Schools Urge Fairfax Board to Keep Instructional Coaches

Teacher pay and foreign language cutbacks are also concerns as Fairfax County School Board looks for another $30 million in reductions for next year's budget.

If push came to shove, Jane Lipp would give her right kidney to keep an instructional coach at her school.

The principal of South County High School, which has a 49 percent minority population, said that's the kind of sacrifice she'd make, drama aside, to keep a position that's been 'instrumental" in helping her teachers push the school's diverse student body to succeed.

More than a dozen of the 40 speakers who addressed the school board Tuesday night in a public hearing about Fairfax County Public Schools' budget spoke about the role coaches play in the day to day lives of teachers and students, including their help toward narrowing student achievement gaps.

The public hearing comes as the school board prepares to adopt a $2.5 billion final budget next week. The board received $61.7 million less than it had hoped in annual transfer from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which passed a budget of its own in late April.

While staff has found some additional revenue from the state and savings in a FY 2013 third quarter budget review, school board members still need to find another $30.5 million in reductions before their final budget vote.

A new proposal suggests holding off on teacher raises until January 2014, when employees would get a mid-year market scale adjustment of 2 percent, and curbing the expansion of some foreign language programs to cut costs.

Funding for instructional coaches isn't threatened on the list of such potential reductions. But as teachers plead with the school board to address teacher workload, and parents lobby board members and state politicians to lower class sizes, some have wondered whether instructional coaches are best used guiding individual teachers and collaborative learning teams as roving leaders, or, if the system's "experts on teaching" should return to the classroom to instruct students themselves.

Speakers, including Lipp, who serves as the president of the High School Principals' Association, argued the former.

The system has about 78 instructional coaches in 72 schools, Camelot Elementary School instructional coach Emelie Parker McElroy said.

Instructional coaches, who focus on reading, math and achievement gap issues, help teachers unpack new state and federal standards, analyze data to develop strategies for individual and groups of students and assess whether what teachers are doing in the classroom works.

Lippa said her own instructional coach helped initiate additional intensive intervention in math, acting as a liaison between teachers, counselors, students and their families. Jordan Moore, a former teacher who just this year became an instructional coach, said working with a coach allowed her to ensure every student in her classroom — some of whom had repeatedly failed the exams in classrooms where a coach was not available — to pass the Virginia's Standards of Learning tests in reading.

Teacher Pay, Language Expansion

The discussion came as other employees spoke of low morale and lagging pay for a large number of the school system's work force — both teachers and other support staff like custodians and bus drivers.

Though board members had hoped to give teachers a one percent market scale adjustment starting this July, the proposal on the table would instead give a two percent adjustment starting in January 2014, using some of roughly $6 million in one-time money available from the state.

Any money that adds to a teacher's base salary is a welcome help to teachers that are "running on fumes," said Michael Hairston, who represents thousands of employees under the Fairfax Education Association.

Hairston and Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Steve Greenburg urged school board members to set their own priorities instead of being guided by a suggestion from county supervisors that teachers not receive raises because county employees weren't, either.

A number of county employees — including those from SEIU and police and fire associations — stood with teachers to support fair pay for teachers.

Parents and some school administrators also asked the board to reconsider a $0.7 million and nine position reduction in world languages expansion.

Fox Elementary School PTA President Amanda Owens said other countries have seen greater success than the U.S. academically largely because of their focus on learning more than one language.

"To compete in a global market place, [our students] need the same basic education as their competitors," she said.

The board will discuss the budget at a work session at 7 p.m. Thursday at Luther Jackson Middle School.

Betty Boop May 16, 2013 at 02:52 AM
You do realize Instructioanl Coaches work 218 day contracts (teachers 194) and the people listed above all have 10+ years in the County and have a master's degree or a Master's degree plus 30 credits. All of these things would cause for higher salaries.
Taylor Bennett May 16, 2013 at 02:58 AM
Allen, Timothy L Arabic Language Teacher, HS Herndon High School $51,957 Bacha, Meriem Arabic Language Teacher, ES Beech Tree Elementary School $67,085 Belhoula, Sami Arabic Language Teacher, ES Sleepy Hollow Elementary School $49,092 ElTahir, Ayman A Arabic Language Teacher, MS Glasgow Middle School $22,580 Layaly, Ola A Arabic Language Teacher, HS Annandale High School $64,631 Moula, Wisam R Arabic Language Teacher, HS Stuart High School $69,886 Sharaf, Mona A Arabic Language Teacher, HS Hayfield Secondary School $75,140 FIRE THEM TOO.
Taylor Bennett May 16, 2013 at 02:58 AM
they are not underpaid
Gail Ritchie May 16, 2013 at 01:08 PM
The best way to counter ignorant, hateful, inaccurate information is to provide accurate information. So: 1. Instructional coaches are 11-month employees, so their salaries reflect an additional month of salary. Many of us are long-time employees, so some of that salary reflects longevity and years of experience (from which all the teachers and students at our schools benefit). And FCPS recognizes the knowledge and expertise gained from advanced degrees with additional $$. As an example, my salary reflects 23 years and a PhD. We could debate endlessly whether or not teachers and coaches are underpaid/overpaid. Those who actually work in schools and see the long hours, hard work, and student learning that occurs because of teachers and coaches, know that we earn every penny. 2. There is much more to coaching than just data analysis. I explain my job to students and parents as the "on-site teacher for the teachers." My main purpose is to help teachers continually improve their teaching. There are many ways to do this, and it would take a book to explain it all. People who want an overview can go to the FCPS website and read the information on the Instructional Coaching profile.
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