Articles on this Page
- 06/25/17--10:14: _Fairfield Man Kille...
- 06/25/17--08:29: _Boater Drowns After...
- 06/25/17--10:18: _2 Killed in Crash o...
- 06/25/17--12:08: _Some State Parks at...
- 06/25/17--13:16: _North Carolina Teen...
- 06/25/17--15:17: _Reception Cut Short...
- 06/25/17--16:37: _Tractor Trailer Rol...
- 06/25/17--19:57: _Diner Finds Dead Fr...
- 06/26/17--01:23: _Manning Takes Part ...
- 06/26/17--02:08: _Captain Asks Passen...
- 06/26/17--02:47: _1 Injured in Windso...
- 06/26/17--04:17: _Wrestlers Raise Ove...
- 06/26/17--04:19: _State Budget Negoti...
- 06/26/17--04:20: _Reward Offered for ...
- 06/26/17--07:23: _US Coast Guard Acad...
- 06/25/17--13:26: _Classroom Gadgets: ...
- 06/25/17--14:03: _As School Gardens G...
- 06/25/17--20:02: _The Cost of School ...
- 06/25/17--20:54: _School Librarians E...
- 06/26/17--07:02: _Bear and Cub Take D...
- 06/25/17--10:14: Fairfield Man Killed in Crash on I-84 in Bethel
- 06/25/17--08:29: Boater Drowns After Falling Overboard in Stamford Harbor
- 06/25/17--10:18: 2 Killed in Crash on Route 44 in Canton
- 06/25/17--12:08: Some State Parks at Capacity Sunday
- 06/25/17--13:16: North Carolina Teen Reported Missing a Year Ago Found Alive
- 06/25/17--15:17: Reception Cut Short After Fire at St. Clements Castle
- 06/25/17--16:37: Tractor Trailer Rollover Closes Lanes on Highway
- 06/25/17--19:57: Diner Finds Dead Frog in Salad at BJ's Restaurant
- 06/26/17--01:23: Manning Takes Part in 1st Pride March Since Prison Release
- 06/26/17--02:08: Captain Asks Passengers to Pray During Shaky Air Asia Flight
- 06/26/17--02:47: 1 Injured in Windsor Stabbing
- 06/26/17--04:17: Wrestlers Raise Over $7K for Autism Organization
- 06/26/17--04:19: State Budget Negotiations Continue as Fiscal Year Nears End
- 06/26/17--04:20: Reward Offered for Information in Waterbury Homicide Case
- 06/26/17--07:23: US Coast Guard Academy Welcomes Class of 2021
- 06/25/17--13:26: Classroom Gadgets: Supplies Go From Old School to High Tech
- 06/25/17--14:03: As School Gardens Grow, So Do the Students Who Tend Them
- 06/25/17--20:02: The Cost of School Supplies Is Rising, Fast: Survey
- 06/25/17--20:54: School Librarians Embrace Technology — If the Budget Allows
- 06/26/17--07:02: Bear and Cub Take Dip to Cool Off
A Fairfield man was killed in a crash on Interstate 84 in Bethel overnight.
Connecticut State Police said 27-year-old Kurtis Liska was driving on I-84 west near exit 8 early Sunday when the car drifted into the right shoulder and struck a trailer that was parked on the side of the highway.
Liska was rushed to Danbury Hospital but died of his injuries.
The occupants of the other vehicle were not injured.
The crash remains under investigation. Anyone with information can call Troop A at 203-267-2200.
Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
A boater from New York drowned after falling overboard in the Stamford Harbor late Saturday night.
Fire officials said crews responded around 11:25 p.m. Saturday for a report of a boater unaccounted for in Stamford Harbor. Other people on the boat noticed the boater was missing when they arrived at the harbor after traveling from New York.
Crews including Stamford fire, the US Coast Guard, Darien police, Stamford police and Greenwich police all began searching both the water and the shore for the missing boater.
The 51-year-old man from Harrison, NY, who has not been publicly identified, was found in the water around 12:38 a.m. The victim was rushed to Stamford Hospital but did not survive, police said.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's Environmental Conservation police are investigating.
