August 6, 2017

Easy Like Sunday Morning: Onward

Please note:  This post is a detailed account of some events that have recently taken place in my life personally and professionally.  This post is solely my views, voice and words of expression.  
Background
I love the title and the musical arrangement of, ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning,’ written by Lionel Richie of the Commodores for a number of reasons.  It brings me back to a time when times were good and life was simple.  I remember listening to this song over and over again with my late father.  It was the 70’s and my dad, still holding onto his precious 8-track stereo in his dodge van, would play music to pass the time while driving.  Because we were a family of five, flying was too expensive and out of the question.  Instead we piled into my father's van and traveled to 48 out of the 50 states before I turned 16.  Overall, music was our solace and made our destination seem not so far away.  

While I'm writing this post, I'm listening to, ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning,’ and yes, things will never change. 



Easy Like Sunday Morning:  Onward

My News
My family is my backbone and my greatest support.   So when family needs you, you respond.   Recently, my sister contacted me because she needed some help with her two young children.  Keep in mind, it is very difficult to support a family member who is in need when they live so far away.   After securing a library position near her home, I made the final decision move to the east coast.  With many regrets, I resigned as Lead Librarian for the East St. Louis School District (ESTL)  in East St. Louis, Illinois.   

While I'm happy that I will be able to support my sister better, I'm saddened that I will be leaving a great group of children behind.  Through my position as Lead Librarian, I was afforded the opportunity to visit each school library within the district.  This gave me the opportunity to interact with the children from many of the the neighborhoods throughout the city.   As a woman who does not have children of her own, I always lived vicariously through the many smiles, the energy and the innocence of the children I served.  These moments made my day and brought me inner happiness and joy.  I'm also saddened that I'm leaving my high schoolers behind, especially the students in my Anime Club.  These students helped me build a dynamic Anime collection which is truly the center of the East St. Louis Senior High School library program.   Though we are going to remain in touch, I am going to miss the daily interactions with these kids.  


The People
The city’s nickname, ‘The City of Champions,’ describes its citizens accurately because East St. Louisans are a very proud group of African-Americans.   The city of East St. Louis is located off of the Mississippi river, east of the city of St. Louis, Missouri and currently has a population of 27,000 people.   Historically the city of East St. Louis, Illinois was the scene of one of the bloodiest race riots in the 20th century.  Racial tensions and violence was at its highest in February of 1917.  During that time,  470 African American workers were hired to replace white workers who had gone on strike against the Aluminum Ore Company.  (1)  This lead to the East St. Louis Race Riots where men, women and children were killed.  


On a more positive note, there are very notable people who either are from or resided in East St. Louis throughout their career.   Some of the famous people from East St. Louis are performer Katherine Dunham, Rock and Roll artists Ike and Tina Turner, Senator Dick Durbin, and Jazz musician Miles Davis.  Known as a strong powerhouse for athletics within the St. Louis metro east area, East St. Louis is known for producing athletic talent like Olympians Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Dawn Harper-Nelson and attracting recruiters from  top universities from across the country.  A current example of this is, ‘All-American,’ center Jeremiah Tilmon, a recent recruit to the University of Missouri to play for their thriving basketball program.  


Working in ESTL
I'm very proud of the work the was completed during my two year tenure.  I'm even more proud that the children now have a school library that they can call their own.   Academically the school district has had some major challenges.  Up until 2014, the district had been on academic probation for over 25 years for reading/math scores and falling in the lower 10% of schools within the state of Illinois measured.   Since 2012, the district has been under financial and operational control by the Illinois State Board of Education’s Financial Oversight Panel.   Test scores have slowly begun to rise as a result of new leadership and academic support programs that are in place.

School libraries had been previously closed for eight years within the ESTL School
Weeding project at ESTL Senior High (summer, 2016)

District.  The administration responded to requests of the community and wanted these libraries re-opened under the direction of a librarian that had prior experience with retrospective conversion for libraries.  My former principal, now Deputy Superintendent supervised the ‘re-birth’ of these libraries that began in the fall of  2015.  When I arrived two years ago, I learned quickly that there were no marc records, no electronic circulation system or research databases.  Even worst was the collections had been moved to the classroom libraries by the staff in the absence of a certified school librarian.  There was allot of work that needed to be done.

The administration and school board was very generous and financially invested funds towards a very tedious retrospective conversion project where over 75% of the books had to be imported into the Alexandria circulation system manually.   They then
purchased Gale and Teachingbooks.net and JSTOR for student research and inquiry.  Lastly, they loaded $12,000.00 per school for the purchase of Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpre and popular books students would enjoy reading.  You see, I'm a firm believer that if you want to get reluctant and struggling readers reading and improve reading scores, you must provide kids with books that reflect their race/culture, written by authors of color and books that celebrate their personal interests.  I know this is the winning formula because at every school I've worked at during my tenure in Chicago Public Schools kids reading improved, they read more and test scores rose.  You can read more about my past work in a School Library Journal article I wrote earlier this year called, “K.C. Boyd: A Leader for Readers” .


