Secondary News and Updates (09/23/22)

Secondary-School News

Director Updates

Check-In with Maura Ridder, Middle School Director

Dear STEM School Highlands Ranch Middle School Families,

I hope you are all getting back into the familiar routines of the school year. Thank you for all your support in assisting your student in getting to school on time. A reminder that teachers close their doors at 7:50 a.m. each morning. After that, students must obtain a tardy pass from the front office. I am proud to say that our tardy count has decreased, and most of our students are getting to their classes on time. It is wonderful to see our students grow each day as they adjust back to a normal school routine. The support from all of you at home is very much appreciated. Please continue to reach out to our staff with any questions or concerns you may have.

Upcoming events and helpful reminders

Fall Conferences

This year’s fall conferences will take place on Thursday, Oct. 13, from 3:30-7 p.m. and Friday, Oct. 14, from 12-3:30 p.m. in the Middle School and Elementary School Cafeterias and a few adjacent classrooms. Please note that we will be offering a virtual option from 12-1 p.m. on Friday for those families unable to in person. The rest of Friday will be in person. More detail to follow in upcoming newsletters.

Communications Pathways

We understand that conflict occurs in the classroom between students and between students and teachers; this is a natural part of the learning environment. Please understand that I support students and families with these conflicts. I want to remind you to please follow our Communications Pathways. If a student has a conflict with a teacher, we ask that the student address it with the teacher first. If he/she needs support from parents, then we encourage families to step in. If, after that step, you feel you need support, please feel free to contact me. Again, I kindly ask that you always contact your student’s teacher first. We are all here for our students to thrive, and we must partner together for their success.

PTO Blast-Off was a blast!

Thank you to our fabulous PTO and the families and students who joined us for our annual Blast Off. A huge shout out to all the staff members who volunteered to be pied, water-ballooned, or silly-strung! That is true dedication! The sun came out for us, and the event was a huge success and a good time was had by all. Thank you again for your support!

Important Dates

October 13-14 – Parent-Teacher Conferences
October 15-23 – Fall Break
October 25 – Parent Coffee with Administration at 8 a.m. (ES Cafeteria)
November 3 – Prospective Spartan Showcase (details coming soon.)

Have a wonderful weekend!

Maura Ridder, Middle School Director

Check-In with Ryan Alsup, High School Director

Dear STEM Spartan Students and Parents,

I love my job and feel very fortunate to have been able to spend my career working with high school students. Watching them learn and grow from ninth graders into young men and women is absolutely amazing. And while I love every week I get to spend here, homecoming week is definitely one of my favorites. Our Homecoming week actually started last Friday, when we held our outdoor homecoming assembly. The student government did an excellent job planning the assembly, and both students and staff had a lot of fun watching the powderpuff cheers and playing in the annual musical chairs competition.

I know you all saw how your kids dressed up this week, but it was a lot of fun to see all of the students and staff participate in the spirit week this week. Whether it was Minion Monday, Tacky Tourist Tuesday, Thunder vs. Lightning Wednesday, or Adam Sandler Thursday, this was a very successful week.

However, I was most impressed with the powderpuff game on Wednesday. Despite the wind and rain, our annual powder puff game attracted a large crowd. For the grand finale, we will have our annual Homecoming dance here in our high school commons Saturday night. It will definitely be a great time!

Now on to school business. In this newsletter and the next few newsletters to follow, you will hear about the importance of attending school in October. While attendance is always important, it is our attendance rate during October that the state uses to determine our funding. So, if you are planning any vacations or extended absences, we ask that you avoid October if possible.

As I mentioned above, I love my job here at STEM. I truly believe that STEM is one of the most amazing schools I have ever been part of, and we offer unique educational opportunities that students really cannot get anywhere else. With that in mind, one of our goals is to grow our enrollment and provide these opportunities to other students.

