Most recent meeting minutes will appear at the top of the page.
BEP Meeting Minutes
April 2, 2008
Cranston High School West

Zach opened the meeting at 4:10 with introductions.

Barbara Ashby asked for an update on districts around the state with regards to lay-offs that are a violation of the BEP. The situations is different districts were discussed. She asked for a copy of the Woonsocket waiver request and suggested having a lawyer look at the wording of the BEP. She stressed that this fight must be on the basis of a reduction of minimum services, not a loss of positions.

Action items from previous meetings were reviewed. Political action suggestions:
  • write letters
  • encourage parents to write letters
  • have a cell phone party for a mass calling session
  • have elementary school students write letters as an activity
  • contact Jack Reed’s office to see if he will talk to Commissioner McWalters
  • organize a rally on National Library Legislation Day at the state house (Barbara will find out if a permit is needed)

A lobbying workshop given by James Parisi of the Institute for Labor Studies and Research is scheduled for Monday April 14th from 6-8 pm at the NEARI building at 99 Bald Hill Rd in Warwick. The cost is $20/person. RIEMA members can attend.

Susan Bryan suggested having the conference keynote speaker talk about the Seattle moms’ fight to keep school libraries open.

There will be a BEP information table at the conference and a room has been reserved for volunteers to meet after the conference. Is anyone willing to be the main contact person for this group?

Barbara Ashby is spearheading the Board of Regents presentation. The next meeting is on April 10th on the 5th floor of the Shepard building at 4 pm.

Zach introduced a letter Donna Good received from Linda Wood concerning a conversation Linda had with Lt. Governor Roberts in which the Lt. Governor expressed her concern for the future of school libraries in RI. Barbara will contact Jennifer Wood to follow up.

Zach questioned whether we should focus on one item, such as the waiver issue, at this time or whether we want to have a broader agenda as we move forward.

The meeting adjourned at 6:15.
Submitted by,
Beth Grabbert

Meeting Minutes
Cranston High School West

Donna Good opened the meeting with introductions by all attendees.

She referred to the packet Barbara Ashby had distributed at Monday’s meeting and reviewed the documents.

Legislation affecting school libraries was discussed. Commissioner McWalters has said that when the BEP is rewritten, library media representatives will be notified and included in the process.

The waiver issues in Providence were discussed. Donna read the section of the commissioner’s decision letter stating why the waiver request was denied. The steps the Providence librarians took to fight the waiver request were discussed, particularly the collection of data to support their case.

Barbara Ashby, Peter Quesnel and Esther Wolk are going before the Board of Regents on Thursday, March 13th to address the current elimination of positions and waiver request in a number of districts.

Suggestions for action were discussed including;
  • the possibility of hiring a lobbyist
  • the need for hard data to present to Commissioner McWalters. Donna Good suggested having a RIEMA member chair a committee that would collect and compile the data.
  • the possibility of extending invitations to the RIEMA conference for district superintendents and RIDE
  • having parents, students and teachers speak before the Board of Regents.
  • speaking to the conference keynote speaker (former president of AASL) for more information.

Next steps:
  • It was agreed by all that the current waiver issue must be addressed immediately.
  • Zach Berger and Donna Good will speak to Jamie Greene about organizing a program at the RIEMA
conference on lobbying.
  • Dorothy Frechette will speak to COLA.
  • Susan Bryan will contact Heidi Blais about sharing letters she has written in the past in support of school
library media programs and staffing.
  • Donna will ask Phyllis Humphrey to contact Mark McKenny at the Library Board.
  • Sue Murphy and Michelle Hicks will work on developing a brochure promoting school library programs.

The meeting adjourned at 5:45 pm.

Submitted by,
Beth Grabbert

RIEMA Special Meeting 3/10/08
Warwick Public Library
Barbara Ashby, LMS, George J. West Elementary School (Providence) Facilitating
The meeting began at 4PM, after attendees helped themselves to refreshments generously provided by Sarah Krause. Barbara introduced herself and said that she had experience regarding the issues at hand. She encouraged the attendees to introduce themselves. Each attendee stated their name and school affiliation.
Barbara passed out a packet containing the names and addresses of all of the key people at RIDE and the Board of Regents, including their contact info. She mentioned that one of the Board of Regents’ duties is to set standards for school libraries and school library services. The packet also contained info regarding NCLB, and an AASL publication linking school library services and NCLB. Barbara urged attendees to refer to these items whenever addressing legislators and policy makers.
Barbara mentioned that the school library is NOT mentioned in the Graduation by Proficiency guidelines, and that is very troubling. School libraries need to be in the minds of people who are developing proficiency levels and curricula.
Marjorie Main, a librarian from Woonsocket, has been researching library guidelines and found that 2004 Regulations mentioned library services as a necessary component from the Board of Regents regarding the outline of school day structure.
Barbara opened the floor for discussion regarding the BEP.

