Pasco County media specialists are rallying Tuesday to oppose a proposal that would restructure their job duties and shift many from library and technology support roles to the classroom.
Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning says his budget plan would eliminate 100 media specialists, literacy coaches and other support staff, saving $8 million. The media specialists would not be laid off, but many would be shifted into classroom teaching positions.
The school district is facing a $23 million shortfall in the 2013-2014 school year.
In the old days media specialists were known as librarians. They still manage the library, but they’re also teaching students how to use PowerPoint and other software essential for school and business.
Media specialists also keep school technology running smoothly.
“Who’s going to take care of the iPads and the iPods…and run to the classroom when teachers have the iPads and none of them are seeing the network and they can’t get online?” asked Marilyn Shafer, a media specialist at Gulf Middle School in New Port Richey. “[A teacher's] whole lesson has fallen apart unless somebody can respond immediately.”
School district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said the district is reorganizing its media specialists, rewriting the position requirements. If the school board accepts Browning’s budget proposal, the district would still have 30 media specialists working regionally among schools. The district currently has 58 media specialists.
Media specialists will be particularly important over the next few years because of several fundamental changes in Florida schools.
The first is the switch to new education requirements known as Common Core State Standards. These standards focus on fewer topics, and not only ask students what they know but require them to prove how they know it.
Media specialists will be crucial to training fellow teachers about the standards and making sure schools are correctly implementing them. At an education technology conference in January, a Palm Beach County media specialist told a room full of educators that if they had a question about Common Core to seek out a media specialist because they’re getting additional training.
Common Core testing will be online, requiring schools to upgrade their computers and tablets and Internet bandwidth. Media specialists will need to make sure those machines are running properly.
The standards put an increased emphasis on reading, particularly non-fiction and “complex texts.”
The standards are scheduled to take effect in the fall of 2014, with the new test replacing the FCAT that school year.
In 2015, Florida’s new digital instruction requirement kicks in. Florida schools must deliver at least half of their classroom instruction through digital means, including electronic textbooks, portable computers and other high-tech means.
Pasco County school officials said they recognize media specialists are necessary and that they will help train county teachers about what Common Core standards require.
“In light of the new computer-based assessments, as well as expectations for digital teaching and learning, we know schools cannot function without technology and literacy support,” assistant superintendent Amelia VanName Larson told staff in a YouTube message last week.
Pasco County media specialists are planning to oppose the proposal at a school board meeting Tuesday. The board is scheduled to vote on the budget proposal at its May 21st meeting.