Photo Credit: NBC 5
Two people were killed in a crash on Route 44 in Canton Saturday night.
Canton police said the accident happened just before 11 p.m. near Colonial Road.
Initial investigation shows that a Jeep carrying three people crossed the double yellow line and collided head-on with a Mercedes-Benz traveling the opposite direction, according to Canton police.
A man and a woman in the Jeep were both killed in the crash. One was pronounced dead on scene and the other died at the hospital, police said.
The third person in the Jeep was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. The driver of the Mercedes-Benz was transported with non-life threatening injuries.
None of the victims have been publicly identified.
The crash remains under investigation and police are currently interviewing witnesses.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Several state parks have reached parking capacity Sunday and are closed to new vehicles.
Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme, Mount Tom State Park in Litchfield, Bigelow Hollow State Park in Union, Gardner Lake State Park in Salem and Miller’s Pond State Park in Durham were all at capacity and closed to new vehicles as of Sunday afternoon.
For the latest state park information keep an eye on the Ct State Parks twitter @CTStateParks.
Temperatures Sunday were forecast in the 80s with mostly sunny skies, though there is the chance for some isolated showers, especially in hill towns.
For the full forecast, click here.
Photo Credit: Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
FBI officials in Georgia located a teenager who had been reported missing from her North Carolina home more than a year ago, the agency announced Sunday.
Hailey Burns, 17, was found in Duluth, Georgia, overnight after the FBI received a tip that she may be in the Atlanta area. Burns had been reported missing from her Charlotte home more than a year ago.
A 31-year-old man was taken into custody in connection to Burns' disappearance and will face a number of criminal charges, the FBI said in a press release.
Burns was reunited with her parents, who've asked for privacy.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
A wedding reception was cut short when fire broke out at St. Clements Castle in Portland and East Hampton Sunday afternoon.
A venue employee said that some kind of malfunction with the grill contributed to the fire, but the exact cause was not immediately clear. No one was hurt, though the happy couple and about 45 guests had to evacuate the building during their celebratory brunch.
St. Clements Castle's main address is in Portland, but the fire was in a smaller building on the property located in East Hampton, fire officials said.
East Hampton fire officials said flames were going through the roof when crews arrived and it took firefighters about an hour to get the fire under control. The kitchen and a portion of the roof were damaged, and the banquet hall suffered smoke damage.
Fire officials are investigating.
A tractor trailer accident has caused the right and center lanes to be closed on I-95 Northbound by exit 27A to close.
State police said the tractor trailer rollover happened around 6:30 p.m. and there were multiple vehicles involved in this crash.
Police said the truck was carrying antifreeze and DEEP is on their way to the scene.
There are only minor injuries reported at this time.
Officials with the BJ's Restaurants chain said they're investigating how a dead frog wound up in a diner's salad at one of the company's locations in West Covina, Los Angeles County.
Shawna Cepeda posted a picture of her salad with a frog that appeared to be the size of two croutons in a Yelp review on June 14. Cepeda couldn't be reached Saturday, but in her Yelp post, she said she ate at the restaurant the previous night and ordered a side salad.
"I was about 4 bites into it and I noticed it tasted a little different," she wrote. "I thought maybe the ranch dressing was a little bitter, and after mixing the salad around some more I found a dead baby frog."
The manager offered to comp her meal, which she declined.
She said corporate apologized and sent her a $50 gift card.
Krysteen Romero, the general manager at the restaurant, posted a comment on Cepeda's Yelp page more than a week later apologizing and offering to speak to her directly.
In a statement issued to NBC4, BJ's Chief Financial Officer Greg Levin said the company takes this seriously and they "have launched an internal investigation including discussions with our suppliers and distributors to ensure that nothing like this happens in the future."
Photo Credit: Shawna Cepeda
Shawna Cepeda found a dead frog in her salad during a visit to BJ's Restaurant last week.
Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. Army Intelligence analyst who leaked information to WikiLeaks, took part on Sunday in her first Pride March since being released from prison last month, NBC News reported.
Manning rode in cars for the American Civil Liberties Union and said she was "honored to represent" the organization at the parade in New York City.