To attain this goal, we are starting a shadow program for prospective students. We will invite prospective students to attend one of our four shadow days to better understand what it is like to be a student here at STEM. We have identified four Fridays as shadow days. November 11 & 18 and December 2 & 9. If you know of a student who may be interested in attending STEM and would like to shadow here for a day, please have them complete the STEM High School Shadow Days Form. For our current STEM eighth graders we will be offering a shadow-type event later in year during a school day.

That is all I have for now. I hope to see all of our students Saturday night at Homecoming! Have a great weekend!


Ryan Alsup
High School Director at STEM School Highlands Ranch
Go Spartans!

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.

DEI Committee Meeting

Monday, Sept. 26, from 5-7 p.m. – High School Commons & Zoom

If you’re interested in getting involved in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at STEM, we encourage you to attend to find out more information. Email amie.mcelroy@ with questions.

KOSON/STEM BOD Working Session

Monday, Oct. 3, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. – Zoom

The KOSON/STEM Board of Directors will be holding a Working Session via Zoom on Monday, oct. 3, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. There is no public comment, however the community can tune in to watch the working session as an attendee on Zoom.

STEM Theater Presents: Little Women

November 10 & 11, at 6:30 p.m., & November 12, at  3 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.

Mark your calendars!

Jo March isn’t your typical Victorian lady. She’s indecorous and headstrong, and one day she will be a great American novelist. As she and her sisters grow up in the middle of the Civil War, they strive to be brave, intelligent, and imaginative young women. But as adulthood approaches, each sister must negotiate her private ambitions with society’s expectations. In a war-torn world defined by gender, class, and personal tragedy, Jo March gives us her greatest story: that of the March sisters, four dreamers destined to be imperfect little women.

Tickets are $10. Links to purchase tickets will be provided soon! Contact Max Schwartz (max.schwartz@ with any questions.

News and Updates

Update from Mrs. Gasser on Standards Based Learning

Thank you for your patience while our staff is learning about grading through Standards Based Learning. At Friday’s professional development, our teachers worked on using Canvas and MasteryConnect to enter their grades. We worked on aligning our units to our standards and determining which assessments best allowed students to demonstrate their understanding. Here are some things to look out for.

For our Elementary School families, you should have received an email from MasteryConnect asking you to set up an account. This account will link you to your student’s MasteryTracker, which shows your student’s grades. We ask for some grace for our teachers as they learn all the pieces of MasteryConnect. If you notice that there is a mistake in one of the trackers, please kindly reach out to the teacher via email so that they can look into the issue.

For our Secondary School parents, we have finally been able to turn off the averaging function and the decimal point function in your student’s grade book. All assignments entered into the grade book prior to Friday might still have a decimal point and a number in the parenthesis. The number in the parenthesis is the score that the student received on that assignment. Any assignment entered after today will have a raw score of a 4, 3, 2 or 1.

Students should view their grades in the grade book by clicking on the show more details button in the top right corner. This will show the assignment grade, as well as the learning mastery grade. We ask for some grace for our teachers as they learn all the pieces of the learning mastery grade book. If you notice that there is a mistake in the grade book, please kindly reach out to the teacher via email so that they can look into the issue.

I have created the handout below that helps break down what you will see on Canvas for your child. In each unit, the teacher will determine which standard or standards they are assessing and then will provide feedback to students along the way. Teachers will collect assignments and assessments throughout the unit that demonstrate knowledge of the standard and enter them into the Canvas grade book. Students should monitor their grade book for feedback and to see their demonstration of knowledge grade.

Please have grace with our teachers while they are learning our new grading syhttps://stems, as there might be a few hiccups along the way. We ask students to politely email their teachers with grading questions and clarification. If you have any questions about grading or Standards-Based Learning, please check out our website, and click on student support, academics, and Standards-Based Learning.

Thank you,

Michelle Gasser, Director of Professional Development

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.

