Part of the Bay Area News Group

A school library, brought to you by the PTA

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, December 18th, 2008 at 6:10 pm in curriculum, finances, middle schools, parents, students, teachers.


courtesy photo
 
When Russom Mesfun first laid eyes on Montera Middle School last year, he could not believe what he didn’t see.

“I was horrified to know that the school does not have a library,” said Mesfun, Montera’s principal. “I just could not conceive of it.”

Now it does, thanks to an $80,000 check from the school’s parent-teacher group  — which is technically a PFSC, not a PTA – that helped pay for a librarian.

The library, once locked up and abandoned, has an infusion of new books and recently opened for business. The kids “are borrowing like it’s going out of style,” Mesfun said.

Most Oakland schools have a library — or remnants of one — but it doesn’t do the students much good unless someone is there to open it up, to manage it, to help them find what they need. A parent of Cole Middle School told me this year that the school didn’t have a librarian. At least at one point, the Castlemont Business & Technology School didn’t have one either.

What happened? When did such basic aspects of education have to be underwritten by donors? And what will happen when schools are forced to make deeper cuts?

In any case, this is good news for Montera’s 900 kids, who come from all over the city and from all walks of life. “The kids like to read. They like that quiet place,” Mesfun said.

And now, at last, they have it.

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • chickensmama

    Our PTA also supports a library aide to run our library at this time. But what about Measure E money? Our school got $18K last year which initially was going to spent where it shouldn’t have been. But thanks to a tenacious parent, the money went back to the Library. Don’t these other schools have access to Measure E money? Or is it being spent for other things……it seems like that would be decent source of money for at least supplies, if not a part time aide.

  • Javier

    I am currently a Senior at Skyline High School and a proud Montera Alumnus. I vividly remember the Montera Library and am astounded that was not around since I graduated a mere four years ago. I know a fire left the 200 Building where the library was in partially closed for the second semester but I am pretty sure it was still open the spring of 2005. What exactly happened to the library?

  • Katy Murphy

    I don’t know what happened to Montera’s library. Maybe someone else can help answer that question. It’s possible that the librarian position was cut from the budget to pay for other things needed at the school.

    Montera is the only comprehensive middle school in Oakland that doesn’t receive Title I financial assistance — its low-income population falls short of the threshold — so its budget is very tight.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Welcome to the hard cuts that California schools have been facing for years and will continue to face until more funding is offered. SJ East Side Union District is cutting sports and Early Childhood Education. Priorities are being decided and it’s no longer the baseline I expected as a child. Tradeoffs are being made based on priorities so we better be in there helping them set the priorities.

  • Jim Mordecai

    On December 17, 2008 the State Administrator acting for the Oakland School Board approved 27 contracts called personal services contracts worth approximately one-half a million of District General Purpose money. This money is now contracted and off-limits for dealing with prioritizing cuts that the State is sure to make to education budgets throughout the State. Millions of dollars of General Purpose money has been put into professional contracts since the year began.

    Here are four examples of what the money was being spent on:

    Agenda item 08-2539 Professional Services Contract – Kimberly Moore – Melrose Leadership Academy
    Ratification by the State Administrator of a Professional Services Contract between District and Kimberly Moore, for the latter to provide Capoeira Classes for the period November 20, 2008 through June 10, 2009, in an amount not to exceed $5,000.

    Agenda item 08-3100 Professional Service Contract – Writing Wizard – Oakland Adult and Career Education
    Approved by the State Administrator of a Professional Services Contract between District and Writing Wizard, for the latter to providing coaching services to develop an equity and inquiry centered professional learning community that is data driven, results oriented, and supportive of both individual and collective learning in collaborative environment – for the period December 22, 2008 through June 30, 2009, in an amount not to exceed, $31,680.00.

    08-3115 Professional Service Contract – Oakland Small Schools Foundation – Learning Without Limits School
    Approval by the State Administrator of a Professional Service Contract between District and Oakland Small Schools Foundation, for the latter to provide coaching to build the capacity of teachers and staff to help students learn to resolve conflict on their own; use chants, rhythm and song to support instruction; reach out to parents to ensure positive attendance patterns and completion of homework; honor the culture of the students at Learning Without Limits School for the period of December 18, 2008 through June 14, 2009, in an amount not to exceed $35,616.00.

