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AV-W Elementary to pursue expeditionary learning position

December 13, 2019 by Kayla Houp

The Arbor Vitae-Woodruff Elementary school board approved a motion Monday to post for an expeditionary learning (EL) coach position internally for the 2020-2021 school year.

The motion stems from a report by board member Judi Nelson regarding the EL National Conference this past October.

“There was one thing I wanted to bring to the board for discussion, because I had concerns about it before I left, which is that we lack an instructional coach.”

Through conversations with other districts, Nelson said she found the consensus to be that an instructional guide can sustain and bolster the growth and success of EL schools.

While the district did send its entire staff to a three-day EL convention in 2016, the district saw some staff turnover in recent years, including the departure of former EL instructional guide Katie Rein.

“We’ve managed to get through these couple of years, but going forward, we’re going to start seeing gaps,” Nelson said. 

Nelson said it had become clear to her that filling the instructional guide role was crucial to keeping staff on the same page and “working toward the same goals.”

A job description was drafted for the position as a teaching role rather than an administrative role.

“Looking at the potential and the desire to have somebody in place for the next school year, the timing is kind of right now to decide if we’re going to do this, post it internally, and be able to find out if we’ve got somebody internally interested, or if we’d be looking externally,” Nelson said.

AV-W district administrator Jocelyn Smith added that while she agrees the role shouldn’t be an administrative position, additional days would need to be added to the contract to accommodate for work done over the summer with staff.

Staff turnover

The board discussed the probability of hiring someone outside of AV-W staff and staff turnover rates.

“It’s possible that somebody would want to come here that loves EL, that’s certainly a possibility,” board member Randy Quade said.

Board president Jeff Jurries said finding a highly skilled candidate outside of the district interested in the position would prevent the school from having to restructure its classrooms and would be ideal.

“My biggest fear is that when we pull really solid people out of the classroom, we’re really chancing rolling the dice to see if we’re going to get someone of equal caliber,” Smith said. “Not that this new coach can’t coach them into being fantastic ...”

Nelson agreed and added that she felt this position was an important resource in the school to onboarding and retaining staff.

“My concern is that we get new teachers, if they don’t feel they’re part of the crew, they don’t have the resources,” Nelson said.

Jurries said it was an issue of staff turnover, and the district investing time and money into staff that eventually leave the district.

“They’re coming here because it’s close to home, and then when that day comes, they’re gone and then you’re putting a lot and time and money into someone,” he said. “That’s where that is a challenge, but you have to do it anyways.”

A district need

The board asked Smith if she felt the EL?instructional guide was something the district needed.

While Smith said she felt the district needed the support, she also mentioned the need for an interventionist.

“I think if we’re going to be a highly functioning EL school, we need someone to be able to push and coach,” she said.

“I think we need to invest what we need to invest to retain the teachers that we hire to get them on board, so they become a part of the crew, they feel supported, they have those resources,” Nelson said.

Jurries asked whether the district, at this point, needed an EL instructional guide or an interventionist more to help the district move forward.

He also asked for direction as to whether the district needed to post for the EL guide and an interventionist.

“I just need to see if someone’s going to move to the position, because that, honestly, will help me think about what to do next,” Smith said. “If nobody wants to move, I’ll come back to you in January and say, ‘Can we post for an interventionist.’”

After more discussion, the board voted to approve posting the position internally to gauge interest in the position.

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]


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