From my point of view, unfortunately, they don’t care. We can try to make them care, but every year is a battle. This year it’s very bad. Hundreds of people showed up to testify before the Board of Regents regarding the special education issues - we’re going to have to become a lot more political. “What happens at the State House is what happens in the school house.” We need to get out there for all legislation that affects SCHOOLS negatively. The Paiva-Weed legislation is troubling and affects all teachers. When they ask you to write to your legislators, please do that! A concerted effort may make a bit of a difference. It’s a tough battle. With the money situation right now, school libraries are not a priority.
Making sure libraries are in the discussion and that we have them in the BEPs. We have to make sure that the importance of libraries is documented. What happened to that legislation where they developed what constituted an “essential” education?
Barbara asked what kind of two-pronged approach we should use? We’ve been having union meetings to discuss the pieces of legislation out there attacking public education. They’re very unsettling.
Ideas discussed/thoughts expressed
It’s such a general problem that we need to be more political. We need to fight for funding for public education as well as for libraries. We need to be more proactive than we have been in the past.
Write your legislator. Getting hold of all of those folks is really important.
State of RI website – there’s a list of contact info for state legislators.
Your own Email would be more effective than mailing a form.
You have all different levels – postcards, phone calls…they each have their own effectiveness. A form postcard is nice…but 300 form postcards is better.
Send people a link to the legislator address page to make the process easier.
We need to be inclusionary rather than exclusionary…to work together to make a statement. We need to mention specifics rather than making a vague statement. We need to appear to be educated voters for the most effectiveness.
Letters with bulleted lists would assist people who are not as familiar with the issues.
If you are a teacher in the state of RI, you had better be concerned. If you are a UA (Unified Arts) teacher in the state of RI, you had better REALLY be concerned.
We do have the BEP on our side. What we have found is school departments tramping all over the BEP – One strategy for us (because we have that) would be to push at all different levels – do school departments need an awareness campaign regarding the BEP? If they knew that we had this situation in Providence, why would they keep trying to remove librarians?
One thing that’s frustrating is the political game-playing. It drags on and on…they hope that you’ll just give up and go away. We don’t want it to get to the point where those schools have no library service, and we sit around and wait for them to “rethink” the BEP. It took two years to have the issue in Providence resolved. They can go ahead and examine the BEP all they want, but don’t deny services in the meantime. You don’t throw out a law because you’re going to revise it. It’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The entire state is in an emergency situation as far as education is concerned.
How long have they been saying that they’d review the BEP? They promised that they’d involve RIEMA…we can’t just sit around and wait for it to happen.
Do the superintendents know that there’s a BEP? Or do they just not know that it applies to libraries? Should we inform the superintendents about the BEP regarding library staffing and services?
Current/Proposed Staffing Cuts
Some discussion ensued regarding elementary library services and Providence librarians’ victory regarding the BEP. In the situation regarding the cutting the high school positions, the Board of Regents stated that a waiver could be granted ONLY if the district could prove that they could provide the same level of service with fewer personnel. Budget issues were NOT a valid reason for a waiver. The district was unable to prove this point, so services were restored. However, although the high school positions were restored, elementary positions were cut and librarians at schools with populations less than 500 were “split” between schools.
Coventry librarians volunteered information regarding the BEP and the situation in Coventry – any school with a 6th grade is regarded as an elementary school. If your population falls below 500, they can cut your position or halve it. Rumor has it that the deputy commissioner has granted a BEP waiver to Coventry so that they can cut a second librarian position from a high school of 1800. An update regarding this issue was requested.
Schools currently affected by staffing cuts (unrelated to school closures):
Coventry – 2 out of 8 high school and middle school positions cut
Woonsocket – has cut all of its elementary positions and one middle school postion (7 of 9 total positions)
North Kingstown – has cut 1 LMS position
Newport – has 2 librarians serving 5 schools
Scituate – has 2 part time librarians serving 3 elementary schools
Bristol/Warren – 3 out of 8 total positions proposed to be cut
Burrillville – mentioned, but no figures available
Chariho – avoided cuts by being responsible for Gifted and Talented Program
Cranston – no layoffs, but they are planning to move 6th grade back to the elementary school and not planning to hire additional staff. They’re looking at a bare-bones schedule of just library classes to accommodate the additional students
Barbara – We need to concentrate on strategy. What are we going to do? What steps will we take?
1. Go political. Write letters to legislators. Show up for causes. Attend meetings, attend rallies.
2. RIEMA + League of Women Voters – workshop on lobbying?
3. We need to get other people to write on our behalf. Teachers, parents…
4. Petition? (at the RIEMA conference)
5. Should we join forces with public libraries? Many of them are facing similar issues.
6. How will library cuts affect federal funding? Perhaps this is a good question to ask legislators.
7. Should we reach out to the press? Barbara – it’s hard to get the press…but it would be great.
8. Be proactive. Keep positive stats about you patronage/figures/usage/circulation.
9. Informational table at the RIEMA conference – with statistics, figures, action plans, petition
10. Enrichment is important to parents – reach out to your PTO.
Everything should be phrased in terms of how student achievement would be affected.
Barbara requested volunteers to speak at Board of Regents meetings. The important thing is for us to be consistently visible.
Some librarians said that they would attend on March 13th to see how a meeting is conducted and to get ideas about how to speak in front of the Board.
To appear before the Board at a particular meeting, go to the website and request to be on the agenda for public remarks…you need to be added to the agenda. Barbara is going to ask about the Coventry waiver and ask who has the authority to grant waivers.
The meeting concluded at 5:30 PM.
Respectfully submitted –
Pamela Laurenzo
LMS, Perry Middle School, Providence