Why Are DC Public School Librarians Being FIRED? We Are An Educational Necessity
School librarians hold the keys to educational success coming out of COVID. But the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) system is continuing to try and dismantle the DCPS School Library Program by "excessing" their school librarians.
School librarians like me are not only seekers of knowledge in the form of questions and answers including, extensive research, but we are givers. We took an educational oath that places high value on each student, parent, educator, and community member we encounter. We are not only agents for educational growth and change, but we are mentors, parental figures, social workers, and reading buddies for students of all abilities and starting-places. We encourage and empower children (and entire families) to read, question, and think broadly about texts. You may be asking yourself, then why are librarians being terminated?
Please sign the petition to send your message to the DCPS Chancellor Ferebee and Deputy Mayor Paul Kihn today.
This loss of school librarians is a crisis for all of D.C students. Ward-by-ward it is a tragedy. Predominately black areas of the District of Columbia - Wards 7 and 8 - have been left with gaping educational holes because they lack school librarians. As a Washingtonian and black male librarian, I make up less than 1 percent of librarians. When my students see me, they see themselves and they also see books that display characters that represent them. My brilliant library colleagues have developed relationships with the Smithsonian, The White House, Dignitaries, International and Domestic Ambassadors, CEOs, Public Servants, and most importantly, students, parents, and educators, just to name a few. They have created peaceful restorative justice spaces in their libraries, robust book clubs, outdoor libraries, and student and parent advisory boards.
We cannot afford to lose more of us, especially as we are focusing on reversing learning losses post-COVID. My colleagues and I focus every day on teaching with technology, engaging with literature and reading, and creating interesting programs that meet students where they are at. During this difficult year, I know DCPS librarians who have hosted author talks with New York Times Best Selling Authors, arranged virtual public and private museum field trips including to places like the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), where students studied their genealogy with a genealogist, hosted cooking demonstrations with award-winning chefs, and made wigs with their students for cancer patients. I am happy to be a listening and comforting ear for my students to bring calm, peace, love - and a beautiful book. It is our personal and professional mission.
We know that the Constitution grants equal educational opportunity for each person, regardless of race, ethnic background, religion, or sex, or whether they are rich or poor, citizen or non-citizen. According to DCPS policy, librarians are classified as a "Level 2 staff member," which means "flexible with petition." Essentially, schools are not required to maintain the position if they state a case for the reallocation of that money to other needs. But we know that having a certified librarian in each school increases readership and overall educational outcomes for students and families. We cannot be quiet, any longer. We need your voice to be loud, strong, and always peaceful. Please join us in reminding the Chancellor, principals across all 8 Wards, and City Hall that DCPS students need their librarians. You can send an email today at the #DCPSNEEDSLIBRARIANS petition page today.
Author Christopher Stewart is a 4th year school librarian in DCPS and proudly serves the Columbia Heights Education Campus | Bell High School community in Ward 1.