Secondary News and Updates (02/10/23)

Secondary-School News

Director Updates

A Message from Maura Ridder, Middle School Director

Dear Middle School Families,

I hope you are all doing well and staying warm. There is a lot of important information in this letter, so I will get right to it.

Middle School Updates

Middle School Dance on January 27

Some of our families have reached out after the dance to learn more about what happened during the Middle School Dance on January 27. I understand your concerns and want to assure our families that while there was an incident, it only involved a few students and was dealt with immediately. I want to remind families that we do not share the details of situations that involve students with the broader community. Rather, we follow the processes outlined in the Student-Parent Handbook and communicate with the immediate parties involved.

For those who were not there, we had school security, four administration members, teachers, and parents on site for the dance, as is common practice for our larger events. As our events continue to grow with more participants, we will be adding additional security to assist our administration team, staff and volunteers to ensure that our students are safe and doing the right thing.

We welcome any and all parents to come and volunteer at these events to help us build that community atmosphere that our students need. Please understand that we cannot share details of what transpired due to student privacy laws.

Grand Opening of the Gymnasium

Thank you to all who joined us for the Grand Opening/Ribbon Cutting Event, and the first home basketball game in our new gym last Wednesday! What an exciting night and an exciting time in our STEM history. The students are excited to use the gym for dances, events, athletic games, and PE. The Middle School Commons is being used for lunch and study hall, as well as a place to socialize between classes. We are all thrilled about this new addition to our school.

Change in Behavior/Tardy Policy

A top priority at our school is student achievement and maximizing instructional minutes. This semester, our staff has noticed an uptick in poor behavior in the classroom, resulting in the loss of class time. Some behaviors they see on a daily basis are incessant talking, defiance, disrespect, talking back to adults, bullying, gaming, and tardies. Obviously, these behaviors are upsetting on multiple levels, but they are also a major disruption to the learning environment and student learning.

Starting on Tuesday, Feb. 21, there will be a procedural change regarding student discipline. Like our previous policy, students will still receive a restorative conversation and/or a warning the first time. Should the behavior occur a second time, teachers will notify parents via phone or email, and students will be assigned after-school detention. Detention will occur from 3-4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It will not take place the same day as the behavior but will be assigned within a few days of the behavior. Parents will receive notification from the administration.

With regard to tardies, when students are late to class, they miss important community building and direct instruction of the standards connected to the day’s lesson. In addition, the learning stops while the tardy student settles into his/her seat. Unfortunately, this year has had an inordinate amount of students coming late to school. We have met with students to discuss tardy concerns, teachers have spoken to students, and we have sent multiple messages home to families.

Starting Tuesday, Feb. 21, all students who accumulate three or more tardies will receive after-school detention to be assigned by our Dean. All students who accumulate ten (10) or more tardies will be excluded from school activities. Such activities include, but are not limited to, dances, field trips, social events, and attending athletic events. In addition, students will continue to receive detention for every three tardies.

Please help end your student’s tardies by dropping them off by 7:35 a.m. each morning and discussing with them the importance of going directly to their first class. Further, please discuss the importance of arriving at ALL of their classes on time. This is the link to our updated Behavior/Discipline Plan.

This policy comes after much deliberation and research of best practices. We are truly hopeful these changes will motivate our students to make better choices and that it will help curb the behaviors we are seeing this year. If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact me at

Important Upcoming Dates

  • Wish Week – Monday, Feb. 27 – Friday, March 3
  • STEM’s Got Talent – Thursday, March 2
  • Parent Conferences – Thursday evening, March 9, and Friday morning, March 10
  • Spring Break – March 11-19

Have a wonderful weekend!

In partnership,

Maura Ridder, Middle School Director

A Message from Ryan Alsup, High School Director

Hello Spartan families,

It is hard to believe that we are halfway through the third quarter! We are currently in the process of completing our course selection process. Thank you very much for the time that you dedicated to your students, helping them select the right courses. We use their course selections to guide our staffing for next year, which is why we cannot grant too many schedule changes once the schedules are released.

