CPS board warned of drought of librarians

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There is a drought of librarians at Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Board of Education heard Wednesday.

“Professionally staffed libraries, a key contributor to student literacy, are disappearing from the CPS landscape,” CPS mom and librarian Megan Cusick told the board.

Staffing projections show more than half of all CPS schools will lack a certified librarian next year, Cusick, a librarian at Jefferson Alternative High School told the board.

She later told reporters the projections were made by a group of Chicago Teachers Union librarians using data collected by the union.

And despite promises from the district, Cusick said 31 of the 50 schools that received children from closed schools do not have a “professionally staffed school library.”

“Hundreds of thousands of CPS students will leave this system lacking the full range of 21st century skills that are required to succeed in college, work and life,” Cusick said.

Cusick and other librarians and advocates appeared before the Board of Education after creating a task force out of “alarm and concern for the elimination of nearly 50 CPS librarian positions,” Senn High School librarian Ellen Damlich said at the meeting.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told the board there’s a lack of qualified people to fill librarian jobs.

She said CPS is working with universities to determine who is on track to be certified.

“It’s not that we don’t want to have librarians in libraries … but the pool is diminished,” Byrd-Bennett said.

Later, Cusick said certified librarians have been moved out the libraries and into classrooms, but she hopes to now work with the district to get the librarians back into libraries.

The board took no action regarding libraries, but it did approve a softer Student Code of Conduct that will reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions throughout the district, moving it away from a “zero tolerance” disciplinary policy and toward less punitive “restorative justice” practices.

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