She says she can't help her daughter because she receives little homework and is not allowed to bring her textbook home.
The mother of five, including three students in city schools, said her daughter had always earned A's and B's until this year. She said she contacted her daughter's fifth-grade teacher at Bradford Elementary School for advice and received back a letter explaining the teacher is "unable to give homework often due to having only one set of textbooks for two classes," reads part of the teacher's letter to Pendelton.
"I want to spend some time helping my daughter, but I can't without a book," Pendelton said. "Without a book to reference, I don't know what they are trying to teach her and where she needs help. I'm not in school with her to see the lesson."
The district's textbook shortage has affected all of her kids, Pendelton said. She said her son, who attends Consentino Middle School, was suspended for a few days last year. While her son was out of school, school officials refused to send his math book home so the boy could keep up with his classmates, Pendelton said. Her son fell behind and received an F in math that semester, she said.
"The books are so precious, they treat them like platinum," she said. "I always see the city's wish list in the newspaper, but I never see schoolbooks on it. That's sad."
Bradford Principal Michael Rossi said teachers at his school are told to find ways to accommodate any parents who are trying to find a way to help improve their child's academic performance. He said the problem with Pendelton's daughter likely occurred because the school is "piloting" a set of new science books specifically aimed at the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam. The school is borrowing a small number of the books from the manufacturer until it decides if it wants to purchase more of them, Rossi said.
"Those books are on loan, so (we) don't want to let them go home," Rossi said. "But all the classes should have study guides that should be going home that show what the kids are learning."
The lack of textbooks and the outdated and tattered condition of those that exist have been a source of frustration among parents, teachers, students and the School Committee in recent years.
For the first time in many years, the city borrowed $450,000 last year to purchase new science books for students in grades six through 12, and English texts for students in grades six through eight. The spending was targeted at upper-level grades and in subjects tested on the MCAS test. Most of the roughly 4,500 books that were replaced were more than 12 years old and did not include topics emphasized on MCAS, such as the conduction of electricity, for example, School Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan said.
Buchanan said he will ask for $650,000 in next year's school budget to purchase social studies texts for grades four through 12. He acknowledged the plan for bringing school books into the 21st century neglects the city's elementary schools.
"The elementary schools are not forgotten, but we just don't have the money," he said, noting the majority of the district's textbooks remain more than a decade old. "It's a problem, but a decision has been made to focus on the MCAS years."
Buchanan said the district's money problems led to the School Committee rejecting proposals for new textbooks for many years.
"We're so far behind, it's going to take awhile to catch up," he said. "It's a constant battle because it costs about $1.2 million to replace a full set of books K through 12. And the books need to be updated about every seven years."
The district has also been raising private funds for textbooks through its so-called Textbook Project. Local companies and residents have donated $46,000 to the fund, which is used to purchase small quantities of books for unanticipated reasons, such as to accommodate year-to-year enrollment increases, the superintendent said.
School Committee President Kerry Fitzgerald said she is concerned administrators may be overly focused on the upper grades when making decisions about textbooks.
"I've talked to a lot of parents of high-school students who are very happy with the new science and English books," she said. "But elementary school is where kids learn the foundation for MCAS, and it needs more attention."
Despite the severity of the problem, Fitzgerald doubts the district can afford $650,000 in next year's school budget for new social studies texts.
"My opinion is we can't afford $650,000, so if we want them, we're going to have to bond them again, and pay about $50,000 a year in school money to pay the bond," Fitzgerald said, noting $50,000 is about the cost of one teacher.
"If we want books, we need to give up something else, like technology or a teacher, or find a grant that will pay for it," she said. "We can't afford everything everyone wants."
Steps taken to replace Haverhill's outdated and tattered schoolbooks since last year
* Fundraiser to buy small numbers of books for unexpected shortages: $46,000 from businesses, residents
* Loan approved last year for roughly 4,500 science and English texts for upper grades: $450,000
* Proposal to buy new social studies texts for students in grades four through 12: $650,000