SPS Staffing Reductions


Seattle Public Schools (SPS) announced last week that district-wide fall enrollment is lower than anticipated, necessitating fall staffing adjustments.  STEM K-8 is affected by a .5 FTE reduction in staffing.  Our circumstances were driven by lower middle school student enrollment than anticipated.  Last spring STEM was projected to increase enrollment in all middle school grades.  Our limited middle school history reflects stable, not increasing enrollment numbers.  Apart from the addition of new grades, we maintain approximately the same number of middle school students each year (we lose a few, gain a few).  The trend continued this fall. Compared to the overall SPS loss in enrollment, our enrollment remained stable.

STEM’s staffing adjustment will not affect classroom assignments or our middle school master schedule.  It creates a .5 reduction to our new school intervention position filled by Anhsaly Grant.  Ms. Grant will continue to be at STEM half-time supporting student intervention.

Staffing adjustments are disruptive and frustrating for staff, families and students. This year is especially challenging district-wide. Every year SPS sets aside funding to mediate enrollment changes at the school level. Unfortunately, the district’s actual enrollment for the 2018-19 school year is significantly lower than anticipated. For the first time in 10 years SPS enrollment is lower than the year before. District-wide there are 724 fewer students enrolled than were projected. District set-aside funds were not enough to cover the $7.5 million revenue loss from lower enrollment.  SPS is also constrained by the projection of a significant deficit next year due to restructured state education funding.  The outcome is that SPS must move staff from schools with lower-than-projected enrollment to schools that need additional teachers.  SPS is not alone in having fewer students. Districts near Seattle are also experiencing lower enrollment, while districts further south have seen an increase. Reasons vary, but the cost of housing in our area compared to wages is one likely factor. The appearance of charter schools has also affected secondary enrollment.  District staff are committed to analyzing and better understanding the shifts in enrollment. Enrollment planning staff will be working closely with other districts, the city and partners to produce more accurate student enrollment projections that consider new trends and variables in Seattle.

STEM K-8’s work with families to support student learning will continue move forward.  K-5 Curriculum Night/Open House is this Thursday, 9/27 from 6:00-7:30 pm. We will introduce staff in the cafeteria and then have two, 35 minute classroom sessions. Preschool will schedule a separate family night at a later date. Middle School Curriculum Night is October 4 from 6:00-8:7:30.




Week of September 10

School has started and we are going to be running full speed for a while!

I want to express a special thank you to our community and PTA who helped support vital staff trainings over the summer.  Thanks to your support we sent teachers this summer to Eurkea math trainings,  Next Gen science trainings at NatureBridge on the Olympic Peninsula, and held a Project Based Learning workshop for our entire teaching staff.  Project Based Learning (PBL) is one of the cornerstones of our vision and growing our PBL practices is an important priority given the number of staff we have added over the last few years.

A few key reminders as we start the year

Supervision starts in the morning at 8:35 am.  There is not supervision available for students before 8:35 am.

Please communicate any emergency changes to your child’s dismissal routine to the office before 2:00 pm.  With 560 scholars it’s impossible to guarantee that last minute plan changes can be communicated to your students.  With the various delays in bussing that plague the first couple of weeks each year I know many families choose to start the year transporting their children.  Communicate to us when that changes.

Dismissal is at 3:25.

The rest of the Wednesday’s this year are Early Release Days and school ends at 2:10 pm.

Back to school forms are available on the Seattle Public Schools website. You can also pick up hard copies at the school office, or ask your child to pick up one to bring home.

Forms needed from all families:FERPA, Emergency Information and Student Release

Others forms may be needed on an individual basis and are available on the Seattle Public Schools website: Free and Reduced Lunch Applications (these have to be turned in every year), Volunteer Background Check, Student Health Information for any students with special health needs, Housing Questionnaire, 504 Identification, Title VII, Advanced Learning applications, and many more. Hart copies are also available in the school office.

Don’t forget to join us at the 1st General PTA meeting of the year on Thursday, September 13th, from 6:30 – 8:00.

We’re glad you’re a part of the STEM community! Thanks for working with us to create powerful learning experiences for your children!

Ben Ostrom

STEM K-8 Principal


Read Across America Day


On March 2nd STEM K-8 will celebrate Read Across America day with an emphasis on diverse children’s books.  From the NEA Read Across America website: Over the past 20 years our classrooms have become broadly diverse, and educators need books that reflect the diversity of our classrooms and communities. We believe books should be mirrors and windows so our students can see themselves in the pages of the books they read. But just as important, we want them to be able to look into the lives of characters different from themselves to gain a better understanding of the similarities we all share.

Past literacy awareness efforts highlighted the connection between Read Across America and Dr. Seuss.  This change is about greater understanding of the importance of multicultural representation in children’s literature, and increased awareness about the racial attitudes and imagery in the works of Theodor Seuss Geisel.  Seuss was a supporter of the Japanese internment, and produced political cartoons incorporating slurs racist drawings of Japanese Americans.  His collected works evidence an overwhelming preponderance of white characters and significant concerns regarding the depiction characters of colors in ways that reinforce stereotypes and racism.  For those interested in learning more about the complex history of a famous children’s author, the following links offer more information:  Rethinking Dr. Seuss for NEA’s Read Across America Day, Is the Cat in the Hat Racist?, and how some students used Dr. Seuss Week to teach about his racist cartoons. It’s upsetting to learn that our heroes and icons have complex pasts influenced and rooted in American racism.  Rather than ignore or dismiss historical realities, we can examine our experiences and institutions from an anti-racist stance.  How have our heroes, and ourselves, been shaped by and responded to racism? What was missed or learned, and how do people respond? How can the journey of others inform our choices?


