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BATTLE BREWS OVER GRANITE'S PLAN TO TRIM MEDIA SPECIALISTS

Media specialists around Granite School District are planning to fight a proposed cutback that could cost some of them their jobs.

Backing them at Tuesday night's board meeting will be Parent Teacher Associations, parents, children and other concerned groups.At the board meeting June 5, a proposal was made to restructure elementary school libraries with one specialist for every five schools. The proposed budget cut would save the state's largest district $400,000, according to proponents. But more than 27 library teachers would be displaced, leaving only 13 providing library services for the 63 schools.

Kent Gardner, director of public relations for Granite School District, said all displaced media workers are likely to be given jobs in other areas. The district is increasing teacher positions because of class-size reductions. He said the cutback is now necessary to help reduce the budget by $2.3 million and Granite is actually only cutting where other districts have already made cuts.

"There is tremendous pressure on us to play in the same ballpark as other districts like Jordan," Gardner said.

The media program will be affected by the proposed cuts, but the district will study its effects as it moves forward and make adjustments, Gardner said.

The proposal is like a recurring nightmare for Granite District. In May of 1987, Granite made its first cutback in the media program, and 11 media specialists lost their jobs; 8.9 media positions were transferred to the classroom; and one specialist was assigned to every two schools except year-round schools.

"It's tragic," said Barbara Cook, media specialist for Farnsworth Elementary. "We have more money than we've ever had, but on the district level we can't feed it down to where it helps children."

Media specialists plan to ask the board to cut book budgets temporarily so the issue can be studied further, she said.

The PTA at Farnsworth Elementary also is fighting to keep Cook and help other media specialists affected by the proposed cuts. Michelle Riggs, current PTA board member and past president, said 20 to 30 volunteers went door-to-door with petitions for children and parents to sign.

Eileen Longsworth, director of Salt Lake County library system and president of the Utah Library Association, said the proposed changes would impact all area children because Granite schoolchildren coming to the public library would not have learned necessary library skills. She said they saw these problems in the Jordan District where similar cuts were made.

"The public library and school library succeed and fail together," she said.

Granite's proposal comes at a time when legislators are increasing funding for computer technology in the elementary schools. In many cases, the computer specialist at these schools is the media specialist.

"Technology is a very high-profile issue with the legislative appropriations," said Robert Beall, director of Granite Education Association. "The media people are perfect instructors for this program. And the program will definitely deteriorate with this proposal."

Gardner said the district is trying to keep up with the new technology programs and will implement them wisely even in the absence of media specialists.

The state PTA also recently passed a resolution which encourages an increase in funding for media teachers, according to Utah PTA President Pat Hales. But she said this is just one of many resolutions passed this year and boards must place them on their own priority lists.

As the largest district in Utah, Granite's decision will have a direct affect on other districts and the direction education is headed in Utah, Hales said.

The school board meeting will be held in the Granite District High School auditorium at 7 p.m. instead of the district offices. Budget considerations are scheduled for 8 p.m.