Don't forget to order your school photos

School photos have been uploaded for families to view. Families can access their photos by visiting the link below, selecting the School Portrait Proofs link, and when prompted enter their private password in the following format: studentid#.

It's time to order your student's Cap and Gown

Please proceed by clicking the appropriate button below,to place your order for your Cap & Gown, Graduation Announcements & Senior Class Jewelry.

*Receive FREE SHIPPING & HANDLING on all Graduation Announcement Orders by placing your order online at before Sunday, Sept. 25.

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.

Secondary Mental Health Screener Coming up in Two Weeks

This year STEM will be taking a proactive approach to addressing student mental health by administering a broad mental health screener to all secondary-level students! The survey is called the Behavior and Emotional Screening Syhttps://stem or BESS and was developed by Pearson Assessments, a nationally recognized assessment organization.

This screener is not meant to diagnose or determine immediate service intentions but for the support team to identify broad support needs and patterns across our school. We hope this will also help us catch kiddos before they “fall through the cracks.” Data collected will be housed securely through our evaluation syhttps://stem and will not be released to anyone outside of the Student Support team or STEM Center for Strength.

During fifth period on Tuesday, Sept. 27, and during 6th period on Wednesday, Sept. 28, teachers will pause class for about 10 minutes so that students may access the survey via email. A make-up time will be provided during study hall periods on Friday for those who were absent or did not have the opportunity to take the assessment.

Once all students have had the opportunity to take the BESS, the support team will sit down and determine how best to intervene on a whole school level, on a grade level, in small groups, and on individual levels if needed. Small group and individual support from this survey are expected to begin after fall break. Consent forms and parent communication will be ensured before any students are placed in skill-building groups or met individually.

For further questions or information, please contact Katie Bouchard, LMSW at katie.bouchard@

$50,000 Scholarship Opportunity

Covering the cost of college without writing a single essay? Sounds too good to be true! Niche is giving one student $50,000 to help pay for tuition, housing, books, and other educational expenses. Apply below for your chance to win so you can focus on what matters instead of worrying about finances. Good luck!

WTS Colorado Scholarship Opportunity

The WTS Colorado 2022-2023 Scholarship applications are now being accepted and are due October 15, 2022. WTS Colorado is excited to o ̃er six scholarships
to female students interested in pursuing a career in the transportation field. We are excited to o ̃er two graduate-level scholarships ($5,000), two undergraduate-level scholarships ($4,000), a junior college/trade school scholarship ($1,500), and a high school-level scholarship ($1,500) to motivate students eager to make a meaningful contribution in the transportation arena.

Scholarship winners will receive recognition at the WTS Colorado Annual Awards Luncheon and Gala as well as consideration for WTS International scholarships with
awards up to $10,000. For additional information, please email the WTS Colorado Scholarship and Student Outreach Committee:

A Message from Mrs. Gasser about Standards-Based Learning

I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Michelle Gasser and I am the Director of Professional Development. Part of my role is providing support to our community on Standards Based Learning (SBL). Over the past two years, we have worked hard to support our parent community on why we are switching our grading syhttps://stem to Standards-Based Learning and what that will mean for your students.

For our elementary school students, not much is going to change. Our K-5 teachers have done SBL in some form or another since the elementary school opened its doors. What we will be doing differently this year is that we will provide more details as to which standards students have mastered and which standards they are still struggling with. Through the use of MasteryConnect, an SBL grade book through Canvas, teachers can report on each standard for each subject area. This allows a teacher to determine exactly what a student needs to work on and communicate that with parents.

For our secondary parents, I have created this handout that helps break down what you will see on canvas for your child. In each unit, the teacher will determine which standard or standards they are assessing and then will provide feedback to students along the way. Teachers will collect assignments and assessments throughout the unit demonstrating knowledge of the standard and enter them into the Canvas grade book. Students should monitor their grade book for feedback and their demonstration of knowledge grades.

