A million-dollar budget shortfall in the Tempe Union High School District has librarians worrying about their jobs and some Guadalupe students concerned about their school’s future.
Rising health insurance, other costs and declining enrollment, are forcing the district’s governing board to cut some expenditures for the 2007-08 school year.
Several weeks ago, Superintendent Shirley Miles introduced a budget draft that would cut $1.7 million in expenses — including halving the number of librarians at each school, and cutting instructional assistants and gifted-program coordinators.
Last week, though, the district learned it would receive more in state funding than previously expected, so Miles was able to spare some of the positions that had been on the chopping block.
The two gifted-program coordinators, a bus mechanic and a 1 percent increase in employees’ base salaries were put back on track.
But three librarian positions remain among the budget casualties.
Miles proposed keeping two librarians at the district’s largest schools: Mountain Pointe, Desert Vista and Corona del Sol. The other schools would be left with just one librarian.
Educators who spoke against the cuts at a meeting last week said librarians do much more than stock the library shelves. They help teachers select appropriate materials and help students find credible sources, formulate thesis statements and properly cite research — skills necessary for college, said Katie Carver, an English teacher at Corona del Sol High School.
Supporters of the educators said that with the amount of information available on the Internet, those skills are more important now than ever before.
“The suggestion to cut teacher-librarians is made nearly every time there is a budget shortfall,” said a visibly frustrated John Olson, a librarian at Desert Vista High School. “We had two librarians in the 1960’s and ’70s ... now we’ve got computers and databases, and cut them? It just seems we’re moving in the wrong direction.”
Another omission from the district’s budget has some Guadalupe students alarmed. Both budget drafts included no funding for Compadre High School’s Guadalupe campus.
The district acquired Guadalupe Regional High School from the Maricopa County Regional School District in the fall, after officials said they could no longer financially support the Guadalupe facility.
But enrollment at the school has dropped from 60 to 16 this year. Some students have transferred; others have been dropped due to poor attendance.
Seven students and a grandmother showed up at Wednesday’s board meeting to offer support for the school. The students said their teachers have helped them to move from feeling like “outcasts” to believing in themselves.
Adrian Florez, 18, said he was getting F’s and D’s at his old school. This year, at the Guadalupe campus, he’s getting A’s and has perfect attendance.
“Compadre has changed me directly. I’m a better person because of this school,” he said.
“At Compadre we never have fights, we never have drama. ... There was always a teacher to push me to do my work,” Leslie Valanzuela, 17, who transferred to the school from Marcos de Niza High School, told board members.
“I don’t think you guys should close Guadalupe satellite. Because if you do, I’ll have to go to a charter school, because I don’t think I’ll make it at a regular high school,” Valanzuela said.
What: Tempe Union High School District governing board study session
When: 4 p.m., Wednesday
Where: Benedict Education Center, 500 W. Guadalupe Road, Tempe
Topic: District budget