The thinking, Superintendent Joan Frazier explained to the board, is that the coach will help teachers improve their own efforts to get students to learn off a printed page.
She said the reading coach — who will be split between the high school and middle school — “is designed to teach teachers how to teach reading, thereby over time being able to be better teachers and continuously reinforce reading skills whether you’re teaching science or math or what have you.”
Board member William Hutchings questioned whether the addition of one position was enough to make the kind of improvement the city needs.
“Whatever it takes — local money — we need to get the reading scores up,” he said.
Frazier said the trend has been for slight increases in reading scores.
“While that is good news, we’re at the point where we’re looking for a big wallop,” she said. To do that, she is aiming for a more systemic change.
Frazier told board members she wasn’t interested in hiring any more reading teachers.
“What happens when you assign reading or only reading to one or two specific individuals,” she said, “is philosophically it becomes the responsibility of the reading teacher to teach reading.”
Under the reading coach model, the responsibility is spread from just the reading teachers to the entire faculty.
The elementary schools have had reading coaches for almost 10 years, and the elementary grades consistently meet annual yearly progress expectation in reading, Frazier said. She feels that the reading coach model is at least part of the formula for success in lower grades.
Board member Arthur Cottingham felt so strongly that the district should hire separate reading coaches for the two upper schools that he voted no on the measure. Persuaded by his colleague, Hutchings tried to recall his ‘yes’ vote and vote ‘no’ but was not allowed by Board President Mary Harrington to cast another vote after he recalled his initial vote. She ruled the measure passed with three ‘yes’ votes, one ‘no’ and one abstention.
“I can certainly understand a desire to have one full-time at each school, but this is where I started,” Frazier said. “One is what I can easily pay for at this point.”
The board also approved the position of middle school alternative school teacher. That position allows a teacher for the alternative school at Anniston Middle School; the position had been cut when enrollment and state aid dropped in recent years. Since then, the middle school alternative students have been served by the high school’s alternative school.
In other business, the board:
• Approved district-wide technology assessment to be sponsored by the Public Education Foundation of Anniston to prepare for future funding and support.
• Approved a contract with the Agency for Substance Abuse Prevention for a life skills program that will be taking place in one of the district’s summer programs.
• Approved a contract with Gadsden State Community College for the Early College Enrollment Program for the coming school year.
• Approved student field trips to the National Future Business Leaders of America Conference in San Antonio, Texas, and band camp at Alabama State University.