The hiring of two Florida men earlier this month to fill the top new positions in the reorganized Little Rock School District administration may have filled out the tip of the reorganization iceberg, but further down the pecking order, people like lead elementary math teacher Renee Kovach are simply learning to live with uncertainty.
Kovach, a 21-year district employee, spends her days helping classroom teachers teach math better — she does research for them, attends state meetings to find out what new requirements are being handed down, trains them in how to adjust to changes like the inclusion of non-multiple-choice questions on state standardized tests.
“We look at all the research and get information into the schools, because teachers don’t have time to do that,” she said.
Her colleagues in the science area take care of things like ordering tadpoles and chicken eggs for teachers at Rockefeller Elementary School to use in classroom projects.
The administrative reorganization has banished them — and, by extension, the teachers and principals they help — into a kind of limbo, where their jobs have been eliminated, but in theory not ruled unnecessary. The reorganization, in the words of Superintendent Roy Brooks, is supposed to push resources out to the schools, but so far no one knows exactly how that’s going to work. Nor are they likely to for at least a few more months.
“We’ve made such strides…to pull the rug out and tell us no plan about what’s going to happen has left us all in a tizzy,” Kovach said.
Dennis Glasgow, director of science and math for the district and Kovach’s supervisor, is losing his job as well. In fact, most of the curriculum department is being eliminated. He said he hopes to find a place in the new, smaller organization, but he’s not likely to know anything for awhile either.
Meanwhile, he at least has a picture of how the reorganization is supposed to play out: At least some of the estimated $4.8 million saved by the elimination of 100 central office positions will be given to principals. They’ll be trained how to assess their schools and determine what extra services they need — a literacy or math coach, an extra assistant principal. A school, or a group of schools pooling resources, might “buy” one of the lead teachers to work directly for them.
Some other jobs the curriculum department has handled in the past, however, will be harder to redistribute. The district is scheduled to choose new math textbooks in the next school year, Glasgow said, and the curriculum department has typically taken care of that. They’re also the ones who’ve made sure the district’s curriculum is aligned with state standards. Under the new structure, the remaining curriculum department staff will bring in people from individual schools to help with those jobs, he said.
“A lot of principals may be a little nervous about how [the lead teacher] services are going to be provided, but the whole thing hasn’t played out yet, so I don’t know exactly how those resources will be pushed out to the schools,” Glasgow said. “I think most lead teachers will be employed by school or group of schools to do something similar.”
As of now, though, principals aren’t sure how it’s all supposed to work either. They won’t get training until over the summer, and the reorganization process is scheduled to continue through the 2005-06 school year.
“[Lead teachers] have been important to us in the past, and we’re not sure how we’ll do it now,” Anne Mangan, principal at Rockefeller Elementary, said. “We’re still waiting to see what all the direction will be.”
There are lead teachers in four subject areas: literacy, math, science and social studies. A few of the positions have been around for decades, Glasgow said, but most were added in the last six or seven years. Some work directly in schools, and their jobs aren’t being cut. A few central-office positions that are funded with outside grants are staying around as well. But about 10 lead-teacher jobs, including Kovach’s, are being cut.
Kovach could fall back on a classroom teaching job next school year, but said she thinks that would be a waste of the expertise she’s developed in helping other teachers. She’s also worried that schools are being left with no resources to help them meet ever-rising expectations.
“If there’s no [curriculum] department, where do you get help?” she asked.
Rockefeller’s Mangan, who’s led the school for 18 years, said she’s just trying to remain optimistic.
“Each new superintendent has his own agenda,” she said. “You just kind of go with the flow.”