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Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Pasco schools roll out ‘ICT literacy coaches’

WESLEY CHAPEL — Brandon Maldonado has a new job title that is a mouthful and more duties than he once might have imagined, but he’s trying to approach the coming school year with optimism.

Still, even Maldonado acknowledges concerns about how things are going to play out for a new Pasco County school district position that merges three now defunct jobs – media specialist, educational technology specialist and literacy coach.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “We’re still seeking some clarity on a variety of things.”

The new three-in-one job title is information, communication and technology literacy coach, or ICT literacy coach for short. Every school has one, just as schools once had or shared a media specialist, who served as school librarian; an instructional technology specialist, who showed teachers how to make best use of technological resources and fixed technical problems; and a literacy coach, who helped teachers enhance their students’ literacy skills.

Maldonado is the ICT literacy coach at Watergrass Elementary in Wesley Chapel, where he had been technology specialist since the school opened in 2009.

He said he and other ICT literacy coaches are trying to figure out their new duties and prioritize as best they can.

“You kind of have to make it your own,” Maldonado said.

Principal Scott Mitchell echoes Maldonado about the challenge, but added, “I think Brandon is up to it.”

The merged job was part of a budget-cutting effort as the school board tried to address a multimillion-dollar revenue shortfall. Superintendent Kurt Browning recommended the change, and said he didn’t anticipate layoffs because retirements and attrition would allow the district to find other positions for displaced workers.

Regardless, eliminating three job titles in favor of one proved one of the more controversial budget issues. School employees, parents and students packed school board meetings to protest the plan, but to no avail.

In May, the school board approved the new three-pronged position.

Media specialists, tech specialist and literacy coaches had the opportunity to apply for one of the new jobs, but not everyone was comfortable with the combined duties, Maldonado said. Quite a few didn’t bother. Some became classroom teachers or found other positions within Pasco.

“Unfortunately, some left the district,” he said.

Monica Ilse, one of the district’s learning community executive directors, said the district provided some training for the ICT coaches last week, and more work with them is planned. She said with the school year just getting started, there probably will be more focus on the technology side of the job as schools get up and running. That should change as the year proceeds, she said.

Most of the ICT literacy coach positions have been filled, but a few schools still have openings, Ilse said.

Maldonado said he is confident about his abilities with two of the three duties.

Watergrass had no media specialist last year, so Maldonado pitched in on that job already. In addition, with the elimination of media specialists, each school was given a media technology assistant to help out with media center duties. At Watergrass Elementary, that person is Diane Tomlinson, who has public library experience.

“I can hand out that responsibility with confidence,” Maldonado said.

Literacy coach is the part of the equation that gives him pause, the one where he describes himself as “playing catch up.” Over the summer he took training aimed at improving his skills on that front.

That’s his way of trying to be proactive so he is better prepared when teachers turn to him. Still, he figures there are limits to how much and how quickly he can hone those skills.

“I certainly can’t replace the literacy coach who left,” Maldonado said.

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