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Monday, July 28, 2014

Wichita district to reassign teacher trainers

By Suzanne Perez Tobias
The Wichita Eagle

Nearly 100 Wichita school employees, including those charged with implementing the district's plan for school improvement, learned Friday that they will be reassigned as part of budget cuts.

Many hold jobs that were created or saved two years ago by federal stimulus money targeted to professional development and high-poverty schools.

The employees were called to a meeting Friday afternoon and told of the changes, according to two employees who attended. Both asked not to be named, citing concerns for their jobs.

They said half the district's 90 instructional coaches will be reassigned to classrooms. The instructional coaches train teachers and help implement the district's Multi-Tiered System of Supports, a four-year plan to improve student achievement and behavior.

The other half, about 45, will remain as instructional coaches but have redesigned roles, likely serving more schools.

"We're supposed to have one-on-one meetings (in coming weeks) to find out which 'pot' we end up in," said one of the employees. It was unclear whether there are enough classroom vacancies to absorb the instructional coaches, who are experienced, tenured teachers.

"It's possible that some people, down the line, are going to end up without jobs," said the employee.

District spokeswoman Susan Arensman said reassigning instructional coaches was "a piece of the discussions" in a second round of budget cuts Superintendent John Allison announced earlier this week.

The district expects a $30 million shortfall in state and federal funding this year and possibly $20 million or more next year. The district's annual budget is $632 million. Allison told school board members Monday that 65 to 70 jobs would be eliminated in phase two.

"We have no further comments until the (school board) receives the recommendation details" at its meeting April 11, Arensman said. "Not all notifications have occurred, and we owe it to our employees to notify them first."

In 2009, Wichita schools received about $19 million in federal stimulus funds. Officials used much of it to expand the number of high-poverty schools that receive Title 1 funds.

They spent another portion of the money to increase the number of staff who train teachers, even though the effectiveness of instructional coaches had been criticized.

At the time, officials pointed to an informal survey of school principals that showed almost all considered the coaches a "critical need."

Officials said the stimulus money saved 24 coaching positions and created 27 new positions to work in high-poverty schools.

Larry Landwehr, president of United Teachers of Wichita, said he had heard about Friday's announcement to instructional coaches but was not sure how employees would be reassigned or what it could mean for schools or nontenured teachers.

"I'm sure they would be placed where there are openings already, where people have retired or non-renewed," said Landwehr. "I don't think, as of this point, it has anything to do with replacing probationary (first- or second-year) teachers."

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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