    08-3170 Professional Service Contract – Gibson and Associates – Oakland Adult and Career Education
    Approval by the State Administrator of a Professional Services Contract between District and Gibson and Associates, for the latter to finalize work on developing performance-based, authentic assessments that can be used to augment CASAs and other standardized assessments to fully assess Adult students learning gains, as specified in the Scope of Work attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference as though fully set forth, for the period December 22, 2008 through June 30, 2009, in an amount not to exceed $50,247.00.

    Jim Mordecai

  • John

    Why do rich Oakland hill school need library services when hill side mansions already have them!? Why couldn’t the rich kids invite the poor kids into their home libraries to borrow books until Montera has enough Title 1 entitled poor kids to afford its own library services?

    There was a full service library at Montera when I was there, so I guess Montera had a lot more poor kids back then.

    I remember having to choose to between spending my dime for a bus ride to school or a cake donut in Montclair. It was almost a two mile walk from my house to Montera! Times were rough in those days, but at least Montera could afford its own library until all the rich people moved in and the school could no longer afford it.

    P.S. I sure am glad it doesn’t snow in the Oakland hills! Can you imagine having to choose between frost bite and a cake donut?

  • Proud Parent

    THANK YOU to all who worked so hard to make this possible! It surely is amazing what can happen when someone puts their mind to it! Excellent achievement! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  • Maria Ku

    John,

    Montera Middle School educates kids coming from 50+ elementary schools from all over Oakland.

    Perhaps the funding cuts are due to the budget shortfalls as a result of the state administration of the district (inluding body guards salaries, pet projects etc.) You can’t seriously blame the lack of library access for the poor kids in Montera on the fact that more neighborhood chidren choose to attend their neighborhood school, but it appears that this is what you’re saying.

    Of course there are libraries in Oakland, including Montclair branch within 1 mile walk, but specifically those non-neighborhood kids (who are a majority at Montera) could never go there because their buses take them home from Montera only once a day, and they could never afford to miss their bus. This is why it was important to all Montera families as a community to enable access to the school library to ALL kids, irrespective of whether they live in the hills or in the flatlands.

  • Maria Ku

    One more thing, John:

    Montera has 878 total students with 40% free-or-reduced-lunch students, that is 878*.40%=351 poor students that more than most Oakland public middle schools. That is 351 kids from really poor families and NONE of Title 1 funds to support them.

    Your comments “Why do rich Oakland hill school need library services when hill side mansions already have them!? ” are completely inappropriate in this situation. School community came together to make sure to give everyone equal access to education at community’s expense, even when the state failed the poor kids once again.

    This achievement should be celebrated, not ridiculed!

  • former hills parent

    It appears from this high free or reduced lunch count that many of the neighborhood students do not attend Montera. Is this true? Have they moved on to private schools?

  • Former Student

    Oh yeah, they already have a great librarian, I guess he hired another one for kicks and giggles. Why didn’t they raise the $80,000.00 that will effect the students more directly like updated text books. I hope you did your research on this fellow, Katy. =)

  • Katy Murphy

    Hmmm… I don’t think these people were making the library re-opening up. I went to a meeting a year ago where prospective Montera parents were expressing concern about the lack of a functioning library there. It sounds like it was closed for a shorter period of time than Mesfun had thought, though.

  • Maria Ku

    Former Student:

    What you’re saying is not true.

    It’s only our 2nd year at Montera, but the library wasn’t functioning all this time and was ALWAYS CLOSED.

    The only employee that the district provided for the library is NOT a librarian but a library clerk whose duties SPECIFICALLY only include distributing textbooks. He is not a credentialed librarian and the OUSD rules specifically prohibit him from assisting students with any of their library needs. On the other hand, the same rules only allow the library to be open if there is a credentialled librarian present, but the OUSD budget does not allow for a librarian. Thus, the choices the parents faced.

    These $80,000 consitute most of the PFSC’s budget this year, and yes, they’ve been collected through bake sales, spaghetti feed etc., a dollar at a time. No kicks and giggles, just going to your kid’s school before and after work and doing your part to make sure ALL Montera kids are served.

