Check-In with Ms. Kovalesky (05/26/22)

Check-In with Ms. Kovalesky

Dear STEM School Highlands Ranch Families,

We made it through the final week of the 2021-22 school year.  This year’s journey is at an end and what a journey it was. We started the year with additional COVID restrictions, and then as the new year began, we started to see things come back to normal and many of our STEM traditions come back.

While the end of every journey brings a sense of satisfaction and achievement, it also evokes other emotions.  Some may have a sense of sadness as our students say goodbye to one another and their teachers/staff members. Some may feel a sense of relief, or perhaps of stress and anxiety related to changes ahead.  No matter the emotion, please know that you are not alone. 

Change is never easy and we have encountered many over the last few years.  My hope is that in the next year we will begin to see less change and can focus on stronger systems, a renewed commitment to school-wide initiatives, and the necessary levels of support for everyone to succeed. When I accepted the role of Executive Director, it was because I saw the strengths and potential of STEM School Highlands Ranch to emerge these past few years stronger than ever. I know that if we work together our potential is limitless.  

In just a few short months, I’ve already seen this in several of our faculty and staff members who are finding their creativity and innovation as they begin to think about the possibilities that lie ahead in the 2022-23 school year. I’ve even seen this in our students as our new Student Government President and NHS Presidents have been named and have begun working.

Teacher Retention

Each year in April and May every school sees an uptick in teachers and staff members announcing their departure as their yearly contracts come to an end and they have the chance to see what opportunities are out there. We’ve seen a lot of turnover at STEM and we know that the impacts of this weigh on our students, families and fellow staff members who stay.

When I arrived at STEM, the Elementary School lost 19 teachers that year and we had to quickly hire and onboard new staff in order to start the 2019-20 school year. I put several practices into place to build our Elementary School culture and establish strong relationships that I am very proud of. I am committed to using my experience of building a strong team at the Elementary School level, to implement that across the K-12 level.

Our students, families and staff need to return to a sense of stability and consistency. This is not going to be an easy process and we will see staff members continue to leave over time. However, my goal is to reduce the number of departures as best as I can. 

Now I know that each departure this year may have felt alarming for some in our community. I would like to share with you some of the preliminary data that I’ve gathered for this school year to give some perspective. This data will continue to change over the next few weeks. Additionally, we are anticipating staff moving positions throughout K-12 as positions become available and they choose to take advantage of these opportunities. The numbers below are just for Licensed Staff who have submitted their official resignation letters to our Business Office. 

Secondary Teachers 7 5 8 5 5 2 3 2
Elementary Teachers 8 5 2 3 1 1 3
Student Support Services 6 6 2 2 1 1
TOTALS 7 19 19 7 10 5 5 6

While we have seen a decrease in the number of licensed staff leaving us compared to last year, we know we still have a lot of work to do to rebuild. 

After we identify why a staff member leaves, we look at the common themes to see where we could make adjustments for the future. One of the most common themes is staff leaving STEM for other districts, some because they do not feel STEM is the right fit for them, some for an increase in salary, and some to reduce their commute. We also have some that are taking advantage of a dream opportunity in their field of expertise. 

Some of the areas that I know we will not be able to control include retirements, moving, starting families, changing career paths, acknowledging teaching is not for them, etc. However, we do know that there are things within that group that are looking at other districts that we can dig into.

Funding will always be challenging at STEM due to many factors which include low district/per-pupil funding, enrollment fluctuation, facilities maintenance, etc.  With that in mind, I will be working with both the Leadership and Administration teams this summer to find ways where we can make positive improvements to some of our most challenging systemic issues. We will also closely be watching DCSD’s progress on getting Bond/Mill Levy introduced to voters in the Fall, as this will have direct positive impacts on salaries across the district.

I want to take this final moment to share some thank yous!

Thank our Administration Team (Dr. Penny Eucker, Dr. Karen Johnson, Mr. Ryan Alsup, Mrs. Maura Ridder, Mrs. Amie McElroy and Mrs. Christina Wu) for their dedication to implementing strategic steps toward improving our staff culture. This is not an easy task when you think of all of the ups and downs our school has been through. This team stuck together to not only identify areas and implement change but to also continue to seek areas of improvement. 

I am excited about the strong team we are building and while we will lose Mrs. Wu at the end of the year, I am excited about the new members that will join our administration team for the new school year. We have a lot of talented staff members at STEM who are finding and taking advantage of growth opportunities.

Thank you to our entire staff for making it through another school year and for being those trusted adults for our students. Thank you to our students for their dedication to their education and for pushing the boundaries of their own human potential. Thank you to our parents for working with us, volunteering, donating and so much more. We couldn’t do this without you.

Lastly, thank you to our amazing PTO leaders and members for their tireless efforts to bring the fun back into our building. Their efforts helped support our efforts in improving the culture at STEM and it resonated throughout the building. 

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to lead your students and for being a part of an incredibly compassionate, supportive and caring community.

LynAnn Kovalesky, Interim Executive Director

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