Manning, who came out publicly as transgender in 2013, rode alongside Gavin Grimm, the transgender teen who sued his school for denying him access to the boys' bathroom.
The 29-year-old was released from military prison in May after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence for leaking intelligence records. President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in January.
Photo Credit: Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty Images, File
This June 8, 2017, file photo shows Chelsea Manning in her first television interview since Manning's prison release. On June 25, 2017, in New York City, Manning participated in her first Pride March since being released.
Passengers of a Sunday morning Air Asia flight said their captain asked them to pray — twice — as the plane experienced engine trouble and shook like a "washing machine," NBC News reported.
Damien Stevens, who was on the flight from Perth, Australia, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, told NBC News the plane shook after a “huge bang” about 75 minutes into the flight.
"The rattling started straight away," Stevens said. "It was like being in a washing machine... The pilot asked us to pray twice and said he was scared too."
The exact cause of the incident remains unclear, but Stevens said the airline told him the trouble stemmed from one of the engines and that the pilot had 44 years of experience. The plane landed safely back in Perth and there were no reported injuries.
Photo Credit: Goh Seng Chong/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File
This July 6, 2013, file photo shows an Air Asia plane in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
One person was taken to the hospital after an overnight stabbing in Windsor, police said.
The incident occurred at 193 Rood Ave. There is no word on the victim’s condition or identity at this time.
Police are on scene investigating. It is unclear if any arrests have been made.
This is a developing story. NBC Connecticut will provide updates as they come into the newsroom.
Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
Police are investigating after one person was injured in an overnight stabbing in Windsor.
In East Haven wrestlers raised money for an autism organization and it comes after the group says it was left empty handed following a supposed fundraiser in April.
From big slams to the excited fans, the “Ring of Dreams” took over the East Haven Veterans Memorial Hockey Rink on Sunday.
And it raised at least $7,500 for Autism Services & Resources Connecticut.
“Today is about righting the wrong,” Mario Mancini, co-owner of Paradise Alley Professional Wrestling, said.
As the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reported, the autism organization was supposed to be the beneficiary of a wrestling event in April run by James Raymond. The group says it was promised thousands of dollars but it didn’t receive a cent.
“I think it’s about us having hope and about keeping advocacy strong and moving forward and trying to make the best out of a bad situation,” Leslie Simoes, co-director of Autisms Services & Resources Connecticut, said.
In a previous statement to NBC Connecticut, Raymond wrote as a father of an autistic daughter he only wanted to bring awareness and raise money for charity.
But he says the event bills spiraled out of control.
Raymond wrote, “With all the costs of the event though we ended up having no net proceeds to donate.”
On Sunday fortunes changed for Autism Services & Resources Connecticut.
And those working the show included people on the autism spectrum.
“It’s important because, you know, it’s like to show people, hey you can do anything,” Charles Fuller Jr. of Bridgeport, said.
James Raymond was released on a promise to appear from East Haven Police.
He said he would provide a new statement but NBC Connecticut has not received one yet.
Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
In East Haven wrestlers raised money for an autism organization and it comes after the group says it was left empty handed following a supposed fundraiser in April.
State lawmakers will meet behind closed doors with the governor to negotiate the budget this week as the end of the fiscal year creeps closer.
It’s been two and a half weeks since the session ended, and the state is still facing a $5 billion deficit for the next two fiscal years.
The fiscal year ends Friday and the push is to try to get a budget negotiated before then.
If lawmakers cannot agree, Governor Dannel Malloy said he is prepared to issue limited, temporary budgets to get state government running.
State Republicans said they’re frustrated because they have a budget that can be voted on, as does the governor, but Democrats don’t have a budget to offer up yet.
Democratic lawmakers said they hope to offer up a budget for vote on Thursday.
At this point, there are limited details on what a new budget would look like, but one idea being floated is to increase sales tax to go toward cities and towns.
Meanwhile cities and towns are in limbo with their own budgets as they wait to see what they’ll receive in terms of state funding.
Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
The state is offering a $50,000 reward for information relating to a homicide investigation out of Waterbury.
