Superintendent Kim Elliott is on a mission to improve student test scores.

She told commissioners during a May 22 budget work session that administrators have allocated $200,000 of their general fund balance for tutors and programs that will “directly impact student performance.”

Also new to this year’s budget is an $87,680 request to hire a curriculum coordinator. “This person is not an administrator,” Elliott said. “They’re going to work elbow to elbow with teachers.”

Commissioner Gayle Woody, a retired teacher, asked specifically what the new position would bring to local schools.

“One of my gut beliefs is that teacher-student interaction is the most important thing for student success,” Woody said. “I’m not against this money or request, but what would convince me that this curriculum coordinator would really help day-to-day life for students? When you have excellent teachers who are highly trained, why do you need a curriculum coordinator?”

“I too am a teacher at heart,” Elliott said. “One teacher makes a huge difference for 29 students. I’m looking for a bigger impact.”

The superintendent said she could use the requested money to hire a teacher with a masters degree, but dollars would be better spent on a coordinator, she said.

“I’m looking for this person to be in the field impacting 1,800 students,” Elliott said. “I do not believe we have supported our excellent teachers with curriculum in the manner that we should have. That’s on me, and this person is going to spend a lot of time elbow to elbow in classrooms helping teachers and helping students.”

Commissioner Ron Mau asked if there’s a difference between a curriculum coordinator and “lead teachers” already working within the school system.

Elliott said some lead teachers serve as coaches for teachers; however, many of them work primarily as interventionists for students, she said.

The curriculum coordinator also would direct professional learning communities across the district, according to the superintendent. This is an opportunity for teachers to come together and share best practices. A coordinator would bring those communities together to create consistency, Elliott said.

The superintendent told commissioners that two neighboring counties employ curriculum coordinators, and officials there have seen results. “Those two counties have higher test scores than we do,” she said.

For 2017-18, the state’s Department of Public Instruction issued a report card of one A, one B, five Cs and one D to Jackson County’s eight public schools. These grades are based mostly on the results of standardized testing and academic growth; however, graduation rates and college-preparation tests can influence the grades for high schools.

Commissioner Mickey Luker said he supports the effort to increase student test scores. “We’ve got to do something to bring them up,” he said. “If there’s a method or means that you as professionals have seen and believe in, then (so be it).”

“I know it’s worked in two other places,” Elliott responded. “I know that our teachers are just as good or better than in those other places, so I feel it’s my duty to support our teachers in the way those two other counties have supported theirs.

“I need to see student achievement rise just like you do,” she said.