Return to Headlines

3/15/19 A new kind of coach

A new kind of coach
ABSS unveils regimented teacher support model
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 3/15/19    
Reprinted with permission.
      
The Alamance-Burlington Schools academic coach saga continues.

First, some background:

On Feb. 12, Superintendent Bruce Benson presented a budget proposal that would eliminate the district’s 34 academic coach positions and generate an extra $2.7 million to be spent elsewhere.

The hope was that those coaches would return to ABSS as teachers, filling classrooms that currently have long-term substitutes. The plan didn’t go over well.

Of the six people who spoke during the board of education’s budget hearing Monday, Feb. 25, three were current ABSS academic coaches, and three were ABSS classroom teachers. All six defended the profession and told the board it was making a mistake.

The main issue — as board member Tony Rose pointed out — is that academic coaches don’t have a set job description.

They’ve been used as a catch-all for everything from assisting with technology to fulfilling administrative duties. And teachers are now concerned about who’s going to perform those duties if coaches aren’t there.

At the board of education’s Tuesday, March 12, work session, central office staff unveiled a new model to addresses those concerns.

It’s called the “ABSS Learning Coach Model,” and it separates schools into three regions, each of which is comprised of two attendance zones:

• Cummings and Graham

• Eastern and Southern

• Western and Williams

Each region gets two coaches for elementary schools and two coaches for middle and high schools. One of those four would serve as a 12-month “lead coach” who would communicate with ABSS Central Office.

To summarize, instead of 34 academic coaches, the district would have 12 coaches rotating between schools.

So, what’s the difference between these academic coaches and the academic coaches the district already has? Central Office staff would oversee each team, ensuring they’re all providing the same level of support.

That means academic coaches would no longer be allowed to make copies for teachers, assist with technology, take on bus duty, or perform any other extra duties they’re currently performing.

All of their actions would be directly tied to academic outcomes monitored by the higher-ups.

“The bottom line is: some of those things should have never been allowed,” Benson said. “Some of those responsibilities were never intended to be part of an academic coaching model, so if you had taken that off the table, how might those other needs have been addressed in those schools? That’s part of the conversation that we need to have with building level leaders: How will we provide that support?”

However it’s handled, Rose emphasized that they need to have a clear idea of who’s going to provide that support by the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.

“The feedback that I’m getting from teachers and academic coaches is that that is a huge concern and, if we can meet them there, then I think all the drama we’ve seen from this gets mitigated,” Rose said. “But if we go into next year and there’s all these gaps, then it’s going to be a see-I-told-you-so moment.”

That leaves one last question: What about the $2.7 million? If the school system is keeping 12 coaching positions, will it decrease their savings?

Chief Finance Officer Jeremy Teetor told the board, “No.”

Gov. Roy Cooper has already received pushback from the General Assembly on his budget proposal, Teetor explained, meaning state-mandated budget items will likely not be as expensive as he originally planned for.

Teetor can also work some “magic,” as Patsy Simpson called it, by shuffling positions around between funding pots to free up money.

“One thing that we also did to further extend this is [we asked], ‘What is it going to look like on paper when we implement these changes?’” Teetor said. “And we’ve got folks who are equally expensive as some of these coaches that we’re going to be able to move into statefunded positions that are going to come out of dollar allotments. … So we’ve got some cushion here that we’re working with.” Board member Brian Feeley praised the new model, saying it was a good compromise.

“We received a lot of public input, both in the meeting and with many of us receiving emails and feedback from teachers and principals,” he said. “And I think, in a way, this tries to get at the right kind of support in the right ways but in a more efficient way that is making sure we can, hopefully, still realize a reallocation of funds in that budget.”

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 25 in the auditorium at 1712 Vaughn Road, Burlington.

Following that, staff will present the ABSS 2019-20 budget to the Board of Commissioners on Monday, April 1.