On July 23, 2016, Waterbury police were called to the intersection of Dikeman Street and Willard Street for a report of an unconscious man in a car with blood on him. When police arrived they discovered the victim, identified as Cameron Chapman, 25, of Waterbury, suffered a gunshot wound to the head. He did not survive.
Police initially investigated the case as an untimely death and later announced that the case was being investigated as a homicide. In August 2016, police released surveillance images of people who were in the area at the time of the crime that may have information. The case remains unsolved.
Waterbury police are expected to release more details on the ongoing investigation on Monday.
Anyone with information should contact Waterbury police at (203) 574-6941 of Waterbury Crime Stoppers at (203) 755-1234.
Photo Credit: Waterbury Police Department
Waterbury police were looking to speak with the subjects pictured above to see if they had information on a homicide that occurred at Dikeman Street and Willard Street on July 23, 2016.
The United States Coast Guard Academy in New London is welcoming the class of 2021.
The 297 men and women from across the country are arriving in New London today to take on the title of swabs – beginning their four years at the academy.
This year’s class is 35 percent under-represented minorities, 34 percent women and includes 10 international students.
"I'm excited, mostly excited, but a little bit nervous," Katherine Long, of East Lyme, said.
In years past, the first day of their training was called reporting in or R-Day. This year, the Coast Guard has renamed it Day One, which they say better reflects this day being the start of the swabs’ 200-week journey to becoming military officers in the USCG.
"I'm prepared. I'm ready," Roy Melvin, of Washington, D.C., said. "I just need to do what I need to do and finish this thing."
Part of the journey is adopting the principles of the USCG – honor, respect, and devotion to duty.
On Day One, they start by getting uniforms and haircuts. They will learn practice drills and gather in the afternoon for a class photo before saying farewell to family and friends who came to see them off.
"Honored. I'm just happy to be here," Annabella Farabaugh, of Atlanta, Georgia, said.
The Coast Guard Academy put Matthew Pindell, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on the wait list when he applied during high school, and he took his place Monday after being accepted to the academy.
"I feel really excited about it. I'm also nervous, as everyone probably is," he said. "I think I've come to terms with the fact that this is going to be a lot different than most places. Bottom line is, I'm really excited."
While Pindell is excited about his new journey, his parents are proud.
"My eyes are going to be weeping, but my heart is just so overflowing with emotions," Lisa Pindell said. "Feeling that patriotism and so proud that he would select something like that and give of himself."
The days of notebooks, chalkboards and flour sack babies in schools across the country may be ending. Many of today’s schools are incorporating Chromebooks, Smart Boards, and even high-tech infant simulators that are taking the classroom into a highly digitized 21st century.
As tablets, laptops and apps have taken hold with consumers in recent years, they have also gained a steady following within schools, said Ellen Meier, a professor at Teachers’ College at Columbia University.
One influential addition in many classrooms is the Chromebook, a low-cost, simplified laptop, loaded with Google apps like an internet browser and word processor, that can work offline. Last year, Chromebooks made up 5.4 million of the devices sold for U.S. classrooms, or just under half of the total, according to the Associated Press.
Chicago Public Schools has spent about $33.5 million to provide Chromebooks for more than a third of its 381,000 students, The New York Times Magazine reported. “In less than 10 seconds, a student can grab a Chromebook and be off and running,” Rajen Sheth, who oversees Google’s Chromebook business, told the magazine.
With these basic laptops or tablets like iPads, schools can create virtual classroom hubs that let students view assignments, submit homework and talk to teachers online on platforms like Moodle and Blackboard.
Meier, who directs Columbia’s Center for Technology and School Change, said that schools are facing a growing impetus to make sure that more students have experience using keyboards because tests are increasingly being administered online.
Cassettes or CDs in foreign language classes, meanwhile, are getting competition from interactive language lessons apps like DuoLingo. It's being used by tens of thousands of students, according to the company.
“More and more technology is being used in classrooms for practicing math and reading skills,” Eric Cayton, vice president of merchandising at Staples, said in an email. “In order to do this work independently, headphones now often appear on [back-to-school] shopping lists for students in elementary school.”
