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Pasco district to review merged media-tech-literacy job

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LAND O’ LAKES — The merger of three Pasco County school district jobs into one this school year is still a work in progress, but Superintendent Kurt Browning sticks by his decision to create the new ICT literacy coach position that is an amalgamation of the former media specialist, educational technology specialist and literacy coach jobs.

“Since this is a year of transition, staff is mindful of what’s working well and the areas that need additional support,” Browning told the school board last week, promising a more detailed discussion in an upcoming workshop.

One of the early criticisms when the idea was first proposed was that few people possessed the skills relevant to all three aspects of the job. Browning said that the district has provided the ICT coaches a “great deal” of professional development.

“We continue to provide professional development as these roles mature,” he said.

In addition, the ICT literacy coaches meet with principals during the district’s monthly principal meeting, and in the latter half of that day meet among themselves as a group to discuss the issues they face, he said.

One area that needs more work is technology support and the school board could see that need reflected in upcoming budget requests for 2014-15, Browning said.

After schools are finished with this year’s Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests, the district plans to send surveys to all ICT literacy coaches to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the position. The district also will establish focus groups to gather information and to problem solve, Browning said.

Although it is called ICT literacy coach for short, the actual title of the new three-in-one job is information, communication and technology literacy coach.

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.

The merged job was part of a budget-cutting effort as the school board tried to address a multimillion-dollar revenue shortfall.

No one became unemployed as a result of the move, Browning said. Some people chose to leave the district, but everyone else either landed one of the ICT coach positions or was assigned to fill an open teaching job, he said..

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

The district did make some allowances in recognition of the workload that resulted from one person taking on the duties of three jobs. Each school was given a media technology assistant to help with media center duties.

The district created its own version of Best Buy’s Geek Squad, a team of technicians to assist with technology issues at schools.

Kenny Blankenship, president-elect of United School Employees of Pasco, said the union has heard mostly anecdotal reports about how well things are going with the position.

“One of the things we plan to do is get more specific details from those in the position before (contract) negotiations start this year,” he said.

Blankenship said one complaint the union has heard is “that the job’s overwhelming and they need more tech support at the schools.”

“I’m guessing, with all our testing online, we’ll find out a little more about that coming up,” he said.

Another concern, he said, is that the ICT literacy coaches say they are being asked to handle duties that are supposed to be the province of the Geek Squad.

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