The wait is finally over! Last week we hosted our community for the grand opening of our gym. I would like to thank all of you who came out to see our new facility and support our boys’ basketball team as they played their first-ever home game. It was fun to see our team play in front of such a large crowd! Later that week, on Saturday night, we had our first Winter Formal in the gym. It was an amazing experience for our high school students to be able to experience these traditional high school experiences. Thank you to all of those who helped make this happen.

As you know, February is Black History Month. I would like to thank Tjaden Litwiler and her student government students for taking an active leadership role in helping us celebrate this month by highlighting important figures and events in our history. They have done such a good job that another area high school has reached out to them to replicate what they have done here. Nice job, everyone!

Athletics Update

Thanks again to all of those who came out to support our boys’ basketball team last week for our grand opening event. If you like basketball and want to continue to support our team, our varsity team will take on Ascent Classical Academy here on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 5:30 p.m. It’s senior night, so we hope to see you there!

Looking ahead to spring sports- The spring season is almost here. This year we offer girls’ soccer, boys’ volleyball, girls’ tennis, and boys’ and girls’ track. And at this time, I am pleased to announce that we have coaches for all of our sports. For track, we have hired coach Carlie Kmak. Carlie was a track athlete herself and currently works with our middle school students. For soccer, we have coaches Daniel Kerwin and Nancy Szczekocki. For boys’ volleyball, we have coaches Abby Tomic and Todd Trichler. And finally, for girls’ tennis, we have coach Susan Jones. If you are interested in playing any of these, the spring registration is now open. Please visit our athletics website or click here to register. We need more students for each of these sports, so please register now. We also have a co-op boys lacrosse team with Highlands Ranch, but if you are interested in playing, you will need to register on their website.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Ryan Alsup, High School Director

Proud to be a Spartan!

Upcoming Events

STEM All-Events Calendar

Please take a moment to check the STEM All-Events Calendar on our website.

There are lots of events already scheduled so please take a moment to take a look at the calendar to familiarize yourself with some of the events at the start of school. This calendar will continue to be updated throughout the summer as we get closer to the start of school.

NEHS Writing Center Dates for Middle and High School Students

Tuesdays from 3-3:30 p.m., in Room 103 and on Google Meets

We are excited to announce that STEM’s Writing Center will be open to all Middle and High School students. Students looking for additional help on their English assignments can join us either in person (Room 103) or over Google Meets after school on Tuesdays from 3-3:30 p.m. Students can sign up for a 15-minute slot during which we can help them with any essay, assignment, or project.

We can’t wait to see you all!

2/14, 2/21, 2/28, 3,7, 3/21, 3/28, 4/4, 4/11, 4/18, 4/25, 5/2, 5/9, 5/16

STEM Theater Presents Jungle Book and Thespian's Theater Festival

Saturday, Feb. 11, from 2-7:30 p.m.- ES Gymnasium and Secondary Commons

STEM Theater Department is proud to present the middle school production of The Jungle Book as well as an entire Thespian’s Theater Festival complete with stage combat workshops, makeup tutorials, face painting, choreography sessions, a Comedy Club Improv Show, improv workshops, tech demonstrations, crafting stations and more!!! Oh! And pizza will be provided, so students can hang out, have fun, and have dinner before the 6 o’clock show.


Cost: $15

Secondary Student Mindfulness Campaign

Tuesday, Feb. 14, from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. – Middle School Cafeteria and High School Commons

On February 14, our school will be hosting a special Mindfulness campaign on Valentine’s Day with trivia, prizes, and swag in the Middle School and High School cafeterias during lunch. At this time, you can answer questions about your mental health to win prizes, like a ring light that attaches to your phone!

Contact: Tera Johnson-Swartz,

STEM Monthly SAC Meeting

Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 5:30-7:30 p.m. – Mechatronics Lab of P-TECH/KOSON Building

The meeting will also be available to watch via Zoom as a trial. In-person participation is strongly encouraged to help build engagement. Additionally, those who would like to participate in Public Comment must do so in person.

