District limits textbook purchases

By Courtney Minter

In drafting teacher Helga Brown’s class, senior Lauren Mizner takes notes from a PowerPoint on Friday, Nov. 11 instead of using a textbook.

Sarah Fulton, Sydney Wilson, managing editor, reporter

 Due to a shortage in budget, some teachers have been recently forced to use in-class sets of textbooks or work with no textbooks at all.

English teacher Ashley Agre currently uses an in-class set of 30 books in her Pre-Advanced Placement classes. With roughly 120 students total, she is required to read the novels during class time and have students do all work for the novels inside of class.

 “It really stunk for the students because they only have four class periods to read it,” Agre said. “There was not enough time for discussions or activities that would have benefited the students.”

 According to Agre, in order to purchase some new novels, the English department has begun sending old novels to be sold through the district.

 Senior Jessica Praiswater uses an in-class set of textbooks during her Consumer Education class.

 “I usually have to take notes in class because I know I do not have a textbook,” Praiswater said. “Sometimes I cannot listen because I am taking notes. I do not think I get as much out of it as if I was just reading it.”

Director of curriculum, instruction and assessment Kim Barney says that there is currently no set process for teachers to request textbooks, but there is a general chain of command. Teachers should first contact their building textbook coordinator to see if there are copies in storage. If there is not, the coordinator contacts Barney at the district office, who checks with other schools in the district. If books are still not available, Barney asks for approval from the school board to purchase the books.

According to associate principal Jennifer Smith, who manages textbooks at the school level, money that textbooks are purchased with comes from three different places. Books can be bought from the district textbook fund, the school budget or from the individual department funds.

“When it comes to our textbooks, our district has done a very good job,” Smith said. “It has listened to our teachers and found the money to support our needs.”

The money the district uses for textbook purchases comes from fees that students pay. However, according to Barney, due to the recession, more students have free or reduced fees leading to less money in the budget.

“Our goal is a book for every student in every class,” Barney said. “However, we have to prioritize.”

According to Barney, core classes, classes that every student takes, receive a higher priority when purchasing materials because they benefit all students. They are also more likely to be under the scrutiny of state curriculum.

“Funding is tight. We have to be fiscally responsible,” Barney said. “We have a duty to state testing.”Not under the scrutiny of state testing, the new career and technology education classes were denied the option to purchase textbooks last year. Technology teacher Patricia Brock was part of creating the new classes.

“We were just told that textbooks would not even be an option,” Brock said. “I think the feeling was that we could find online resources just as beneficial as a textbook.”

However, Brock says that the it is difficult to find resources.

“We are just doing the best we can. I don’t think people are understanding how hard it is to teach something when you don’t have a base,” Brock said. “We spend so much time looking for materials, we are not learning.”

According to social studies department chair Jeff Wieland, during the adoption of new social studies classes, there was a clear message that textbooks would not be provided.

“It was a situation where, for those classes we formed, that there would not be money provided for textbooks,” Wieland said. “In today’s world they are expensive items.”

Barney said that she and the teachers decided that other resources would be a better option, and those resources were provided. Barney also said that when a teacher or department is denied books, it is not complete no, but simply a delaying of the purchasing of the books.

Geography, taught by social studies teacher Kelly Warren, received Maps 101, an interactive map program, in lieu of textbooks.

“I am certainly grateful for Maps 101, but for some of the simpler concepts I think a textbook would be beneficial if the students had a textbook as a reference,” Warren said.

Science department chair Mary Beth Mattingly was in a similar situation a few years ago. According to Mattingly, during a routine textbook adoption, the science teachers were given the option to purchase an in-class set of books and use the remaining money to purchase equipment.

“Science is always in need of equipment and supplies, “Mattingly said. “We were looking at a significant amount of money, that we felt would be very valuable to get those supplies.”

The science teachers choose to use the money for equipment. According to Mattingly, in theory, it was a great idea, but when teachers began using the books, problems arose. If a student checked out a book and did not return it the next day, there was a shortage in the next period. Online versions, of the textbooks were difficult to use because of access issues and students not being able to flip back and forth between pages. Also, despite check-out procedures, books went missing.

“Teachers were saying, ‘Why can’t students have their own textbook?’ It would eliminate so many issues,” Mattingly said.

After a few years, the department was provided with new books.

“If you want to call it complaining, I guess that is what it essentially what it was,” Mattingly said. “We just kept going to learning services and saying, ‘No, this does not work’.”

Barney took over textbook management in July and since then has changed few aspects. However, she is currently looking to develop a set process that teachers could use to request textbooks and increase communication.

“We are trying to figure out what has been done in the past. Then our goal would be to get more of a process clearly articulated,” Barney said. “Our goal is to make sure teachers and students have the resources they need to effectively teach and learn while being fiscally responsible.”

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