HISD to eliminate librarians, turn some libraries into discipline centers at 28 campuses

HOUSTON – Houston Independent School District will be eliminating librarian positions at 28 schools this upcoming year and utilizing some of the libraries as ‘Team Centers” where kids with behavioral issues will be sent, the district announced.

This comes as part of the new superintendent Mike Miles reform program, New Education System (NES). Currently, there are a total of 85 schools that have joined Miles’ program, and of those, 28 campuses will lose their librarians. The district said they will have the opportunity to transition to other roles within the district.

The remaining 57 NES schools’ librarians will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, according to the district.

Retired HISD Teacher in Charge of Library, Lisa Robinson, believes the library is full of some of the greatest stories ever told.

“It was such a joy to help them find the perfect book,” said Robinson.

She said those stories are now ripped to shreds.

“My heart is just broken for these children that are in the NES schools that are losing their librarians,” said Robinson.

Librarian positions have been an ongoing debate in HISD. Robinson said the former superintendent, Millard House II, made efforts to keep library staff.

“The mandate for librarians had been put back in place. With one swipe of a pen that has been destroyed,” said Robinson.

Superintendent Mike Miles said students are behind on reading levels, especially in 4th grade.

Former HISD Librarian and Manager of Library Services, Janice Newsum believes eliminating librarian positions could hurt reading performance even more.

“When students engage in reading as an activity of choice, they are not only building that reading muscle, but they are also developing their vocabulary they are understanding a bit about the world that exists outside their block radius,” said Newsum.

Mayor Sylvester Turner believes the move is unacceptable.

“You don’t close libraries in some of the schools in your most underserved communities, and you’re keeping libraries open in other schools,” said Turner.

“Our less fortunate students are the ones that suffer the most; primarily because many of them live in situations that are reading deserts. They don’t have access to the reading materials. They don’t have a choice in the reading materials that they are given to read,” said Newsum.

The district said the libraries will not be closed, just used for different purposes.

Some of the library spaces will now be turned into “Team Center,” designed for students to work individually or in teams throughout the school day. Students with behavioral issues will also be placed in the Team Center where they will be able to join their class virtually.

The libraries will now be available to students who are dropped off at school before classes begin or after school before they go home.

KPRC2 reached out to the superintendent’s office for comment about why eliminating librarian positions are necessary. District officials said Superintendent Miles will be taking questions during his family event at Sugar Groove Middle School on Thursday at 6 p.m. He will have another family event Saturday, July 29 at West Briar Middle School at 9 a.m.

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