Bumps Along the Way
While working on rebuilding the school libraries in ESTL, I learned that the district was void of a school library culture.  Teachers and staff wanted a certified librarian but many of them didn't exactly understand all that it entailed having one.   When I arrived
Importing books into the Alexandria system manually
in the district, it was at the cusp of a teachers strike where the teacher had not had a raise in several years.  My salary was scrutinized heavily and many didn't understand why a librarian should be paid so much and to work year round. I totally understood and respected the resentment.  If I hadn't had a raise over a period of time I would have been upset too but with the administration, not any individual.   When the treatment from certain staff members became a bit, ‘too much,’ I had to keep things in perspective.  Some did not care for outsiders and some just didn’t like me at all.   To help keep me grounded, I read Luke 23:34 and focused on the goal of providing a library program and equitable access to books and technology.

Some of the teachers and staff didn't understand why I was ‘gone all of the time,’ or ‘always sitting at my circulation desk.’   The retrospective conversion project for all of the schools took eight months to complete.  I was onsite at each school working side by side with the librarians who had never had the experience of completing a retrospective conversion project.  I also had to visit all of the schools and help them set up their libraries for student use.  As for sitting all of the time, librarians understand this is an age old complaint by those who work in schools where our classroom teachers, ‘stand,’ during instruction. A librarian's work involves working with students at the circulation desk, instruction and upkeep of the collection.  In my case, along
with the above, moving/importing/deleting marc records for all of the schools called for me work at my circulation desk or in my office at my desk.   Those of us working in the library world understand this and the logic, but for a group of teachers who had never experienced a re-birth/ retrospective conversion project, it was hard to understand.  Remember prior to my arrival, ESTL lacked a school library culture.  So this meant educating and sometimes re-educating the learning community on the positive benefits of a strong school library program.  

Last year was the first year that all ESTL school libraries within the district circulated books. The librarians and I received some push back regarding books that were checked out and taken home by the students.  Despite this and with heavy emphasis by the librarians about the importance of taking care of books, we had a overall good year with circulation.  It was an absolute joy for me to see the looks on the students faces when they checked out books and returned for more.  Especially my Anime Club who were such avid readers of not only Anime but other genres.  Despite some of the ups and downs, criticisms and yes silliness, the work was still done by the librarians and I prevailed and had a great year.  You can view the before/after pictures along with our circulation numbers for the school year here.  Over 15,000 books were checked out by ESTL students at eight schools, not bad for our first year!  2016-2017 ESTL Circulation Report


I thank God for Google Maps!
Onward
The 14 hour drive from the St Louis to the D.C. area is one I will never forget.  I had very patient movers who tolerated packing all of my personal belongings, mounds of teaching supplies and listening to two screaming cats as we drove through the mountains of West Virginia at night.  I haven't seen those steep hills since I was a child!  I will miss many of the administrators, teachers and employees of ESTL who were kind and encouraging especially when we thought we would never see the end of the retrospective conversion...you know who you are because I’ve thanked you many times over and over again for your support!

New Teacher Orientation
After working for two years in a dual position of administration and libraries I learned allot about myself.  I really prefer working with children, find myself frustrated when working with some adults, yet enjoy training librarians.   This decision has helped guide me in selecting my next job.  Despite offers from a public library and the offer to teach at a major university, I have some personal goals as a librarian that I still want to accomplish while working with kids.  Plus, my opportunities to train librarians may be presented to me in the future and in a different way.  With this belief I'm happy with my decision to accept a school library position working for the Washington D.C. Public School System.  

My Loves!
I'm happy that I will be working with a group of students in this district who need it most.   Many of these students mirror the students I’ve taught in Chicago and East St. Louis so I feel like I’m on familiar ground.  I'm excited that I will be opening a new chapter in my career working in a field that has helped me personally develop into a more outgoing and outspoken person.  I'm relieved that will be closer to my sister and will be able to read and play games with my niece and nephew every day.  Overall, I'm pleased with the decision I've made to move to the east coast.  I'm still working in a library and having those insightful ‘conversations at the circulation desk,’ with students and that alone in itself makes me happy.  


References
1.  BlackPast.org.  East St. Louis Race Riots - http://www.blackpast.org/aah/east-st-louis-race-riot-july-2-1917
2.  School Library Journal. ‘Leader for Readers:  K.C. Boyd.
3.  ESTL 2016-217 Circulation Report.  

8 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new position and your new beginnings! I first encountered you through LJ Movers & Shakers a few years ago, and I have been inspired by you every since.

    L. Allen

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  2. Congratulations on this major life & professional transition! What a blessing to be close to your sister and your niece & nephew. I have loved your Instagram & look forward to more insights & inspirations! ❤️ - Valerie (valley39)

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  3. Welcome to D.C.! I work right across the river in NOVA.

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  4. Congratulations Dr. KC! You are a great Leader Librarian! You inspire others to step out of our comfort zones and try new adventures! Best to you in your future endeavors! Please stay in touch!

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  5. Congratulations on your new endeavor! You've accomplished much and the students will never forget what you've done for them~

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  6. God bless, God speed my friend. Susan Beacham

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  7. ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning,’ is one of my favorite songs! Congratulations on your move to Washington DC. and the new job with DCPS.

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  8. You are such an inspiration in the library community! Congrats on your new position and enjoy!

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