But the digital revolution in the classroom isn’t just tied to the arrival of laptops and tablets. High-tech reinventions of traditional school supplies are starting to make older models obsolete.
The same way that classic chalkboards were phased out in favor of dry-erase boards in the late 1990s, the Smart Board — an interactive whiteboard/projector combo — is now the board of choice in many classrooms. Texas Instruments, meanwhile, has kept its monopoly on calculators with the TI-Nspire, a modern version of the company’s bulky devices from the 80s and 90s.
More than three million classrooms now use Smart Boards, whose latest model of touch TVs can hook up to Chromebooks, according to a Smart Board representative.
Benjamin Glazer, an editor at consumer shopping website DealNews, said he predicts that many traditional items on back-to-school lists may also receive a digital update soon.
“There’s a strong possibility you might see things like smart binders or smart notebooks where you can access calendars and schedules from a touch screen inside the notebook,” he said.
But what’s often more important than the technology itself is how it ends up being used in the classroom, researchers say.
“The Smart Boards have become well-known for replacing blackboards, but they have so many things that we often don’t prepare our teachers to do,” Meier said. “There’s going to be an ongoing parade of new devices, but devices are not the answer in terms of how we can use these tools for more thoughtful teaching and learning.”
In any case, the most basic supplies — like paper, pencils and erasers — won’t be going away anytime soon.
“Every year, we see massive price loads on those items,” Glazer said. “Retailers continue to treat them as doorbuster deals that will bring in customers.”
Photo Credit: Boston Globe via Getty Images, File
Owen O'Donoghue, 5, uses an Sboard to answer questions at Cunningham Elementary School in Milton in this file photo from March 4, 2013. Smart Boards are one of several high-tech devices that experts say are more and more common in classrooms.
For Rebecca Lemos-Otero, the founder of a nonprofit that creates school gardens, plots of vegetables and flowers don't only offer new ways to teach science or math. And give kids opportunities to be outside and moving about. And show them that their neighborhoods can be green and beautiful.
School gardens also leave some students with a taste for much-maligned kale and other fruits and vegetables they've grown themselves, Lemos-Otero said.
"The expectation that kale is part of your meal, versus this exotic food that it felt like 10 years ago, it's amazing," Lemos-Otero said.
Some organizations gather school supplies like notebooks, pens and backpacks, but her organization, City Blossoms, works directly with a dozen schools, mostly in Washington D.C., to supply them with gardens and keep them going year after year.
The goal for the 10-year-old organization is to make gardening routine for the students, not a special event. Older students sell their produce at farmers markets or to their teachers in school-based community supported agriculture subscriptions.
"They become more comfortable with expecting to try different foods. They become much more comfortable with exploring the food that's put in front of them, especially if they have something to do with the preparation or the growing of it," Lemos-Otero said.
Edna Chirico of the nonprofit Real School Gardens said she has seen a similar change.
"It is amazing," she said. "If they grow it, if they take care of it, if someone shows them how to cook it, the students eat it 100 percent of the time."
Some of the gardens are quite elaborate.
Real School Gardens works with schools to develop deluxe gardens, which they call outdoor classrooms. In a three-year process, teachers, students and community members can submit design ideas for the space, which include things like whiteboards, student seating areas that are shaded from sun or protected from rain, a shed full of school supplies.
Those features are intended to eliminate the possibility that a teacher might say, "Well, we were going to go outside for class today, BUT..."
"Beyond just going outside and having fun, it's about learning. Every piece of that space is intentional and has a reason for being there," said April Martin, the group's Mid-Atlantic regional director.
Real School Gardens has partnered with schools across the country for these large-scale projects, which are available only to low-income schools that apply for the program and meet qualifying criteria. It also services schools that already have garden spaces or standing beds on their campuses but want to learn more about how to integrate garden projects into learning across subjects.
School gardens remain popular, despite all of the criticism of former first lady Michelle Obama's push for healthy school lunches and claims from school cafeterias of millions of dollars in food being discarding because students refused to eat. There were more than 7,000 across the country in 2015, according to a census done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The federal government — which built a "School Garden Army" during World War I and backed victory gardens at schools in World War II — encourages gardens through grants, guidance and support for food purchased from them, according to the USDA.
