Distributed Leadership and Teacher Care are two of the five strategic plan pillars that guide every decision at STEM School Highlands Ranch. State of STEM last week reported out the myriad of ways decisions across every department are guided by our STEM Board-adopted Strategic Plan.
STEM has partnered with faculty to Never Stop Innovating. Faculty reported in last year’s surveys their need for more time and more support for STEM’s instructional model of problem-based learning (PBL). Using that feedback, we created the Teacher Support Team, led by our Director of Professional Development, Michelle Gasser. On the team are two full-time and one part-time PBL Specialists. These specialists were chosen to work shoulder to shoulder with faculty on how to design, support, and lead PBL. Additionally, teachers are given more time by limiting the number of staff meetings to every other week to allow teachers to meet as departments and Professional Learning Communities (PLC) more frequently.
One way time was provided to faculty is to remove some of Colorado and federally mandated requirements from the teacher to dedicated members of the Teacher Support Team. STEM has one full-time provider for our significant number of students identified as gifted and on an Accelerated Learning Plan (ALP). In prior years, STEM provided stipends to teachers for this additional duty, which meant additional workload for the teacher. In being responsive to teacher feedback, we decided to lighten the work for teachers by shifting these responsibilities onto our full-time service providers.
The reporting requirements are substantial and serving this population well is best provided by a dedicated professional. New York City has disbanded gifted education. STEM is proud to serve all students and has one of the largest populations of ALP students in DCSD. Additionally, of a large number of ALP students, many of them are also identified as having an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
STEM’s SPED department has 13 full-time providers for about 125 students on Individualized Learning Plans (IEP). Dedicating one to over 400 students on ALP was critical to serving the unique needs of gifted students which includes more social and emotional support for perfectionism and other traits.
Another support for faculty this school year is a full-time MTSS coordinator. This is another federal requirement to provide support to students K-12 not making adequate progress.
STEM solicits honest feedback from faculty and staff to continuously monitor how to best leverage public school resources to support employees while serving our mission of providing a quality education for our students. Our first Staff Quarterly Survey closes today and this feedback helps the entire staff to find creative solutions to the most challenging issues.
Time is another area that is a persistent need. This is universal across every workplace. STEM made an open call for any wishing to join a think tank to generate and explore creative solutions within federal and state laws. As a public school, STEM is bounded by many non-negotiable guardrails. Several teachers, administrators and staff members stepped up to find more creative solutions. Gavin Rubin, High School Physics teacher, agreed to lead the group by working with STEM staff who are experts in the guidelines. We hope to share more in the coming months on their progress.
The STEM Student Advisory is a dedicated group of High School students who do the hard work of meeting regularly with leadership, board meetings, and board committees such as DEI and curriculum. They have generated many creative ideas that STEM has been and will be able to incorporate. We look forward to this continued partnership.
STEM will always be in constant improvement to remain responsive to changes in student, staff, and world needs. The dynamic approach instead of static procedures keep STEM at the forefront of innovation.
Enjoy your weekend,
P.J. Eucker PhD