By MORGAN FRISCH
Recorder News Staff
FONDA — Fonda-Fultonville Elementary Principal Darcy Williams is hoping to add a literacy coach position in the school to build instructional leadership.
Williams presented her plan to the F-FCS Board of Education last week. She explained that the district has a “unique opportunity” because enrollment for next year is low and appears that enrollment will be low in the next few years to come. She said in her building, there are five, fourth-grade sections and because a fifth-section is not needed next year she would like to take one teacher out of the classroom and create a literacy coach position.
“When I look at my building and I say to myself and I’m very reflective, I say what do I think that this building needs to be even better than we are right now,” Williams said. “It’s really that person, that coaching person, who’s in the classroom who can model lessons for teachers.”
Williams said teachers need guidance, coaching and professional development. The literacy coach position would assist teachers with new initiatives and give them support to do their job effectively.
“Our teachers are just like our students and I know that I learn best when it’s shown to me, not when it’s told to me,” Williams said. “I feel like that person can really support that initiative.”
The position would be for a three-year term. Elementary teachers within the district would be eligible to apply since this is where the need is. She said if enrollment numbers were to spike over the summer, the teacher would be put back into the classroom. The candidate she is seeking would be able to work collaboratively and relate with the other staff members.
“I think it’s an exciting way to take our existing staff and take advantage of their expertise,” Superintendent Thomas Ciaccio said.
Williams said her teachers have done an amazing job this year, especially putting together several new initiatives and she would like to keep that going. The position would help to ensure teachers are effectively delivering literacy, challenge how they practice and help them think reflectively.
Board member Dennis Egelston said he had reservations regarding the proposal. From a tax payer perspective, he said teachers with 25-years of experience are paid more than entry-level teachers because they are expected to be knowledgeable and are rewarded for the excellent job they’re doing. He said he “wasn’t sold” on the idea that a teacher of 25 years needs more help.
Williams explained that teaching instruction has changed drastically within the last 25 years. She said the teachers have never had the support and guidance to teach the art of reading effectively. Williams said a lot of other districts are using literacy coaches and “we can’t assume that after 25 years they have it” because the teaching and the needs of the students has changed.
Ciaccio explained the district used a literacy coach last year and it’s not that the teachers aren’t good teachers, but teaching reading may not be something they went to college for.
“The strategies to teach reading to a student coming into your classroom is not in rows anymore, it’s in small groups, it’s figuring out their reading level,” Ciaccio said.
He said the literacy coach position would benefit everyone and mentioned how during the three-year term it could interest other teachers in broadening their knowledge base in order to apply in the future. For example, he said the district may want to develop a coach in project-based learning strategies or inquiry-based learning.
“Our job as a board is to support you and the administrators to give you the tools to do the job that you feel needs to be done,” Egelston said. “ If this is what you need, fine, I can support it, but I also want you to hear the concerns that I expect everyone else would think of.”
Ciaccio said this is a position that will probably evolve as it goes.
“It won’t just be what you thought it would be when it started, it will probably morph into something else,” Ciaccio said. “I think the good part of it is that it’s one our own teachers and if the need arises that we need that teacher back in the classroom, that teacher can go back. We are not adding staff.”
Williams said there is often push back and teachers don’t accept someone coming into their classroom, but the number one thing that helps is having the building principals in support of the literacy coach. She said research shows explaining to teachers this position is “what we need to get better than we already are” has proven effective.
“It will take a little while, but once that person starts building the trust of their peers then it goes from there,” Williams said.