Teachers Trish Appel, Karen Chase, and Angie Trudeau explained that their program is based on the school’s team leadership model that was put in place when TVES Principal Rebecca Fillion came to the school about four years ago. Essentially, the program creates a collegial system in which teachers can discuss challenges, share information, and collaborate on solutions.
Chase said that the teacher coaching model, implemented this year, was based on recent research indicating that “supporting ongoing teacher learning increases student learning.” She also said that it will help support the implementation of Common Core.
Appel said the issue of “school culture” was particularly important this year, given that the staffs of two elementary schools were combined at the new school. “Coaching allows us to develop relationships and trust with each other,” she said. “It’s a safe place for people to try things and fine-tune what’s going on with kids.”
Chase explained that it can be difficult for teachers to improve without time for “reflection,” and coaching gives them that time. “Coaching also honors adult learners,” she said. “Kids will learn because we want them to, but adults need to have a choice in it. Through coaching, you’re helping people get better at what they already do.”
Trudeau said coaching facilitates student learning by providing targeted intervention based on students’ needs. “The coaching piece is key because we need to change as students’ needs change.”
Appel said the coaching strategy has led to a lot of discussion and research among faculty members. Fillion said that a teacher considering strategies to deal with a challenge may put out a call for information from colleagues, and find their inbox filled with articles and research on that particular subject. “I can’t stress enough how much that plays a role in the change in dialogue,” said Appel.
Chase said faculty are able to stay up to date on research. “It’s amazing how, when you take the resources and give them to teachers, you see these really effective strategies happening.”
Board member Phil Taylor said the coaching model “totally changed the ‘egg crate’ phenomenon, where each teacher is isolated in their classroom. That’s one of the benefits of collaboration.”
Board member Kathy Larsen asked how teachers are reacting to the program. “I’ve gotten good feedback,” Appel said. Fillion added that para-educators have also indicated that they like the support.
In other matters, board member Dennis Richter urged the board to consider adding a school resource officer (SRO) to Twin Valley schools, a certified police officer who would be assigned to the district, in light of a number of violent incidents at schools across the country. “I’d just like to get an idea whether other board members think we should, or shouldn’t have an SRO,” he said.
Board member John Doty, who once served as principal at Whitingham School, said he would support an SRO “in a school that’s isolated from contact with the police department on a daily basis. It’s a good idea for schools. It would be useful to have (Windham County) Sheriff Keith Clark come here and talk to us about it.”
Taylor said he’d like to look at how the school could use an SRO to provide instruction as well as security.
Board member Aimee Reed said she didn’t object to the idea, but warned the board that they’ll need to have a clear plan for the SRO if Town Meeting voters are to support it. “The SRO can’t be viewed as a baby sitter,” she said.
Twin Valley Middle School Principal Keith Lyman said that, in his experience, an SRO didn’t add much to the school. “My experience is that they didn’t do anything, no minor discipline. They were completely separate (from the school) in their role.”
But Twin Valley High School Principal Bob Morse said his experience working with an SRO was different, and that the officer’s relationship with the school and his or her duties can be specified in a contract. “I worked with one for 20 years,” he said. “In the first year, you’ll find they’re doing a lot of policing. After that, there’s less and less policing and you need to get them involved in a lot of other duties – teaching, coaching.”
Morse also said that the SRO should be involved at the elementary school as well as the middle/high school. He also noted that three-quarters of the cost of an SRO would be paid by a grant.