  • Maria Ku

    From Mr Mesfun, Montera principal:

    The current library clerk told me this morning that the school did not have a librarian four years prior to his hiring in September 2006. This means that Montera had been without a librarian since 2002.

    Thank you,

    Russom Mesfun
    Principal
    Montera Middle School
    (510)879-2110

  • Jim Mordecai

    The Education Code clearly outlines that it is the responsibility of the local school board to establish and maintain school library services. The last four years that Montera (most likely many other Oakland schools) was without library services was a violation of the law. This period of time keeping the library open a responsibility of the State Administrator that was not fulfilled because the School’s library was not open during the schoolday. When Jack O’Connell turns over management of finances to the School Board, then it will be its responsibility to keep school libraries in the district open during the schoolday. I am not clear if charter schools have an equal responsibility to keep school libraries open during the schoolday.

    Jim Mordecai

    California Education Code:

    18100. The governing board of each school district shall provide school library services for the pupils and teachers of the district by establishing and maintaining school libraries or by contractual
    arrangements with another public agency.

    18101. The State Board of Education shall adopt standards, rules and regulations for school library services.

    18102. Libraries may be established and maintained under the control of the governing board of any school district.

    18103. The libraries shall be open to the use of the teachers and the pupils of the school district during the schoolday.

  • Nancy

    Measure G 2009 language re: funding:

    To attract and retain highly qualified teachers, maintain courses that help students qualify for college, maintain up-to-date textbooks and instructional materials, keep class sizes small, continue after-school academic programs, maintain school libraries, and provide programs, including arts and music, that enhance student achievement, shall Oakland Unified School district, without increasing he current rate, continue to levy its education special tax of $195 per parcel, commencing July 1, 2009, exempting low-income taxpayers, and with all money benefiting Oakland schools?

  • Former Montera Teacher

    This is so exciting! I was an English teacher at Montera for 2 years and had to collect donations of books through friends and family for my classroom. I always wished that the library had been open for my students to choose books for research and silent reading.
    I am really glad that Montera now has an operating library and a librarian to give students this opportunity. Way to go, Mesfun!

  • Jim Mordecai

    Nancy:

    Thank you for posting Measure G funding language.

    Measure E money is under transition to Measure G money. However, I believe the language for both Measure E and G is the same.

    The citizen’s committee that is to advise on the proper spending of Measure E money meets infrequently and there is no transparency on whether specific items for approval of expenditure have been vetted before the citizens’ committee or how the committee voted on items that come before the State Administrator/Board for final approval. The agenda just lists the item and the funding source as Measure E without indicating that the citizens’ advisory committee took a position on the item.

    Currently management of finances has not been returned to the Board so it is the State Administrator that has final approval on Measure E funding.

    Here are items pertaining to spending of Measure E money on tomorrow night’s agenda:

    08-2379 Professional Services Contract – Debra Hughes – Claremont
    Middle School
    OE-11
    Ratification by the State Administrator of a Professional Services Contract
    between District and Debra Hughes, for the latter to provide Professional
    Development and Coaching on Integration of Media into the Classroom for Staff
    at Claremont Middle School, for the period November 20, 2008 through
    December 19, 2008, in an amount not to exceed $11,500.00.
    Funding Source: Measure E
    Attachments: Document(s)
    08-2621 Professional Services Contract – Trena Noval – Peralta
    Elementary
    OE-11
    Oakland Unified School District Page 8 Printed on 1/ 11/09
    State Administrator and/or Board of Agenda (Long) January 14, 2009
    Education
    Approval by the State Administrator of a Professional Services Contract between
    District and Trena Noval, for the latter to provide support to students with grade
    level specific standards based instruction that integrates the model
    multimedia/visual arts and Core Curriculum; train teachers and students to work
    well with these tools in their classrooms; lead project reflection at the completion
    of each project; introduce both contemporary and historical art examples as they
    relate to the projects to expand student historical knowledge at Peralta
    Elementary for the period of December 15, 2008 through June 1, 2009, in an
    amount not to exceed $5,855.00.
    Funding Source: Measure E
    Attachments: Document(s)
    08-3025 Professional Services Contract – Laurie Polster – Robeson
    High School
    OE-11
    Ratification by the State Administrator of Professional Services Contract
    between the District and Laurie Polster, for the latter to provide arts integration
    coaching to teachers including group and one-to-one meetings to cover
    intergrated arts curriculum planning, resource gathering, documentation,
    exhibitions and presentation of educational framework for the period December
    12, 2008 through June 11, 2009, at Robeson High School, in an amount not to
    exceed $10,000.00.
    Funding Source: Measure E Arts
    Attachments: Document(s)
    08-3029 Professional Services Contract – Angela Wellman -
    Elmhurst Community Prep
    0E-11
    Ratification by the State Administrator of a Professional Services Contract
    between District and Angela Wellman, for the latter to provide Arts Integrative
    Services to Staff including co-planning and co-teaching lessons in order to bring
    the curriculum to life through the arts at Elmhurst Community Preparatory
    School, for the period December 12, 2008 through June 12, 2009, in an amount
    not to exceed $15,000.00.
    Funding Source: Measure E Arts
    Attachments: Document(s)