Today, City Blossoms and Real School Gardens are just two of many nonprofits working to get gardens up and running, in schools and elsewhere. Parents and others can contribute to the organizations or in some cases volunteer in the gardens. Groups also seek donations of plants and other supplies.
Even if the garden programs do not address school lunches directly, as Real School Gardens says, by transforming the outdoors into a space for structured open-air learning, students are able to spend more time outside, with dirt and earthworms, kale and potatoes, and to see how fresh foods grow.
That's important for children who know little about agriculture, especially those who live in cities. (Or adults for that matter: A recent survey by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy found that seven percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows.)
"We really want them to be able to connect with where their food comes from," said Jenny Schrum, director of youth programming at City Green, which works with 80 schools in New Jersey.
"There's many children who did not know that vegetables come from the ground, so it's very eye-opening," she said.
One thing that school gardens aren't necessarily doing is growing food that students, well, eat. Which is understandable, given various practical restraints like how much and what can be grown on a particular plot. Even a fairly large school garden couldn't provide food on the mini-industrial scale necessary to feed hundreds of kids daily.
But some schools are trying to get a taste of what they've grown into the schools.
The 14 schools in Charlotte, North Carolina, that are partnered with Real School Gardens all focus on the same "big six" vegetables: broccoli, carrots, peas, cabbage, spinach and cauliflower — plus, a bonus seventh vegetable, the sweet potato. Having students grow the same foods that they see on their lunch trays, even if not the produce from their gardens, gives them the chance to make connections between food production and food consumption, the group says.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of City Blossoms
Students work in an outdoor garden classroom with the City Blossoms program, one of many nonprofits working to get gardens up and running in schools and elsewhere.
The cost of raising a child has decreased slightly, but it's a different story for their school supplies. They've gotten steadily more expensive since 2007.
In the last decade, the price of supplies and extracurricular activities increased by 88 percent for elementary school students, 81 percent for middle school students and 68 percent for high school students, according to the latest Huntington Backpack Index, an annual survey of the cost of school supplies and other expenses compiled by The Huntington National Bank and school support nonprofit Communities in Schools.
The index, now in its 10th year, tracks the costs of required classroom supplies and school fees that parents have to pay, in an effort to show that public school costs more than just what's assessed in taxes. It's one of the few figures that tracks the cost of school supplies.
(Disclosure: Communities in Schools is a partner of NBC- and Telemundo-owned stations' Supporting Our Schools campaign.)
The Backpack Index was just shy of $1,500 for high schoolers last year, the most recent year available. It was $957 for middle schoolers and $659 for elementary schoolers.
Meanwhile, raising a single child in the United States was projected to set parents back between between $12,350 and $13,900 annually, between food, housing, education and more. That figure is lower by several hundred dollars than two years before, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture "Cost of Raising a Child" reports.
Every school year, teachers send out a list of school supplies and fees that will cover the student for the year. Between 2007 and 2016, prices for school supplies rose by an estimated $10, according to the index. If a high school student plays more than one sport, that'll incur up to $375 in fees, an 87.5 percent leap from 2015.
One of every five school-age children was living below the federal poverty line in 2014, nearly 11 million children in all, according to U.S. Department of Education data. Many of the students struggle with the cost of basic school supplies, let alone the cost for school sports, clubs or activities.
"We need to be sure that every child in America comes to school equipped for success," said Dale Erquiaga, president and CEO of Communities In Schools, in an email. "That's why we are proud to be working with NBCUniversal and United Way on the Supporting Our Schools initiative. By encouraging back-to-school shoppers to add a few extra supplies to their shopping lists or to donate online, we can be sure that no student starts out behind on the very first day of school."
Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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In a profession most readily associated with the printed word, school librarians have embraced what may seem like an unlikely tool.
Librarians in public schools across the country are mixing new technologies like iPads and the internet with old to teach their students fundamental skills, while also preparing them for the digital age. But their progress is threatened by a familiar problem in education: funding.
