Anonymous letter: Academic coaching program comes under fire
An anonymous letter, written by someone who claims to be a Wilton public school teacher and mailed to a number of residents in town as well as The Bulletin, has been creating a social media buzz for its claims that the school district’s instructional coaching program is a “million dollar lie.”
A Cider Mill teacher has since written a letter of rebuttal.
“This program, along with a steady stream of questionable initiatives has left our budget strained and our students overlooked,” the letter states.
The writer blames Assistant Superintendent Chuck Smith for the “enormous waste of resources,” as well as Superintendent Kevin Smith for going along with it.
Board of Education Chairman Bruce Likly introduced the plan for two district curriculum coordinators and six instructional coaches in his Notes from the Board Table column in January 2015.
He wrote: “The coordinators’ key responsibility will be to establish a clear philosophy for each subject area across the district, and to then develop, implement and evaluate a challenging and appropriate curriculum district-wide.” He acknowledged they would have daily interaction with teachers and building principals.
Of the coaches, who are certified teachers, he said they “will guide and support our teachers as they integrate curriculum standards into their daily lesson plans. Instructional coaches will provide coaching, assessments and support to teachers on a daily basis — something that currently is not available. The coaches and curriculum coordinators will also develop critically needed professional development for our teachers, which offers access to innovative thinking and best practices in key subject areas.”
According to the letter writer, both positions are paid a full-time teacher’s salary with benefits and neither work with students.
The writer claims that instead of six, there are actually nine instructional coaching positions. The writer also claims that the coaches don't actually provide coaching assessments and support to teachers on a daily basis.
As for curriculum coordinators, the writer claims, “they are not having daily interactions with the building principals or their teachers.”
“It's a broken, ineffective mess,” the letter states.
“While Kevin Smith has been proclaiming his concern for teacher to student contact time, he and Chuck Smith have allocated over a million dollars of funds into eleven non-administrative coaching positions (teachers) that have, by definition, no instructional contact time with students.”
Because of such “senseless initiatives,” the letter states, school staff has been left “disheartened and discouraged.”
The million dollars spent on the instructional coaching program, the writer states, “should be reallocated into the schools for staffing and programming that is sorely needed.”
Cider Mill reading specialist, Wilton resident and parent of Wilton public school students Nisia Todd replied to the anonymous letter with her own, rebutting the anonymous author’s claims.
“In my role, I work most closely with our two humanities coaches,” she wrote.
These two coaches, Todd wrote, “exemplify excellence” and “are always willing and able” to help.
“Every day, they enhance the education of the students, and support teachers,” Todd wrote.
“I am absolutely a better teacher because of the support I receive from the coaches and curriculum coordinators.”
Todd said she does not feel “demoralized” by the implementation of these new positions.
Instead, she wrote, “I feel extremely fortunate and blessed to work in such a supportive building” where she can “continue to hone [her] craft because of the growth mindset being practiced at Cider Mill.”
“Every day,” Todd concluded, “I'm thankful to work in a school which offers extensive supports for staff and students.”