Jefferson Elementary School's four-year principal has resigned just three months after the state chose the school as a demonstration site for best practices in reading instruction.

Jefferson Elementary School's four-year principal has resigned just three months after the state chose the school as a demonstration site for best practices in reading instruction.

Principal Susan Inman's last day at the school of about 500 pupils is July 31.

"I just really feel like there is a different direction the (Medford School) District is moving in, and there are other opportunities for me," said Inman, who is earning a doctoral degree in educational leadership from the University of Oregon.

She declined to elaborate on what district direction contributed to her decision to resign.

"I absolutely love the students, staff and parents at Jefferson," she said. "I'm going to miss them horribly. It's been a wonderful experience."

There has been controversy among the school staff over the district's recent decision to hire instructional coaches, who will teach and help hone teachers' instructional techniques, in place of reading coaches and coordinators for federal funds that serve at-risk students.

Some of the coaches and federal funds coordinators provide targeted instruction to students who are struggling in reading. The new instructional coach position will not provide any direct services to students.

There has been some confusion at the campus about how much funding the school will receive as a result of its designation by the Oregon Department of Education as a Beacon School and how that funding will be earmarked. Beacon Schools serve as demonstration sites where other schools can observe and learn about research-based reading instructional practices touted by the federal Reading First program, which have yielded significant gains in reading scores at Jefferson.

At Jefferson, more than 20 percent of students performed below grade level in reading when the school was awarded a federal grant in 2003-04 to improve reading. Now, more than 90 percent of students passed the third-grade state test in reading. About 65 percent of the school's students are economically disadvantaged. Nearly 100 percent of kindergartners are at benchmark in reading, according to reading assessments.

"They've done amazing stuff with kids there," said Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long.

In Inman's evaluation in 2007, Rich Miles, Medford schools elementary education director, wrote that "Susan is to be commended for her leadership. . . . Her involvement was critical as the building leader."

Julie York, Medford schools student services director, assumed leadership of the Beacon program at Jefferson in March, replacing the school-level leadership that included Inman and reading coach Kathy Staller.

Inman said she wasn't given an explanation for the change. District officials declined to comment on the decision.

Inman, a 22-year educator, has worked for the Medford district for 12 years. Previously, she worked as a teacher at North Medford High School and principal at Kennedy Elementary School. She began her career in the Crane Elementary School District in Arizona.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.