“Librarians are really embracing technology and integrating tech tools into their teaching in very meaningful and effective ways. The issue for school librarians is budget,” said Kathy Ishizuka, executive editor of the publication School Library Journal.
Librarians in schools that have robust support have seized the opportunity.
Todd Burleson, the school librarian at Hubbard Woods Elementary School in suburban Winnetka, Illinois, is running with technological innovation. In his library, technology isn't just used to consume information on a screen, it's used to create it, he said.
On an average day, his elementary school students may be producing their first book on an iPad, complete with self-shot photos, digitally-produced drawings and audio tracking. Or they may be using a green-screen iPad app to layer-separate animated sequences to produce videos.
But Burleson hasn’t shelved the hardcover books.
Children’s books offer stories that are written specifically for their reading level, something a Google search does not do.
“Books are one of the most valuable pieces of information that we can get,” he said.
Navigating this mix of technology and traditional media – “books and bytes,” as Burleson calls it – is, for him, why school librarians are so essential in the 21st century, and other school library advocates agree.
“Just because the children have that device in their hand, or have access to that essential information, does not mean they can find it efficiently and evaluate once they’ve found it,” said Audrey Church, president of the American Association of School Librarians. “I think we need librarians in schools now more than ever because of that teacher role they play in the area of information literacy and digital literacy.”
It’s now part of librarians’ jobs to teach students to be effective users of technology. This includes showing them how to identify appropriate online sources, condensing search results — even sniffing out fake news.
But training kids in new technology is not possible if the funds are not there.
In many cases, sheer cost puts libraries on the chopping block, said Christie Kaaland, a school library advocate and director of the library education program at Antioch University.
“A library is expensive. Print material is expensive. Technology is expensive,” Kaaland said.
Library funding is not equal across the United States. Certain states require a certified librarian to be on staff at every public school. Others do not.
In wealthier districts, librarians can rely on parent-teacher organizations to provide funds. In others, librarians often rely on grants to supplement the money budgeted for the purpose.
In some districts, tightening funds simply means fewer school libraries and certified librarians on staff.
In New York City, the largest school district in the country, the number of school libraries more than halved from 2005 to 2014, from 1,500 to about 700. In Philadelphia, another of the largest districts in the country, just eight full-time librarians are employed.
Librarian and advocate Tracey Wong saw the effects of funding cuts firsthand at public elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods of the Bronx, New York.
Wong’s first librarian job at P.S. 63 in the Bronx evaporated when her principal pulled funding and shut down the school’s library, she said.
After that, she went to work at another low-income public school in the Bronx, where she secured just under $1 million in about three years through private grants. With the funds, she brought in laptops, computers, iPads, a smartboard, and transformed the once-decrepit library into a bustling media center.
The new tools paid off: One of her students won an academic contest and was selected as one of five kids in the country to meet billionaire businessman Warren Buffet. Another won $500 in a separate contest and was taken to City Hall to meet the mayor of New York.
But despite her successes, Wong’s library eventually went the way of P.S. 63.
“A new principal came on board,” Wong said. “So by my third year being a librarian, she decided to shut down the library and was going to make me a fifth grade teacher.”
Instead, Wong left the New York City school system to work as a librarian in neighboring Westchester County.
Wong’s experience, while disheartening, came as no surprise, she said.
From the time she was studying to become a certified librarian, Wong was told to expect job loss and funding cuts.
The reality made Wong an advocate for libraries from the start. She secured grants to fund technology for her schools; lobbied principals to reopen libraries that had been shut; and now tracks her professional experiences on her website and frequently writes about how educators can secure grants for their schools.
“Advocacy is something you have to work on early, it’s the most important part of your job,” Wong recalled being told while earning her degree. “If you don’t start to do it, you’re going to realize you should’ve been doing it, and by that time it’s going to be too late because they’re always cutting jobs.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Todd Burleson
A mama bear and her cub took a dip in a cool spring in Chico, California, to get some relief from the triple digit temperatures. The owner of the property, Marc Miller, set up the camera in hopes of spotting a mountain lion after seeing some big cat tracks nearby. Instead, video captured the bear family cooling off.
Photo Credit: Marc Miller