District continues support of academic coaching program

By Rachel Kytonen

After extensive dialogue and principal presentations, the Cambridge-Isanti School Board voted to continue the academic coaching program.

During the board meeting Thursday, April 19, the board once again discussed the academic coaching program and heard from principals about the positive benefits they have seen by having the academic coaches in their buildings.

While the board has discussed the academic coaching program the past few months at its meetings, it has been concerned with continuing to fund the program since the initial funding that had been provided to the district to begin the program ends June 30.

The Academic Coaches Program began in January 2011 with federal Ed Jobs money (part of the federal stimulus package). Currently there are eight academic coaches, but the proposal the board approved Thursday is for seven coaches.

Robyn Vosberg-Torgerson, director of finance, explained in fiscal year 2013 the academic coaching program will cost $400,000 and be funded through:

• Education Jobs funding: $50,000

• Staff Development: $100,000

• Literacy Aid: $160,000

• Teaching & Learning Transition Savings: $14,000

• General Education Funds: $76,000.

Superintendent Bruce Novak touched on the benefits of the academic coaches.

“This program has embedded professional development in the classrooms on an on-going basis, and has provided constant support for teachers,” Novak said. “Think about the benefits for students and staff as you make your decision tonight.”

Mark Ziebarth, principal at Isanti Intermediate School and School for All Seasons, said the principals have been meeting together the past 18 months to discuss student achievement.

“Our goal is to increase student achievement,” Ziebarth said. “We want to match strategies with resources for effective student achievement, and increase student achievement. Because of this program, every teacher becomes stronger, and a better teacher.”

Ziebarth gave specific examples that showed how student test scores improved from the fall to the spring.

“The coaches have had a great impact at the elementary levels,” Ziebarth said. “They have impacted individual students, every grade level, every classroom, every teacher and the community.”

Charlie Burroughs, principal at Cambridge Middle School, also gave a presentation showing the improved test scores.

“The gains we have made are really, really significant,” Burroughs said. “The academic coaching program is a good program. We have just started it, but we want to see it grow.

Susan Burris resigns

At a special school board meeting Wednesday, April 11, the school board accepted the resignation of Susan Burris, who had served as director of teaching and learning since July 2006.

Novak explained Burris accepted a position with the Minnesota Department of Education, and her last day with the district was April 13.

He said Burris did notify the district in advance that she was looking for other opportunities outside the school district.

Tim Truebenbach, principal of Isanti Middle School and the Minnesota Center, will fill the duties of the teaching and learning position for the remainder of the school year.

The teaching and learning position is being advertised, with applications accepted through April 27.

Novak said interviews will take place in May, and the goal is to have the new director of teaching and learning begin with the district July 1.

Novak said Truebenbach’s administrative staff, Steve Gibbs and Anne Johnson, who both hold administrative licenses, will share Truebenbach’s responsibilities for the remainder of the school year.

“Although we had at least three qualified people in the school district who could have stepped in to temporary fill this role, we determined bringing Mr. Truebenbach in would have the least disruption to the district,” Novak said. “That is one of the great things about this district. We have good people in our district who can step in and take care of business.”