The purpose of the SAC is to inform, encourage and provide opportunities for parent and community members to be involved in the planning and evaluation of the school’s instructional program and quality improvement processes. The SAC makes recommendations concerning the School’s performance, improvement, priority improvement, or turnaround plan, and meets to discuss the implementation of the School’s plan and other progress pertinent to STEM’s accreditation contract with the Board of Education. The SAC makes recommendations to the director for prioritizing the spending of school money.

Middle School Game & Movie Night

Thursday, Feb. 16, from 3:15-5:30 p.m. – Secondary Commons; Middle School Cafe; Select Classrooms

Middle School Student Government is hosting a Movie/Game night on Thursday, Feb. 16, from 3:15-5:30 p.m. Entrance to the event will be at the Secondary Athletic entrance. Students will only be admitted if they have signed up for one of the rooms through MySchoolBucks. Concessions will be sold All students must remain in their room for the entire event unless purchasing concessions. Students will not be allowed to walk off campus during or after the event. An adult MUST pick up all students.

MS Game/Movie Night

College Night for Junior Students and Parents

Thursday, Feb. 16, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. – HS Commons

This event is to review the college application process for juniors and their parents with College and Career Counselor, Kelli Myrick. Learn about where to begin when searching for a university, what all will be required to submit for college applications, and how Mrs. Myrick will support you throughout the next few years! (Presentation will be added to the College Website and repeated during the fall of senior year for those that cannot attend). Contact with any questions.

College Night - Juniors

Parent Coffee with Administration

Tuesday, Feb. 21, from 8-9 a.m. – Elementary Cafeteria

Join us on Tuesday, Feb. 21, from 8-9 a.m., in the Elementary School Cafeteria for our monthly Parent Coffee with Administration event. This is our community’s opportunity to meet the team, ask questions and meet with parents. We hope you can join us. Please email if you’d like to attend so we have accurate numbers for the coffee and pastries.

Secondary Calendar Update - Friday, Feb. 24 is a Blue Day for Secondary

Friday, February 24, All Day

Friday, Feb. 24 will now be a Blue Day for all Secondary students due to Monday, Feb. 20 being a holiday.

NHS Wish Week is Coming Up! February 27-March 3

NHS Wish Week Calendar 2023
NHS Wish Week - Meet Colton!_Page
NHS Wish Week - Meet Colton!_Page

STEMShares UNICEF Project Angel Heart Event

Friday, Feb. 24, from 3-5 p.m. – HS Commons

As part of the STEMShares initiative to give back to our community, STEM UNICEF is hosting February’s STEMShares Event. UNICEF invites the whole school to decorate meal bags for Project Angel Heart. Join the Student Advisory Council in the High School Commons on Friday, Feb. 24, from 3-5 p.m. No sign-up is necessary.

STEMShares February

Math Honor Society Pi Bake-Off

Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 3-5 p.m. – HS Commons

Do you like baking? Do you think you can make the best pie? Do you want to win $25? Bake the best pie (dessert or savory) and compete against your classmates on Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 3-5 p.m. in the High School Commons during the annual Great STEM Bake-off! The esteemed judges, Mr. Moore, Ms. White, and Mr. Kerwin, will judge your pie based on creativity, taste, and presentation! This event is open to all students and families.

MHS Great STEM Bake-Off

HipPOPs Ice Cream Truck at STEM

Thursday, March 9, from 2-4 p.m. – Secondary Parking Lot

Kick-off Spring Break with a sweet treat from the HipPOPs Ice Cream Truck. The truck will be at STEM on Thursday, March 9, from 2-4 p.m. in the Secondary Parking Lot. Pre-orders are strongly encouraged to reduce wait times and impact to driveline. Click the button below to view the menu and to pre-order. Just put the items in your cart and make sure that you have March 9 as the pick-up date, and any time between 2-4 p.m. as your pick-up time.

News and Updates

Lunches will be FREE Next School Year

FREE lunches are back for students! Starting in August of 2023, students will once again receive free lunches. Students must chose an entree, fruit/vegetable a milk for the free lunch. Snacks are not free.