Please have grace with our teachers while they are learning our new grading syhttps://stems, as there might be a few hiccups along the way. We ask students to politely email their teachers with grading questions and clarification. If you have any questions about grading or Standards-Based Learning, please check out our webpage for more information. You can also email me directly at michelle.gasser@

Connect with other Parents

In case you didn’t know, families have specific Class Pages on Facebook where they can connect with other families from their student’s grade. You can find all of the different class pages on our Get Connected page of the Parent section of our website. Click the button below to see them.

Please note that these pages are administered by other parents and not by STEM.

Hiring for an IT Help Desk Technician

Our IT/Technology Support Team is hiring! They’re looking for a part-time IT technician to help during the school year from 7:30-11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and then from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday in the summer months. If you or someone you know is a good fit for this position, please check out the job description via the button below and follow the steps to apply.

Calling all Industry Experts, Parents and Community Members!

Career Discovery Information (Facebook Post)

Secondary Tardy Policy Update/Reminder

Thank you for your patience and positivity during our first two weeks of school. Our students are genuinely excited to come to school, and it is absolutely wonderful to see their smiling faces each day.

This year, I am proud to report that most of our students are arriving at school and to their classes in a timely manner. Starting Monday (baring any impacts from weather), our new breezeway will connect the two buildings, resulting in shorter paths between classes. Now that students have a feel for the distance between their classes, our staff has been instructed to implement STEM’s Tardy Policy.

Girls in Aviation Day at Wings Over the Rockies

Girls in Aviation Day event will be at Wings Over the Rockies Exploration of Flight at Centennial Airport on Saturday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Unlike some of the past events that had structured activities, a large portion of this year is geared more toward giving girls the opportunity to get a closer look at career opportunities in aviation and aerospace. There will be representatives from airlines, flight schools, and aerospace colleges and companies to talk one on one with and learn from like a career fair. This event is free for girls 8-18, so please RSVP, any parents who wish to accompany them throughout the event will need to pay the $12 entrance fee for Wings Over the Rockies.

NMSQT, SAT and PSAT 8/9 Coming Up on October 12

Wednesday, Oct. 12, from 7:50 a.m. to 12 p.m.

On October 12, 2022, STEM juniors will take the PSAT/NMSQT and STEM seniors that signed up will take the SAT. These assessments are not part of state-mandated accountability testing, but an opportunity for students to improve SAT scores or practice for the SAT. The NMSQT is used as a qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship Program. For more information about these assessments please visit

Wednesday, Oct. 12, from 7:40-11 a.m. 

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022 STEM 7th and 8th grade students that did not opt-out, will take the PSAT 8/9. This assessment is not part of state-mandated accountability testing, but an opportunity for parents, students, and teachers to see what skills students need in order to prepare for High School and college. More information about the PSAT 8/9 can be found here. Following testing, students will resume their daily schedule. Students in grades K-5 will follow their normal schedule.  Students in 6th, 9th, 10th and those 12th graders not testing  will follow their typical schedules virtually.

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: $45 until October 31, 2022, $55 thereafter

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


Contact Michelle Vitale the STEM Secondary Yearbook Advisor at michelle.vitale@

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.

School Lunches are NOT Free This Year

Over the last two years, the USDA has provided school waivers that provide meals at no cost to the students. Those waivers expired after the 2021-22 School year ends. This means that a return to paid meals will begin August 8, 2022 for students that do not qualify for Free or Reduces Meal Benefits. DCSD is asking that ALL families please complete the Free or Reduced Lunch Application. While you’re completing the application, please make sure to check the box that allows for the information to be shared with your student’s school. Sharing this information with STEM allows for your student to be eligible for more benefits throughout the school year.

If a family does not qualify for FRL, the meals will cost the following:

$3.75 – Elementary

$4 – Middle School

All meal prices include an entree, fruit, veggies and milk. Ala carte options are available at all schools and prices vary by option. Students pay for school lunches through their MySchoolBucks account.

