to compete with students who do—students who have had access to a school library program?

Without the instruction of an information specialist, also known as school librarian, how will the students of this school, or any school in the District, know how to identify and use valid sources of information both print and electronic; distinguish between fake news and the truth; become acquainted with the many specialized academic databases; and find literature that excites and inspires them?

How will the Powel Elementary school students be able to encounter the wide variety of books they will need to kindle an excitement of reading and learning if they don’t have easy access to a comprehensive collection of reading materials in a wide range of reading levels? A child’s reading skills improve when they have access to books that they enjoy. Research over the past 25 years has shown a positive correlation between the existence of a high quality library program staffed by a certified school librarian and academic achievement, especially in schools that serve children living in poverty.

Dr. Hite has remarked many times on the importance of using only proven instructional strategies, but over the past 20 years the District and its superintendents have ignored this proven strategy while wasting its limited funds on a revolving door of edu-vendors, consultants and ineffective corporate ed reforms that do nothing for students. Board ​members, tonight, you can take a small step in stopping that waste by voting NO on the contract with KJR consulting and start using those funds to invest in real best practices including restoring professionally staffed school libraries in every school. ​