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An Open Letter to the Woodbridge BOE

A little bit of background for all of you that have no clue what’s going on:

The Woodbridge Township School District Board of Education has voted to eliminate ALL school librarians for the 2017/18 school year.

A public hearing has been scheduled by the Woodbridge Township Board of Education to discuss the 2017/18 school year budget on Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 7:00 PM at Avenel Middle School, 85 Woodbine Avenue, Avenel, NJ.

LET YOUR VOICES BE HEARD!!!!

——

Dear Woodbridge Township School District Board of Education,

My name is Kailynn, and I am a proud resident of Woodbridge township. I am also a high school English teacher in NJ. While I am not yet a parent, I am truly concerned about the state of Woodbridge Township’s public schools, and the impact the Board’s decisions will have on both current and future Woodbridge Township School students.

Through the New Jersey Library Association, I recently learned that Woodbridge Township School District Board of Education has voted to eliminate all school librarians for the upcoming school year. This would be a devastating blow to not only the youth of our town, but to our community as a whole.

Literacy in America has been on a steady decline for the past few years. As a fourth year English teacher, I have seen my students enter the 11th grader with less and less proficiency in their reading and reading comprehension skills. While I may not be a statistician, I am an English teacher. Every day I see how my students have grown through out the school year. I believe I large part of this growth is the fact that I have made it a priority to have my students read independently at least once a week. Without the availability of a library or a friendly librarian to help them find a book that interests them, my students certainly would not be reading on their own. I am horrified to even imagine what their education would be like without the opportunity to develop key literacy skills. The removal of all school librarians would leave an irreparable hole in the education of our township’s youth. It would be simply shameful for the Board to allow this to happen, let alone support such a preposterous idea.

The students of our township deserve the very best. After all, the vision statement of our school district is to “engage the entire community in instructing and inspiring our students to be successful and significant beyond our classrooms.” Without the support of a school librarian, how can we even begin to come close to this vision?

School librarians do more than organize books. They teach our students to be avid learners, to research topics of interest and importance to the world, and to become better citizens of the world. School librarians create strong educational bonds with teachers in order to help students discover digital and print resources, as well as help develop research projects. Curriculum is further enriched by the knowledge and expertise of school librarians.  To destroy these positions would be a tragedy.

Woodbridge Township School District claims that their mission statement “is to develop, through a technology infused curriculum, life-long learners who are responsible citizens prepared to make positive contributions to the global society. We are committed to engaging all members of the community in the process of providing a learning environment that fosters interdependence, embraces change and values diversity. “ If the school district is so determined to develop life-long learners and responsible citizens, the district should undoubtedly keep their school librarians. Getting rid of such vital members of the school community would be a complete travesty, and a disappointment to both the school community and the Woodbridge community as a whole.

Our students deserve better than this. I want them to read. I want them to succeed. I want our students to do well in life. I’m sure you feel the same. After all, any teacher or parent’s goal is to see their student succeed.

Before I end this note, I hope that you will consider the following facts about literacy in America.

  1. 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70% of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level.
  2. 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.
  3. Kids who don’t read proficiently by 4th grade are 4 times likelier to drop out of school.
  4. As of 2011, America was the only free-market OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country where the current generation was less well educated than the previous.
  5. Nearly 85% of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, proving that there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime. More than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate.
  6. 53% of 4th graders admitted to reading recreationally “almost every day,” while only 20% of 8th graders could say the same.
  7. 75% of Americans who receive food stamps perform at the lowest 2 levels of literacy, and 90% of high school dropouts are on welfare.
  8. Teenage girls ages 16 to 19 who live at or below the poverty level and have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than the girls their age who can read proficiently.
  9. Reports show that low literacy directly costs the healthcare industry over $70 million every year.

(Facts from “11 Facts about Literacy in America.” DoSomething.org | Volunteer for Social Change. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2017.)

I truly hope that you will consider the severity of the Woodbridge Township School District Board of Education’s vote to eliminate the remaining three school librarian positions. Not only do these esteemed educators deserve better, but so do our students. It would be a disgrace to be a part of a township that supports setting up current and future generations for failure with the removal of school librarians.

Thank you for your time, service, and consideration.

Sincerely,

Kailynn

 

 

Breaking up sucks.

Today, I broke up with my students.

A few weeks ago, my supervisor asked me to take over a college-level writing course when another teacher leaves to teach abroad in the new year.  The catch is that I’ll be trading two of my periods for the two periods of this class.

I had to wait for different approvals to go through, and for different red tape to be crossed, but, at the end of last week, the change became officially approved.

I knew it was coming, but that didn’t stop me from crying in my car the entire commute home.

You see, I genuinely love my kids this year. There’s not a single one I can imagine my school year without, and to have it confirmed that I’ll be losing 52 students (two periods worth) genuinely hurts.

I also love these kids enough to know that this transition is going to suck for the both of us. It will work out in the end, but, in a district where so many of the kids have dependency issues and emotional reliances on their teachers and adult role models, the kids are going to have a tough time with the news. I knew they needed to know ASAP, so I drafted a letter to their parents and guardians, and made today Doomsday.

I spent an unreasonable chunk of time Googling “how to tell your students you’re leaving” this weekend as well. If you ever have the misfortune of Googling this, this post and this post are helpful. Nothing else is. These are geared towards youth pastors, but I found them to be true for urban ed teachers.

Google apparently only thinks teachers tell their students when they're leaving or pregnant.

Google apparently only thinks teachers tell their students when they’re leaving or pregnant.

In my first class, I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t hide my nerves, and, when I told them that my supervisor had asked me to teach another class in the new year, they started crying. Crying. I didn’t know what to expect, except maybe irrational teenager screaming and arguing, but I didn’t expect crying. That made ME cry. I jokingly yelled at them for making me cry, and one student sniffled and said, “But Miss. You care about us!”

Then, the next class cried too. I cried more. We all cried. Then laughed. Then cried. Then they wrote a petition, and I told them they were acting like immature teenagers, and they laughed and rolled their eyes at me, and then we laugh/cried some more.

Today was emotional.

You see, I do care about my students. As I told them today, whether it be in January when they get a new teacher, or whether it be 20-something years from now when I hopefully have teenagers of my own, my kids will always be my kids. Nothing changes that for a teacher, ever.

I’m currently an emotional wreck, as emails of support and sadness have been pouring in from parents and guardians tonight. I’m glad I wrote a letter to them, as it shows the level of respect and love I still have for both them and their students. I’m just overwhelmed by the respect and love they’re giving back to me.

Breaking up with students sucks.