By Conrad Dudderar
In a split vote, Yukon Public Schools’ Board of Education has agreed to apply for “deregulation” through the Oklahoma Department of Education to continue having one certified high school librarian.
YPS board members, at their May 12th meeting, approved the library media services secondary school application by a 3-2 vote. Leonard Wells and Suzanne Cannon voted “no.”
The plan will keep the number of certified librarians at Yukon High School at one, instead of two, for up to three years.
The state Department of Education requires a regulation application when a district is “changing the standard of library services for their size school.”
Wells, YPS board president, has previously voiced opposition – and voted against – reducing the number of librarians in Yukon schools.
State education department standards require “at least two, full-time certified librarians/media specialists” in any secondary school with 1,500 or more students.
“To provide the service that’s expected out of a library or a librarian, that’s the level you need,” Wells said.
YHS has 2,558 students enrolled in grades 9-12, including in-person and virtual. The school has one librarian and library aide staffing its library.
“I like to follow the standards that the Oklahoma Department of Education puts out,” Wells said. “My opinion might change if the Oklahoma Department of Education changed their recommendations.
“My wife was a librarian, and after I retired, I volunteered in the library. So, I know a little bit about what it takes to run a library.”
YPS initially reduced the number of certified YHS librarians during the 2015-16 school year owing to budget cuts and staff reallocations.
“Unfortunately, libraries are always one of the first ones to get ‘hit’ whenever there are budget cuts,” Wells said.
The YPS library deregulation application provides this reason for the request:
“In an attempt to focus every possible resource in the classroom, with a particular concern about class sizes and the capacity to serve students, we annually conduct an exhaustive process of every possible program and expenditure related to personnel, which of course, constitutes the overwhelming majority of our expenditures.
“We have proven our ability to successfully meet the needs of students in regards to library services with our current staffing ratios by partnering with our teachers, our principals, our library media specialist, and our curriculum team.”
The Oklahoma Department of Education over the past decade has allowed school districts to apply for deregulation “because of the changing scope of the libraries and the technology,” YPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said.
The school board’s approval of this application will not any personnel at the YHS library, Simeroth told board members.
“We still have aides, and we still have other personnel there, but they’re not a ‘certified’ media specialist,” he explained.
The YHS library deregulation results in an estimated $50,000 annual cost savings – funds that are applied to classrooms.
“Our library has substantial digital resources, further enhanced by each student utilizing a Chromebook provided by the district,” according to the application. “A well-organized IT (information technology) staff provides timely support for all of our digital resources.”
YPS officials ensure the high school library remains open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily and does not close for lunch.
They believe the YHS library truly does “function as the heart of the school” and operates very similar to a “self-service concept,” according to the deregulation application.
“Because of the design of our high school library, the extensive digital resources available to individual students, and the experience level of our current librarian and library aide, we have proven our ability to provide substantial resources to students and teachers in relation to our library services.”
The state education department also grants deregulation requests to school districts in other areas.
For example, Dr. Simeroth referred to the YPS alternative school where the school day schedule is abbreviated to “fit the clientele better.”
A deregulation or statutory waiver may be granted for as many as three years.