While lunches will be free, it is important for families who need additional financial support to still complete the Free/Reduces Lunch application. Those who qualify for FRL status will only receive the additional benefits (free/reduced school fees, free/reduced trips, priority for scholarships in non-FRL field trips or Enrichment programs, and/or graduation fee reductions, etc.) of the program if they complete the application.

In order to assure that the District and STEM receive accurate data, DCSD and STEM are requesting that ALL families complete the FRL application that opens on July 15, regardless of financial status. A new application must be completed each school year. Families can also still apply for this school year using the link below.

Winter Weather Facts/ Resources

Mentors Needed for Business & Resume Workshop

Our high school entrepreneurship class is looking for feedback and advice from adults about their business ideas.

Your support would be online (Google Meets) on the following Fridays, though you are not required to attend all sessions to participate:

  • March 3, 2023 (any duration between 11:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.) – Introduction/Initial Discussion
  • March 31, 2023 (any duration between 11:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.) – Continued Feedback
  • April 14, 2024 (any duration between 11:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.) – Continued Feedback
  • May 8, May 12 or May 15 (between 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.) – Final Presentation

You would work with the same 1-2 groups of students throughout the sessions you are available to attend and mentor them through their ideas. You will be provided a mentor guide with ideas for questions and conservation topics.


If you are not interested in this mentorship, we are additionally seeking in-person professionals for our Resume-Building Workshop on April 6th from 3-4 p.m.

National English Honor Society Monthly Literary Competition

NEHS is proud to announce the monthly Literary Competition. You can submit any art or piece of writing to and make the subject “February Literary Competition – [Art or Writing] and [Grade].” Our theme for this month will be Love! The winner will receive a $20 Target gift card! Please submit by February 28th!

College and Career Newsletter

College and Career Planning Resources Graphic

Doodle for Google

Calling all creative K-12 students! Doodle for Google is officially open for its 15th year. We are excited to share that this year’s prompt is “I am grateful for…”. Students are encouraged to take a moment to reflect on what’s most important to them.

Students should be prompted to think about:

  • What moments, people, places and things are special to them
  • What or whom can they not imagine living without
  • What are the things that get them through the day

Not sure where to start? Head to for details on how to enter and to find lesson guides and videos to spark creativity!

Submission deadline is March 7 at 11:59 p.m. PST.

Doodle for Google

Student Laptops Being Charged in IT Offices

Our IT department has been graciously allowing students to charge their computers in their offices; however, lately, it has become overwhelming for them. We are asking all parents to help support their students in bringing their computers to school charged each day and ensuring that they bring a charger with them to school. Starting Tuesday, Jan. 17, students cannot charge their computers in the IT department.

Student Fees Reminder

Reminder!! If you haven’t yet, please log into your MySchoolBucks account to pay your student’s fees. We currently have approximately $30,000 in outstanding student fees, and we anticipate that is due to the technical issues at the start of the school year with Express Check-In. If you have questions about your student’s fees or want to get on a payment plan, please email

Calling all Industry Experts, Parents and Community Members!

Career Discovery Information (Facebook Post)

Learn about the NEW Career Discovery Program at STEM

After Care Program for Secondary Students

Did you know that STEM has an affordable and safe option for your middle or high school student(s) when they need to remain on campus after school or after their club/activity? With the freezing winter temperatures upon us and Colorado’s often unpredictable weather, After Care is peace of mind that your student(s) is warm, able to access water and bathroom, and with a trusted adult in case of an emergency that can be utilized as needed. Drop-ins are welcome!

The After Care program is operated by STEM Enrichment in the Middle School Cafe and is available from 3-6 p.m. every day, school is in session throughout the school year. The cost is only $8/day.*

SmartCare allows parents to know that their student(s) are safe, as well as make easy payments online. Contact to get your student registered with After Care today.

*Students that receive FRL benefits can attend After Care at no cost to the parent. FRL contact

Secondary Yearbook Information

This school year will live forever in your yearbook. Buy a yearbook. It’s easy.

Yearbooks may be purchased at

Enter STEM School Highlands Ranch and click on Buy a Yearbook. Follow the directions online. Enter your name and credit card, debit card or PayPal information, and click

Cost: $55 

If you want to personalize the book, name stamping starts at $6 extra and must be purchased before January 29, 2022.