Responding to Parkland


STEM K-8 Families,

It’s been a tough 24 hours for schools and families.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Parkland.  The horror of what happened in Florida (and other school shootings) has reverberated in different ways for students staff and families.  It is a struggle for adults and children alike to try to comprehend why and how such a senseless and shocking incident can occur. Excessive and repeated media viewing can create increased anxiety and therefore limiting ongoing exposure is recommended. Talking about the incident can be a healthy way for families to process their feelings and reactions to an event of this nature.

How to help children cope:

  • Listen to and accept children’s feelings.
  • Give honest, simple, brief answers to their questions.
  • Make sure they understand your answers and the meaning you intend.
  • Use words or phrases that won’t confuse a child or make the world more frightening.
  • Create opportunities for children to talk with each other about what happened and how they are feeling.
  • Give your child an honest explanation. If you are feeling so upset you don’t want to talk about what happened, you may want to take “time out” and ask a trusted family friend to help.
  • If children keep asking the same question over and over again it is because they are trying to understand; trying to make sense out of the disruption and confusion in their world. Younger children will not understand that death is permanent, so their repeated inquiries are because they expect everything to return to normal.
  • Even if you feel the world is an unsafe place, you can reassure your child by saying, “The event is over. Now we’ll do everything possible to stay safe, and together we can help get things back to normal.”

I’ve also attached to the bottom of this letter Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers from the American Association of School Psychologists.

The well-being and safety of your children is STEM’s top concern.  We have procedures and plans in place to support school safety.  All visitors must check in through the office, and glass doors channel visitors that way.  We conduct at least one safety-related drill each month, and have a safety plan that outlines procedures for prevention, mitigation, response and recovery in the event of a crisis. We have practiced lock down and shelter in place drills with students, and reviewed those procedures today.

We feel deep sorrow for those who lost loved ones because of the tragedy Parkland yesterday. No words can explain the horror or senselessness of this deed. I understand this news brings anguish to parents and individuals around the world. It is a tragic day and our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by violence.


Ben Ostrom

STEM K-8 Principal

Tips for Talking to Children About Violence



Black Lives Matter Week

February 5-9  is Black Lives Matter week in Seattle Public Schools (SPS).  We serve approximately 55,000 students that are diverse in every way.  Our school system has struggled to end the unacceptable educational disparities between white and African American students.  Educators, families, community members and students across Seattle are making a commitment to eliminate inequity and to ensure equal opportunities for greatness.  The first week of February, educators across the United States are marking “Black Lives Matter in School” to take a stand for social justice.

The Black Lives Matter movement is a non-violent peace movement that systematically examines injustices that exist at the intersections of race, class, and gender; including mass incarceration, poverty, non-affordable housing, income disparity, homophobia, unfair immigration laws, gender inequality, and poor access to healthcare.

The question of “Why Black Lives Matter,” rather than “All Lives Matter” is important to consider.  A number of analogies provide insight: a house on fire needs more water than a neighbor’s house that is not burning, or “everyone should eat” doesn’t provide consolation to the person who missed their dinner.  On Twitter from ManOfTheHour@djsoap92, “#AllLivesMatter is like I go to the Dr for a broken arm and he says “All Bones Matter” ok but right now let’s take care of this broken one….” Former President Obama explained, “I think that the reason that the organizers used the phrase Black Lives Matter was not because they were suggesting that no one else’s lives matter…rather what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that is happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities.” The historical context of racism experienced by African Americans in the United States makes Black Lives Matter an important movement towards creating racial justice and equity for other impacted communities.

On Monday, February 5 volunteers will be in front of the school to start the day sharing tables with resources and sign making and stickers for people who want to participate but don’t have a t-shirt.  You can find resources to discuss race and racism with children at many places including http://www.teachingforchange.org/teaching-about-race#.



STEM K-8 Middle School Math Pathway

Developing a vision for math at STEM K-8 involved planning and research into instructional materials and the scope and sequence of math skills students learn.  From the beginning our mission has valued challenge and preparing students to take advanced math courses in high school and beyond. Currently within Seattle Public Schools and nationally, completing Algebra by 8th grade is a common pathway to advanced mathematics in high school.

To support this aspect of STEM K-8’s vision we made important choices.  As a K-8 school, we are staffed to provide one primary sequence of math classes for students (students receiving Special Education services for math in middle school may follow a different course sequence). To complete Algebra 1 by the end of 8th grade, students entering 6th grade in 2017 will follow the “Accelerated Traditional Pathway for the Common Core State Mathematics Standards” laid out in the Common Core Mathematics Standards.

This pathway, detailed in Common Core State Standards_Mathematics_Appendix_A, pages 80-146 (attached to this email), lays out an accelerated math curriculum covering 7th and 8th grade. This pathway does not omit any content or Common Core Standards; instead, it compacts three years’ worth of standards into two years.  Students will learn seventh grade standards plus portions of 8th grade standards in 7th grade, and the remaining 8th grade standards plus Algebra 1 in their 8th grade year.  The research behind this pathway and detailing of standards is laid out in the appendix referenced above.

A compacted math pathway entails a fast pace and a high level of academic rigor. With this understanding, we are providing multiple supports, including middle school Math Empowerment Pathway classes designed to provide students with additional opportunities to practice mathematical skills. It will also require a strong commitment from students and families.  We are prioritizing preparation for advanced math, and students needing math support may have additional homework, need further support, or miss other opportunities. Choosing STEM K-8 as an option school is also making a significant math commitment.  Parents interested in discussing our middle school math pathway are invited to join me for a discussion before school on Friday, December 15 from 8:15-8:45.