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Backups shelved at Burbank elementary schools

Officials look for new plan to staff the ailing system after union rule comes to light.

November 13, 2013|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com
  • File photo
File photo

Burbank's elementary schools will no longer be able to rely on volunteers to work at libraries that lack a staff librarian, putting an already anemic system further into limbo.

Due to deep cuts to education funding in recent years, Burbank Unified officials did away with the library assistants or clerks who once worked full time at all elementary schools.

Schools who couldn't afford to pay for an assistant turned to parent volunteers or teachers to assist students to check out books. Others rely on federal grants. The library at Jefferson Elementary pays for its assistant this year with money earned at its book fair.

Three Burbank schools — Disney, Edison and Emerson — have shuttered their libraries all together. Stevenson's library remains open, but children are unable to check out books.

On Thursday, Burbank Supt. Jan Britz proposed hiring 11 library assistants to work three hours per day at a total cost of $126,500. Her proposal was spurred by a memo sent by Mary Hyman, who is president of the district's classified employees union.

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Hyman, in the memo, reminded administrators of a union contract prohibiting employees without library duties in their job descriptions from assisting students with checking out, returning or shelving books.

As a result, some schools have stopped using staff members, teachers or volunteers for the work, officials said, closing or reducing service at four district libraries.

"It recently came to our attention that not only could volunteers not work in the libraries and staff the libraries, but teachers couldn't perform the duties that were being done by a classified employee who was appropriately designated for that position," said Tom Kissinger, director of elementary education.

School board member Larry Applebaum said that state education code and district policy maintains that libraries should remain open to teachers and students during the school day.

"Nowhere does it say, only if a classified employee is there to perform the services required," he said. "So I am unbelievably offended by the report that I have here…where I see that we have schools we have allowed to shutter their libraries…we have no right to do that."

"[Education] code says many things," Britz countered. "Bargaining units can take what [education] code says and make it more restrictive. Our bargaining units say that for those kind of jobs, it needs to be a classified employee."

Hyman declined to comment for this story.

The board did not vote on Britz' proposal, choosing to bring the issue back for discussion on a future agenda.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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