STEM B.A.S.E. is Hiring

STEM BASE is URGENTLY hiring! We are looking for 1 Program Assitant Manager, and 2 Senior Program Leaders to work in a busy and fun program. If you or someone you know is looking to develop management skills and gain experience in a growing program with a fun, experienced, and dedicated staff, this is the right move for you. The Assistant Manager position is a “Select Charter Postion” with offers an additional 10% monthly pay stipend, 30 hours per week and full time hours on school breaks. Sr Program Leader hours are M-F 1:30-5:30/6. Part-time and full-time hours are available during school breaks. Happy to coordinate BASE managers who have staff looking for more hours. Feel free to call or email me for more details or questions. /(720) 688-2928.

DCSD News and Resources

Mental Health Resource of the Week

I-Matter Mental Health Support Extended to June 2023

Free therapy sessions are available for Colorado youth 18 and younger, or those 21 and younger if receiving special education services. Visit to learn more.

Literary Resource of the Week

6 Strategies to Improve Reading Comprehension

Developing reading comprehension skills is incredibly important for early readers, starting as early as picture books. As school-aged children get older, it will help them understand textbooks, newspapers, and other more complex texts. Scholastic offers plenty of grade-appropriate reading comprehension activity books that can help your child practice, but in addition, here are six tips to sharpen reading comprehension skills in your early reader.

Total Wellness Resource of the Week

Health Fueled By Fun – Wellness Activities for Kids

Health Powered Kids by Allina Health has made it their mission to educate and encourage kids to prioritize their health and wellness through a number of activities. Whether you’re looking to help your child manage stress better, learn about nutrition, teach them about the benefits of yoga and meditation, or educate them on what kids’ wellness means, we’ve got tips to help!

2023 U.S. Senate Youth Program Application available

The United States Senate Youth Program application for Colorado students is available. The 61st annual United States Senate Youth Program Washington Week is being planned for March 4–11, in Washington, D.C. Each delegate will be awarded a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate studies, with encouragement to pursue coursework in history and political science.

High school juniors or seniors with demonstrated leadership by serving in elected or appointed positions in which they are actively representing a constituency in organizations related to student government, education, public affairs and community service are eligible to apply.

Applications are due on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

2023 Daniels Scholar Applications Now Open

Colorado high school seniors can apply now to become a 2023 Daniels Scholar and receive up to $100,000 toward their college degree. Apply at by October 15 to be considered for a scholarship.

The Daniels Scholarship Program provides the opportunity for students to attend the college of their choice. The scholarship, based on financial need, provides up to $100,000 for a student to attend any two- or four-year nonprofit, accredited college or university in the United States.

Youth Congress - Friday, Oct. 7

Calling all DCSD high schoolers! The Douglas County Youth Initiative invites you to attend Youth Congress, an event where adult leaders work with youth on issues that affect the lives of Douglas County youth. This year’s topics will include: Mental Health Classes, Youth Criminal Justice, Pressure to Succeed, School Safety, Dogs in Schools, Youth Voice, Finances, and Trade School. The event takes place on Friday, October 7 from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm at the DCSD Legacy Campus in Lone Tree.

myDCSD Virtual Forum with Superintendent Kane

Wednesday, September 28 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Topics: School Security, Mental Health, and Future Planning

Parent University - Mental Wellness: Back to School Anxiety

Hosted by Douglas County School District and Sky Ridge Medical Center

Wednesday, September 28 | 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Beginning a new school year can be a stressful time for kids and parents alike. Join Stephanie Crawford-Goetz, Ph.D., DCSD Director of Mental Health for Student Support Services, and Anat ‘Nati’ Geva, PsyD LP, Clinical Psychologist on the HCA Crisis Assessment Team (HCAT), to learn about anxiety that can come with the return to school. You will also learn about the support available to your child in DCSD schools and ways you can help!

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