School board warns of further budget restrictions
A wheelchair-bound Saint Lazare woman who has worked as a librarian for the Lester B. Pearson School Board for the past six years recently learned that she will most likely be out of work as of July 1.
Samantha Lamb has run the library at Pincourt’s St. Patrick Elementary School, working 8.75 hours a week spread over two days, since she delightedly found what she called “the perfect job.” The CEGEP trained librarian who has mobility issues from Spina bifida, a birth defect causing an incomplete closing of the backbone and spinal cord, as well as cerebral palsy, said she was “shocked” to recently receive a letter telling her she may no longer have a job. The school board sent notices to 18 librarians working in 36 elementary schools. The workers fill nine full-time jobs. Librarians working in the board’s high schools are not in danger of losing their positions, said LBPSB chairman Suanne Stein Day, who explained the move comes as the board faces more than $14-million in overall budget cuts. In addition to the 18 librarians, who are considered support staff, seven support staff employees from the board’s head office also received notice letters. Though the English school board was not directly compelled by Quebec’s education ministry to cut primary school librarian positions, Stein Day said some support staff positions were chosen in an effort to trim an already hurting budget. “We’re one of the most efficiently run school boards in the province… we have no more fat to cut,” Stein Day said, adding, “the loss of the librarians will be deeply felt. They add a ton of value.”
Filling the gap
Though no final decisions in filling the gap left by the librarians have been made, Stein Day said they will look at asking high school librarians to “share their wealth of knowledge” at the elementary schools. Parent volunteers, trained by librarians including Lamb, are also expected to help ease the transition. Lamb said her job consisted of making all book purchases for the school, coordinating parent volunteers, maintaining and updating the catalogue and offering literacy help to students, as well as teaching the youngsters how to correctly search for usable information, among other things. “It’s very sad. I loved guiding children and teaching them to access information. It was very rewarding,” Lamb said, noting that she will miss the students the most. A change.org petition asking the LBPSB to ‘reverse the decision to cut all librarian jobs’ had been signed by 1,890 supporters in six days. ‘We must continue to encourage and value literacy an education! Our schools’ librarians’ passion, knowledge and skill benefit our children and are essential in the curriculum,’ the petition states. The school board will present its preliminary budget on June 29. In addition to the lost jobs, the board, which is in the midst of a major school change consultation process, may consider school closures and canceling educational programs. For now, Lamb, who is thankful to live with her mother, will look for other jobs that she can access through the Vaudreuil-Soulanges adaptive transportation network. She is also considering doing volunteer work and possibly going back to school.