The Neighborhood School is in a Defcon 1 situation. Thanks to drastic budget cuts, we’ve lost our funding for a school library. TNS is not a wealthy school (40% of our students qualify for free lunch) and our parent body is already stretched to the limit providing art and music education and field trip subsidies as well as stuff like, y’know, paper towels and photocopier paper and Kleenex. We need to raise $40K by June 27th to save our library. And we’re terrified. SO YES I AM GOING TO BEG YOU FOR MONEY BUT I PROMISE TO BE ENTERTAINING ABOUT IT.
A cadre of folks is begging the DoE to give us a break (I’ll explain below WHY we’re being disproportionately hosed, should you care) and we’re coming up with lists of neighborhood businesses to beg for help right now and lists of grants and foundations to apply to in the future.
But I WILL BE YOUR BEST FRIEND if you donate now. Or if you attend one of our two fundraisers coming up: A comedy night on May 11 at 6:30pm at Laugh Lounge — the headliner is Moody McCarthy from Jimmy Kimmel (yay?) and the $20 cover all goes to the library; there’s also a two-drink minimum. More my personal speed is the event on May 13th at McNally-Jackson Books at 6pm with pioneering feminist Gloria Steinem, NYT columnist Gail Collins (aside: I am so freaking in love with her — but not a stalker! NOT A STALKER! — and have read all her books and my favorite is Scorpion Tongues: Gossip, Celebrity and American Politics which is like a social history of media gossip and will BLOW YOUR MIND) and Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead, reading and talking about nurturing girls’ voices and other vagina-related things. It’s $25 at the door. BTW, McNally-Jackson has been incredible, donating the space despite having another event that day and donating all proceeds from book sales that night to our library fund. Give them your patronage, plz.
Why school libraries matter
Study after study shows that school libraries are linked to student achievement, especially for lower-income schools like ours. (Despite some people’s opinions to the contrary, the East Village hasn’t completely gentrified just yet.)
Our rock star librarian Cheryl teaches kids the media literacy and research skills they’ll need for the real world. She also teaches them to love books, empowering reluctant readers through graphic novels and interactive reading sites and helping each child find just the right book. She brings in popular authors such as George O’Connor, author of the Olympians series about Greek mythology; Raina Telgemeier, author of the award-winning memoir Smile; Nick Bruel, author of the Bad Kitty books for younger readers; and John Bememlmans Marciano, grandson of the creator of Madeline. (I just googled and hello, that is a fine-looking man. But I digress.) Cheryl reaches out to parents through workshops on encouraging children’s reading. She’s taught kids about blogging, online safety, kitchen science — she’s even amassed the New York City school system’s largest collection of cookbooks and books about food and healthy eating. It’s only two years old and already numbers 275 books!
Why are we so screwed? A perfect storm of budget disaster issues converged on us at once. There were Title I issues (the threshhold was recently re-raised to 60%, so even though our school is still 40% free lunch, we get no financial aid from Title I the way we once did), Fair Student Funding issues (the fact that our teachers tend to be very experienced punishes us financially) and other crises. We used to get money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; now we don’t. (Presumably because the economy is just awesome now.) There are other challenges including the way the DoE funds kids with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and English Language Learners, plus there are a bunch of nickel-and-dime-y configuration issues (unexpected unfilled seats, students we were expecting from the DoE but didn’t get) and, well, the costs add up, especially when there is absolutely NOTHING LEFT TO CUT. The Save the Library page on our school web site details what we’ve already cut in the last three years, in an attempt to show everyone we’re not crying wolf. Please do share it far and wide. It’s bad.
PS 63, with whom we share the building (and library, cafeteria and recess yard), is in a better financial situation than The Neighborhood School, for various reasons. But even if PS 63 retains access to the library, its students will lose the wonderful librarian, membership in the NYPL pilot program allowing kids who otherwise would not have NYPL access to get library cards and use the NYPL system, and the cookbook collection (the largest in any public school in NYC), because those things are contingent upon having a full-time licensed librarian to administrate them. And again: The Neighborhood School will lose the library and all its benefits entirely.
TNS is one of the most diverse schools in the city; It’s currently 40% white, 17% African-American, 28% Latino and 14% Asian, with many new immigrants among its families and 27% of its students receiving Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). It’s a wonderful community with an emphasis on kindness and collaboration as much as academics, a real reflection of our neighborhood at its best. I recently did a story on why the movie Bully dismays actual bullying experts, and I realized that our school actually does what the experts recommend. It prizes community and citizenship as much as achievement (and way more than test scores).
The sad thing is we’ve only had the library since 2004. A parent at the school designed it and parents got grants to get it built. Before 2004, there were books scattered in classrooms throughout the building. But thanks to overcrowding, we won’t even be able to have that anymore. Please give if you can. And forward this to Friends with Money.