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Librarians Forced to Step in for Public School Teachers

Sep 14, 2011

Atlanta Public Schools have seen better days. Budget woes, a cheating scandal and suspended teachers on paid leave have all led to an unlikely turn of events: librarians, some with little or no teaching experience, entering the classroom as educators. The Education Insider asks, Can things get worse for this beleaguered school system?

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By Harrison Howe

'Not Prepared to Teach'

Desperate times typically call for desperate measures. This is certainly reflected in recent events transpiring at Atlanta Public Schools (APS) as librarians are being taken out of media centers and placed in front of classrooms to replace teachers removed as a result of the cheating scandal which befell APS in July 2011. WSBTV, an Atlanta news station, reported that one library employee wrote in an e-mail, 'I haven't taught elementary level education in 21 plus years. I'm not prepared to teach the very children who have been cheated by the cheating scandal.'

Officials admit that the cheating scandal was an unforeseen crisis that the schools were simply not prepared to handle on a financial level. The paid leave for suspended teachers is draining the system, costing APS about one million dollars per month. In addition, APS faces the possibility of paying nearly one million dollars to the federal government. This figure represents money that was funded to the school for high test scores, scores which were registered invalid in the wake of the cheating scandal.

What else could go wrong for APS?

No Easy Answers

In the midst of all this, a $20 million shortfall has the school district trying to figure out how to cut $10 million from its budget. Despite assurances from the district's superintendent that APS will work through these problems, doubts remain.

Yes, more than 100 employees have been hired by the district, but not all of these individuals are teachers. And though just over 40 educators quit or resigned after the scandal broke, more than 120 remain on paid leave. What's more, it could be a lengthy process by which to fully rid the district of these employees. If they are fired, Georgia state law allows them to request a hearing.

Meanwhile, librarians are brushing up on their teaching skills as APS asserts that suspended teachers will not ever return to their former positions. Does the librarian situation represent long-term answer? No, but at this stage it's the only answer APS has come up with. And despite the superintendent's assurances, it may be the only solution available for the immediate future for this cash-strapped school district.

Unfortunately, the cheating scandal in Atlanta is not the first, or only, of its kind; find out more about how these types of occurrences impact students, teachers and administrators.

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