Reassurance in the Midst of District Turmoil

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By now I’m sure that you have heard about what is going on with the Douglas County School Board. STEM is self-governed by our very own nine-member elected Board of Directors that is composed of Parent and Community volunteer members. Seven are current or past STEM parents and two have young children not yet school age.

The issues with the DCSD Board are complex and rooted in political beliefs about unions and their role in education. The accusations that have played out in the headlines and TV this week are not always as they are reported. Time will tell what the impact will be, but my hope is that the DCSD Board can return to functioning as one unit to do what is best for students and staff.

The fighting will inevitably harm the chances for DCSD to pass a Bond and Mill Levy Override (MLO) that is so desperately needed to raise wages in neighborhood and charter schools. STEM uses the starting salary that DCSD sets for their positions as a starting point to then offer more.

We will feel the impacts if DCSD cannot pass a Bond and MLO. My hope is the DCSD Board will rise above their differences to create a vision for DCSD schools that the entire community can get behind and support.

Meanwhile, STEM, along with all other DCSD charters, are committed to supporting their teachers and providing in-person learning for all students, knowing there will be more protests in the next months.

Caring for staff has always been my priority. While we are constantly being challenged to do more with less, please know that all of my decisions are made with the clear priority of our staff and our students. I cannot meet everyone’s individual needs, I try to be as fair to everyone which can sometimes appear that decisions do not fit the individual.

Decisions also have to be considered for longevity and not just for the immediate. Any decision that impacts the budget is looked at in the long term, as it will have lasting impacts. It is a constant balancing act that is one of the most challenging and oftentimes misunderstood parts of my role as Executive Director. Decisions made will inevitably be received both positively and negatively by our entire community.

Teacher Care is one of the five Strategic Plan pillars at STEM. We have committed a portion of our budget to provide a one-of-a-kind Teacher Support Team that is solely focused on providing impactful support, care, coaching, mentorship, friendship and more. As former teachers, this team knows what it is like to teach at STEM, and can provide that innovation support identified by our faculty as a priority need.

Maximizing pay and benefits remain a challenging target without more resources through a Bond and MLO. Every decision has to be carefully considered for impact on the budget. We do our best to be responsive to what our community needs, but have to also balance how those decisions will impact us financially. Charters fail for fiscal mismanagement. No one will save us if our school goes bankrupt. Fiduciary oversight is one of the primary requirements of our STEM Board.

If we cannot fully accomplish meeting the need, we do what we can to be innovative to find other solutions. One example is the need for more social-emotional support for students and staff. Our Student Support Team is truly an amazing group of experts and caregivers. They are doing their absolute best to meet the needs of all of our students who have been impacted by so many things over the past few years. As we move forward, we are working to find a balance between finding the right social-emotional support that not only fits the needs of our students but also fits within our staff’s abilities to implement it.

The world is a hurting place right now. No one is immune to the enormous stress. Leaning into each other has made all the difference this year. Thank you for keeping STEM a sanctuary of care. Our students know they are cared for and treated with dignity each and every day at home and at school.

I am proud to be a part of this amazing community of educators. I hope that our efforts over this school year have impacted each of you in a positive way. Your Leadership Team and your STEM Board of Directors are committed to not only making STEM the best place for students to achieve but for our staff to feel cared for and valued.

P.J. Eucker PhD
Executive Director

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