    08-3050 Professional Services Contract – Heart to Heart Music
    Productions – Instructional Services,VAPA
    OE-11
    Ratification by the State Administrator of a Professional Services Contract
    between District and Heart to Heart Music Productions, for the latter to provide
    four 45 minutes interactive music intergrated instructions to grades K-3 that
    builds character and promotes self-esteem and to provide two professional
    development sessions teachers and parent education workshops, for the period
    January 5, 2009 through June 30, 2009, in an amount not to exceed $5,000.00.
    Funding Source: Measure E
    Attachments: Document(s)
    08-3063 Professional Services Contract – Patrick O’Hearn -
    Claremont Middle School
    OE-11
    Oakland Unified School District Page 12 Printed on 1/ 11/09
    State Administrator and/or Board of Agenda (Long) January 14, 2009
    Education
    Ratification by the State Administrator of Professional Services Contract
    between District and Patrick O’Hearn, for the latter in the after school program to
    instruct the computer animation class at Claremont Middle School for the period
    of December 18, 2008 through June 11, 2009 in an amount not to exceed
    $24,000.00.
    Funding Source: After School Education and Safety (ASES) Grant and Measure E
    08-3304 Professional Services Contract – Luna Kids Dance, Inc. -
    Tilden Elementary School
    0E-11
    Approval by State Administrator of Professional Services Contract between
    District and Luna Kids Dance, Inc. for the latter to provide dance instruction;
    professional development in dance; documentation; consultation, curriculum and
    program planning, evaluation for the period January 15, 2009 through June 11,
    2009 in an amount not to exceed $5,000.00 at Tilden Elementary School.
    Funding Source: Measure E
    Attachments: Document(s)
    09-0018 Professional Services Contract – MOCHA – Manzanita Seed 0E-11
    Approval by the State Administrator of a Professional Services Contract between
    the District and MOCHA, for the latter to provide professional development for
    classroom teachers in arts-integrated learning and inquiry; development of an arts
    framework for a general curriculum approach known as Teaching for
    Understanding; and a short term artist residency to model arts-integrated
    approaches to math and language arts curriculum at Manzanita SEED
    Community School for the period of January 15, 2009 through June 30, 2009, in
    an amount not to exceed $5,584.00.
    Funding Source: Measure E Arts
    Attachments: Document(s)

    Many of the items above are justified and decisions were site-based. However, I disagree with site-based decision making when the basics of keeping open school libraries in Oakland is not followed and the taxpayers provided money to keep libraries open. I then it is the wrong priority that middle school must have parents at the school pay for a librarian when Measure E and Measure G make keeping open libraries a priority for all Oakland Schools. For when the taxpayers were asked to fund school libraries then were not fairly told that some schools would be left behind.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Maria Ku

    Jim,

    What can we do, realistically, to cure this situation? We sure could not come up with $80k every year, and the district just wouldn’t give us funds for the library. Any specific (and realistic) suggestions?

  • Javier

    “The current library clerk told me this morning that the school did not have a librarian four years prior to his hiring in September 2006. This means that Montera had been without a librarian since 2002.”

    I graduated in 2005 and I can say with absolute certainty that there was a library at Montera Middle School that students could go into.
    Did the library fall into disrepute along with the school during that post-Salamack pre-Mesfun time?

