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School media workers celebrated in April

Photo by Curt Yeomans
Lee Street Elementary School Media Specialist James Campbell (right) talks to kindergartners about a book the children are about to have read to them in the school's media center on Friday.

Photo by Curt Yeomans Lee Street Elementary School Media Specialist James Campbell (right) talks to kindergartners about a book the children are about to have read to them in the school's media center on Friday.

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Lee Street Elementary School Media Specialist James Campbell wears many hats.

Campbell said he, with assistance from Media Paraprofessional Roger Desjardins, teaches children how to look up library books, and how to use online databases. He said he also reads books with students, and goes over vocabulary with them. He added that he acts as a troubleshooter for teachers whenever they are experiencing difficulties with a piece of technology in their classroom.

"Primarily, I'm here to support the education of children," Campbell said.

The spotlight turns toward school media specialists during the month of April, which has been designated as "School Library Month" by the American Library Association, and the National Education Association.

According to the American Library Association's web site, "School Library Month" is designed to honor media specialists and the work they do in their schools every day. This is the 25th anniversary of "School Library Month," according to the web site, and this year's theme is "Communities Thrive @ your Library."

Suzanne Mittenzwei, a media specialist at Dutchtown High School, who also coordinates the selection of Henry County Schools' "Media Specialist of the Year," said "School Library Month" is important to media specialists because it makes them feel appreciated.

"I think it means there's a great value placed on what we do every day," Mittenzwei said. "I think we should take it as an opportunity to highlight the services and programs that we offer to students."

She said media specialists help implement Georgia Performance Standards, particularly for reading, by working with children to develop those skills, and by helping teachers with the technology, such as computers, that is used to help students learn.

"We collaborate with teachers, to try to support and enhance instruction," she said.

As "School Library Month" is observed this year, however, budget restraints are weighing on the minds of Clayton County school media specialists. Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley is proposing the elimination of the media paraprofessionals in the county's elementary and middle schools, and reducing the number of media specialists in the high schools from two down to one.

Heatley insists his proposed budget reductions for the system, which will total $84 million by 2012, are necessary to offset a deficit which could grow to $119 million by July 2012, if nothing is done to address the issue.

Campbell said he would have to give up many of the hats he wears if he no longer had a paraprofessional around to help him. Desjardins was absent from work on Friday. As a result, Campbell had stacks of books -- 150 books total by 1:30 p.m. -- to check for damages after being checked back in by students.

He could not get to them as they came in, he said, because he was busy giving reading presentations to students.

"I feel like the most important thing I do is working with students to improve their reading skills," Campbell said. "The reason why I can do that is because he [Desjardins] is here, checking kids in, and checking them out, and helping children look things up ... I will not be able to do as much teaching next year if he is not around to help out."