Nearly a year after first talks of reducing the Kyrene School District’s Elementary Coaching Program enlisted help from a task force, cuts were inevitably made this school year to the program that supports teachers in math and literacy.

Last year, the district employed approximately 17 math and literacy coaches who each served about two elementary schools in the district. Math and literacy coaches are responsible for providing professional development for teachers and their assigned schools.

There are now about 16 coaches spread out over the district’s 19 elementary schools.

In an effort to save money due to a continually tight budget, the amount of coaches was slightly reduced, saving nearly $300,000. Along with the reduction, where current coaches now rotate between three schools every three weeks, the program’s overall scope was changed for better focus, said Lorah Neville, executive director of curriculum and services.

“It was a change we wouldn’t have wanted, in terms of reducing the coaching program, but we did it very thoughtfully,” Neville said during a recent district governing board meeting presentation.

Coaches now create more focused plans with teachers and hone in on areas for improvement through lesson modeling and co-teaching.

Kindergarten teacher Debbie Mitchell, at Kyrene del Cielo in Chandler, said coach Sarah Elliot’s instruction has helped her become a “more effective teacher.”

“She has not only helped me, but many others in my building,” Mitchell said during the governing board meeting. “(Elliot) has also helped me implement thinking maps and how to tie those into the Common Core Standards.”

Coaches gather a sense of student development and also observe classrooms. Neville added that the new rotational model for coaches helps teachers soak in their training.

“It does have that embedded follow up, and it’s a good practice when we talk about changing someone’s behavior,” she said.

While the Coaches Task Force planned on saving the district anywhere from $500,000 to $700,000 through reductions, it is unclear if more cuts will be made to the program. Still, Neville is optimistic that the current changes will produce the same results within schools as in previous years.

“Our hope is that we can sustain the program as it is, and when the economy turns around we can get a coach in each school, including middle schools.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow on Twitter: @_dianamartinez.

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