STEM School Highlands Ranch has four divisions: academics, business, IT and facilities. Each must work efficiently with the lowest funding for schools in the United States to meet your expectations of the finest education imaginable. Once a year, the business office presents at the STEM board meeting on the complexities of operating a large charter school spanning K-14. Star Ake, CFO, presented on Tuesday evening with the STEM Board finance committee of Nicole Smith and Roy Martinez.
STEM has earned best in class financials through Mrs. Ake’s stewardship. She was a former auditor with a premier national CPA firm and brings a sophisticated approach to keep the school’s financials to pristine standards as reported in the annual independent audit posted on the Financial Transparency page of the website.
2020-21 brought tremendous financial stress to schools nationally and particularly in Colorado, where funding is historically low. DCSD had to freeze all wages to the 2019-20 year even though the cost of living jumped and mandatory PERA contributions increased. DCSD employees lost significant earning power this year. In addition, DCSD implemented mandatory two-five furlough days depending on job category.
Compare that to STEM School Highlands Ranch. With conservative fiscal procedures over the years, STEM was able to provide every employee with a 5 percent raise for 2020-21 and no furlough days. Without knowing how the October Count day would land, STEM had the financial strength to take this risk. October Count provides 99 percent of the year’s income.
What are the projections for 2021-22 financials? STEM will continue conservative fiscal procedures to provide all employees a raise and no furlough days. Right now, it appears the Colorado General Assembly will provide public schools with at least the current funding.
STEM will be able to keep salaries for our faculty and staff competitive with DCSD. This goal requires efficiencies throughout the organization. Our school is known as best in class for the metrics measured by our rating agency, Moody’s.
Academics, financials, governance and the authorizer’s confidence as measured by the charter renewal process, all factor into STEM’s strength and reputation. Thank you to the business office, under Mrs Ake’s stewardship, for their continued work to help us fulfil our goals and to meet our entire community’s expectations.
I would also like to take a moment to thank our exceptional faculty and staff for all their hard work this school school year. Vaccinations are almost complete and rapid-testing home kits are being delivered to our staff. The challenges of this shared journey renewed our commitment to serve our unique mission.
In closing, as we head into February and the celebration of Black History Month, I would like to encourage everyone to take some time to explore the virtual events offered by the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institute, The National Gallery of Art and more.
P.J. Eucker PhD