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Bridgeport's academic coaches made to reapply

Note: When Vallas was hired in late 2011 to lead Bridgeport schools, he announced, "We have ideas."


Sandra Kase,his first hire, was at his side. She told the CT Post,"Paul and I are philosophically aligned," she said. "We are on the same page about what we feel is important to create great schools. I don't think I could do this with someone who thought differently. We both have had successes in different places."

In 2002, when Sandra Kase was the supervising superintendent of the Chancellor's District in New York City, her bulletin board fetish made the news in The New York Times.

Every time you see "leverage" used in describing school reform, watch out. But even more ominous is mention of a Gates Foundation grant.

by Linda Conner Lambeck

BRIDGEPORT -- In what one school official called the worst school reform strategy in recent times, district reading and math coaches are being made to reapply for their jobs, which next year will have new titles, duties and single-year job security.

The furor is such that the president of the district's principals' union, in a memo obtained by Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, told Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas and Chief Administrative Officer Sandra Kase that if their "goal was to demoralize an entire district, you have accomplished that goal."

Kase said she was merely trying to quell rumors that the coaching positions were being eliminated by sending out a late-night memo to the coaches a week ago. She said the goal is to make sure the district has the best, most versatile educators in the positions.

"It's just a different model," Kase said. "It will allow us to provide better support."

The coaches, two at each elementary school, work with teachers and in some cases with students to improve math and reading instruction in a district where fewer than 50 percent of students are proficient in both subjects.

The plan, according to Vallas, is to create a more flexible model in which every school would continue to have two positions, but one of the two would also become part of a team that provides assistance at other schools as needed.

"The objective is to leverage the talent of the team to concentrate on schools that are struggling," said Vallas.

The position count will remain at 54, Vallas said, and he is hoping a few of the positions will be funded with a Gates Foundation grant the district is seeking. [emphasis added]

"No one will lose their job," Vallas said. "There is no loss of income."

Helen Moran, principal at Multicultural Magnet School and president of the Bridgeport Council of Administrators and Supervisors, refused to comment on the matter, but acknowledged that she wrote the memo to Vallas and Kase.

Her memo describes coaches crying at their schools when they received the Kase email informing them that their positions were subject to reapplication. Moran's memo says principals were caught off guard.

Kase's May email to the coaches told them they had five days to apply for the new positions before any other applicant. Kase also emailed principals telling them "although this is a different model from that which you have been working with, we are confident (it) will provide you with more support for your school than you have recently had."

Vallas said the new model is better because principals would have more flexibility to pick coaches they want. He described the quality of some teams as uneven.

"Let's not forget that two-thirds of our schools are not meeting standards," Vallas said.

Because they would become teachers on special assignment, Vallas said, reassigned coaches could slip back into teaching positions or move into administrative positions more easily.

— Linda Conner Lambeck
CT Post





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