Contact Michelle Vitale, the STEM Secondary Yearbook Advisor at

After purchase, you will be emailed a confirmation receipt. You may also verify your order at by entering your email in the “Find an Order” field.

Free Chromebooks for Free-Reduced Lunch Students

We are happy to share that we will be offering students who are part of the Free and Reduced Lunch program the opportunity to get a Free Chromebook if the following parameters are met:

  • Chromebook is signed out by a parent
  • The student must remain enrolled at STEM for three years. (if the student leaves STEM during those three years, they will need to return the laptop)

Laptops can be kept over the summer. For more information, please email to confirm your Free and Reduced Lunch Program status. Not sure if you qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch? DCSD recommends that you apply regardless so that they can assist you further. Click the button below to access the application.

Updated Snow Day Policy

As the winter season approaches, we want to announce updates to the current Virtual School Day for Inclement Weather policy. Last spring, one of our STEM students presented a proposal and justification regarding changes to our current Virtual School Day policy. As a result, the administration and Board of Directors determined that a change is recommended to the Snow Day Policy. We appreciate the leadership and voice our STEM students display and are happy to announce that STEM will follow the DCSD Snow Day policy with a closure. STEM also reserves the right to modify the calendar, schedule, or this policy, due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather or construction that interrupts the required instructional minutes as set forth by the Colorado Department of Education. The following is a reminder of the current policies.

Late Start Schedule

STEM does not mimic the Late Start Policy and schedule put forth by DCSD. In the event that Douglas County calls for a Delayed Opening, STEM’s Virtual School Day Policy will take effect.

Virtual School Day for Inclement Weather

If DCSD determines that the district should follow the Delayed Opening protocol, STEM School Highlands Ranch will abide by its Virtual School Day Policy. When it snows, our school’s operation and instructional expectations will be determined by one of these three scenarios:

  • Updated: Snow Day – Douglas County Schools calls a snow day – STEM is closed (check
  • Late Start Day – Douglas County Schools calls a Late Start day – STEM is closed and implements a Virtual School Day.
  • All Schools Open – Douglas County Schools declare Highlands Ranch area schools open – STEM is open and operating to our regular schedule.

Update about Secondary Student IDs

Your School Directors (Mrs. Ridder and Mr. Alsup) wanted to share the following information with you in regards to Student IDs, Lanyards and the ID pouches.
  • Replacement IDs if lost/stolen: Students who have lost their ID should complete the Secondary Student ID Replacement Form to order a replacement. IDs are free for the first one and $5 for any duplicates. Duplicates will be printed by the front office and students will be notified when they are ready for pick up.
  • Lanyards and pouches: Lanyards and pouches can be picked up at the Secondary Front Office. Please show your student ID to receive one.
Starting on September 19th, all students must have an ID badge visible while on campus.

Center for Strength News and Events

Center for Strength - S.O.L.A.C.E.
STEM Center - Body Keeps the Score
STEM Center - Permission to Feel

DCSD News and Resources

Mental Health Resource of the Week

Parents, if you’ve noticed your kids are struggling with their mental health, help is here. I Matter offers free therapy for all Colorado youth. Your children can choose who they talk to and whether or not they want to speak virtually or in person. Visit to get started.

Literary Resource of the Week

Read Across America

Read Across America Week is quickly approaching! The National Education Association (NEA) launched Read Across America in 1998 as a year-round program to celebrate reading. Given Dr. Seuss’ impact on the reading world, his birthday (March 2) was declared Read Across America Day. This also commences Read Across America Week and Read Across America Month. This program strives to create and celebrate a nation of diverse readers. Check out the DLMC’s Choice Board, NEA resources and Reading Rockets resources.

Health and Wellness

Take a Meditation Break

Meditation helps us to “unplug,” relax, reduce stress, and function more effectively. Meditation is a great way for kids to take a break, learn to manage strong emotions, or even wind down before bedtime. It also provides several physical benefits by calming the nervous system and reducing stress. There are several meditative practices that can easily be incorporated into your daily routine.

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