  • Maria Ku

    This is a documented fact that there was no librarian in Montera since 2002 and students could not borrow books. The library clerk was only authorized to issue textbooks and not books. The room of the library was used for meetings, as a room, and a clerk (available only to deal with textbooks) was there.

    I personally verified this fact with the school’s long-term employees and the records.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Maria Ku:

    Your question as I understand it was what can be done about the situation with school libraries not being open in the District. And, your question is also how can the District be held responsible for spending money from Measure E/G to keep libraries open?

    My reading of the Education Code is that the District is legally required to have school libraries open during the schoolday.

    You are certainly within your right to insist that the District follow the law by filing a Williams Compliant and providing the section of the Education Code the District is not complying.

    Getting the District to spend Measure E on keeping libraries open is a bit more problematic. It would take working with school board members and organizing a pressure group to make keeping libraries in all schools open.

    The following is taken from the District website and provides information for filing a Williams compliant or a uniform compliant for not complying with the Education Code.

    Jim Mordecai

    Complaint Procedures

    The Ombudsperson is responsible for the intake and monitoring of all formal District complaints. If you have a complaint about your school, please contact your principal. If you feel your complaint is not addressed, contact your school network leader. Formal complaints can be filed in this office.

    The Ombudsperson is also responsible for investigating complaints regarding discrimination as well as complaints concerning the program for English Language Learners (ELL) and retaliation for, or interference with, ELL Program advocacy. The Ombudsperson also coordinates Williams Uniform Complaints and serves at the Title IX Coordinator for Educational Equity.

    The Ombudsperson is also available to make presentations on the Uniform Complaint Procedures, Williams Uniform Complaint Procedures, and Sexual Harassment Prevention at parent advisory committee meetings and faculty meetings. The Office of the Ombudsperson also assist parents and community members to help resolve complaints informally. The Office of the Ombudsperson has staff who are Spanish bilingual. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office.
    Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP)
    For complaints regarding allegations of non-compliance with state and federal programs and/or for allegations of discrimination
    bullet Board Policy (BP) 1312.3 (doc) [English], [Spanish], [Chinese], [Vietnamese],[Cambodian]
    bullet Administrative Regulation (AR) 1312.3 (doc)[English], [Spanish], [Chinese],[Vietnamese], [Cambodian]
    bullet Complaint Form Level I (doc) [English], [Spanish], [Chinese], [Vietnamese],[Cambodian]
    bullet Complaint Form Level II and Level III (doc) [English], [Spanish], [Chinese],[Vietnamese], [Cambodian]
    Williams Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP)
    For complaints concerning lack of textbooks or instructional materials, teacher vacancy or misassignment unsafe conditions of school facilities , unclean bathrooms and/or CAHSEE Intensive Instruction and Services.
    bullet Williams UCP Administrative Regulation 1312.4 [English], [Spanish], [Chinese], [Vietnamese], [Cambodian] (doc)
    bullet Williams UCP Notice to Parents, Guardians, Pupils and Teachers 1312.4 (E1):Complaint Rights [English], [Spanish], [Chinese], [Vietnamese], [Cambodian] (doc)
    bullet Williams UCP Complaint Form 1312.4 (E2): [English], [Spanish], [Chinese], [Vietnamese], [Cambodian] (doc)

  • Joyous Julia

    How can you have a school without a library? Or without a librarian? It makes no sense. It really burns me up because a similar situation has occurred at the school my niece attends. I won’t mention any names, but this school recently got its WASC accreditation renewed and then gave the librarian the axe the next week. They claimed it was due to financial issues, yet they still threw a lavish Christmas party, golf tournament, and wasted money on other junk. The librarian was a wonderful mentor and now the students have to suffer. :(

    SALESIAN, YOU SUCK!
    Oops, forgot I wasn’t going to mention any names.

  • Karen

    I was the librarian from Sept 2001 – June 2002 as a stip sub but was full time. I was not credentialed so I couldn’t stay. The actual librarian was on administrative leave. The next year there was a librarian but she was so bad supposedly the principal closed the library to get rid of her. Don’t know if that was the reason why, maybe she quit. All she would do is sit in the back room and had no idea how to manage the computers.