San Mateo teacher resource center changing hands 

For 40 years, the San Mateo Educational Research Center has been there for Peninsula educators. One teacher might call in for new ideas for teaching early California history to fourth-graders. Another might want help with finding ways to help students master a particularly tough piece of math curriculum. Or, a researcher might come by to learn about the latest studies on a particular instructional method.

But now, the San Mateo County Office of Education has decided it can no longer afford to host the large collection of educational reference materials it has amassed or provide the services to teachers, many of whom have come to depend on them.

Officials plan to close the research center and lay off its six full-time employees at the end of the month, for a savings of close to $1 million — enough to stave off most cuts to other programs for another year, Office of Education spokesman Peter Burchyns said.

The story isn’t an entirely sad one, however. Notre Dame de Namur University, based in Belmont, has agreed to absorb the collection and continue to make it available to educators and researchers from the community, said Joan Rossi, dean of NDNU’s School of Education.

However, the university does not have the resources to continue the research assistance that has been so useful to teachers, Burchyns said. He said three full-time research assistants and a reference librarian were tasked with helping teachers find the resources they needed to better educate their students.

“If you were a teacher in the county, you could call and ask for creative ideas for teaching third-grade science classes, and the research assistants would help them narrow their search and call them back with what they were looking for,” Burchyns said. “That’s a service that won’t be available anymore.”

However, the collection of books, journals and microfiche will still be available for teachers to do their own research, and they will have access to the reference librarians, Rossi said.

The library will close June 30, and then the university will invest about $50,000 into moving the collection and affixing its own bar codes so its system will be able to read them, Rossi said. She said the university is shooting for Sept. 1 to open the collection to educators. She said the university also plans to keep the collection current.

Cost of education

San Mateo Educational Research Center statistics for the 2008-09 school year:

Total walk-ins: 1,508
Reference requests: 4,564
Materials provided: 14,302
Volumes added: 6,517
Money saved by laying off six people and closing the center: Nearly $1 million a year

Source: San Mateo County Office of Education

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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