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Teachers coached to better skills

April 8, 2014

Greenfield — The Whitnall School Board was caught between two things it really wants — having its top-flight teachers help other teachers up to the top rung teaching the best curriculum and keeping those top teachers in the classroom in front of children.

In the end, the board opted for investing in the future, deciding it's more important to bring all teachers up.

It approved four full-time teaching coaches and four additional 20 percent curriculum coordinators. The full-time coaches could either be current teachers or teachers from outside. The 20 percent coordinators are top current teachers who would teach one fewer class to give time for their curriculum duties.

The schools have a state grant for the program but will further review the costs involved.

The coaching program was proposed in response to the new state teacher effectiveness requirement. There are other ways to meet the requirement, but state education officials back teacher coaches as the most effective and are offering grants to help school districts launch coaching programs.

School Board member Quin Brunette originally was against the plan.

"We're taking four very good teachers away from the children," he said, not to mention the four teachers who already would spend 20 percent of their time outside their classrooms.

But T.J. Anderson supported the plan, saying the schools would give up 20 percent to get 100 percent at a high level.

LuAnn Bird strongly supported coaching, saying, "Research shows that's the best way to get the kind of education we need."

Board members also expressed confidence that even if the four full-time teacher coaches turn out to be current faculty, the district will find outstanding replacements.

"I do believe they will find great teachers," Bird said.

Originally, the coaching program was expected to cost nothing because of savings to be realized from aides not being needed for the district's early release program. But board member Eileen Valaitis raised questions and the financial aspect of the coaching program will be reviewed by the Personnel and Finance Committee.

The schools already have four 20 percent teacher curiculum coordinators who are focusing on English, math, social studies and science, said Anthony Brazouski, executive director of academic achievement.

This is the first year for the K-12 coordinators and the program seems to be working well, he said.

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