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Elementary Play Takes Aim at State Education Cuts

Students at Templeton will stage a play they wrote about the state budget cuts, called “The Case of the Missing Librarian.”

  • Templeton Elementary

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    Photo: Daniel Robison/ WFIU

    Students and parents constructed signs for use in scenes throughout "The Case of the Missing Librarian."

  • Templeton Elementary

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    Photo: Daniel Robison/ WFIU

    Students, ahem, actors, rehearse marching to Indianapolis to query Governor Grandstand.

  • Templeton Elementary

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    Photo: Daniel Robison/ WFIU

    Two days before the show opens, play director Breshaun Joyner gives last-minute instructions.

  • Templeton Elementary

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    Photo: Daniel Robison/ WFIU

    An empty librarian's chair and book rack serve as props in the show.

When Governor Mitch Daniels cut K-12 funding by $300 million earlier this year, nearly every school corporation in the state was forced to make significant cuts to their budgets, including personnel.

The librarian at Templeton Elementary in Bloomington is among those that will not be returning to work next school year. Thursday students at Templeton will stage a play they wrote about the state budget cuts, called “The Case of the Missing Librarian.” The production is meant to give a voice to their concerns about their how their educations will change for years to come.

Rehearsal

It’s less than two days before opening night and a group of Templeton Elementary students are practicing a group protest. In their play, which they wrote with the help of parents, they march on the statehouse in Indianapolis to let the governor know how they feel about their end of the $300 million in public school budget cuts handed down earlier this year. Templeton’s librarian, or media specialist, has been eliminated from next year’s budget.

Sixth grader Stella Winterman plays Governor Grandstand, a loose depiction of Governor Mitch Daniels.

“I’m upset about it. They could have cut other things that are a little less important. The librarian takes care of all the computers, sets up all the computer tests, takes care of the library. We love her. She’s been here a long time. I don’t think it was right to get rid of her,” Winterman said.

“I think it was the first thing of everybody’s mind when we came together,” said Jennifer Livsay, a parents of one of the actresses in the play.

Together they wrote the script, designed costumes…all the things needed when putting on a play.

“A lot of these kids here, when they read the news in the newspaper, about all the things that were being cut, there were a lot of kids crying at home,” Livesay said. “So they were really thinking of it when we came together, and the parents were [too]. It just all sort of came together.”

Cuts Deep and Far-Reaching

Late this winter, the Monroe County Consolidated School Corporation board authorized nearly six million dollars in cuts. Personnel besides media specialists were cut and elementary strings and trips to Bradford Woods will not be funded next year.  Also, monies for the Teen Learning Center, Youth Outreach and Alternative to Suspension and Honey Creek were slashed from the 2010-11 school year.

Despite the nature of the play and the budget cuts, Livesay says the play is not political.

“I think the play is an expression of the kids’ feelings and to the degree that we’re all political and what is being done on a statewide level affects them personally. I don’t think mean it as a political protest. I just think they want to be heard,” Livesay said.

Templeton Principal Michael Shipman says there’s a possibility a media specialist could return to the school, but funding picture must change first.

“We have to prioritize those things that we’d like to see come back,” Shipman said.

Play Director Breshaun Joyner says volunteers will now run the library indefinitely.

“Perhaps our play speaks to the idea that maybe librarians are taken for granted. There’s some real importance there. When we take things for granted and it goes away, [we] somehow learn the hard way that we’ve really lost something,” Joyner said.

In the play, before the students march to Indianapolis, they lose their voices. Their librarian is the keeper of the words, Joyner says, and since she’s gone, so are their words.

“We understand that literally our children aren’t going to lose their voices, but they are going to lose something extremely special in the community,” Joyner said.

The show, “The Case of the Missing Librarian,” premieres Thursday evening at Templeton. Joyner says the students hope community members and the Monroe County School Board are watching.

Daniel Robison

Daniel started as WFIU's Assistant News Director in July 2008. He graduated with a B.A. in history in 2007 and earned an M.A. in journalism two years later. Daniel hosts Ask the Mayor weekly and the occasional Noon Edition. He also hosts Morning Edition on Thursdays, sleepily. Daniel's beats include everything News Director Stan Jastrzebski wants him to cover. And it feels strange to type biography of myself in the third person like this. So that's that.

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