Words: Miranda Mason
On May 12 at 7:00 p.m., the County Council will hold a public hearing on the Education portion of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Budget. This will be the last opportunity for Howard County residents and employees to make any public testimonies about the Education Budget for next year. After the public hearing, written testimonies can still be emailed to the entire Council until they make their final decision in late May.
The FY 2016 Education Budget became the focus of protests from HCPSS staff and students after a line in the budget was added that would eliminate media support staff from schools. At a Board of Education hearing on the budget on Feb. 28, media specialists from high schools across the county gave speeches detailing the detrimental effects reducing media staff would have.
Despite these protests, the Board of Education passed the budget without changing the line in question and will send it on to the County Executive and then the County Council for final approval.
If the County Council passes the Education Budget as is, the media secretary position in HCPSS schools would be eliminated, leaving media centers staffed with two media specialists. Media secretaries currently serve to keep media centers open and functional throughout the day, which leaves media specialists free to teach classes and work with teachers.
If the media secretary position was eliminated, this would require either the media center to remain closed while media specialists fulfill their teaching duties or for media specialists to keep the media center open throughout the day in exchange for reducing or eliminating their time spent teaching students media literacy and research skills.
According to Centennial Media Specialist Linda Norris, both of these scenarios would hurt students.
“The bottom line is that not having a full media center staff– three of us– will ultimately affect students’ achievement,” said Norris. “There won’t be the coverage in the media space which allows for certified media specialists to work with students and collaborate with teachers.”
Norris added that students and staff who are protesting the decision to eliminate the media secretary position are now turning their attention to the County Council. According to Norris, anyone who is against the current FY 2016 Education Budget is being encouraged to email their testimony to the entire Council before they make their final decision.
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