Summer Reflections

STEM K-8 Families,

I hope this letter finds you making real summer time. I experienced two weeks of full, unplugged vacation surrounding one week of part-time trying-to-keep-the-ship-floating work. I canoed with extended family in the BWCA of northern Minnesota, and spent a week backpacking with my kids on the Washington Wilderness Coast. When the exact details became foggy, and I couldn’t remember the next step for tasks on my list, I was good to return. I’m jumping into preparations for an amazing fall!

As Rainier Marie Rilke wrote in ”The Winged Energy of Delight:”

 

Just as the winged energy of delight

carried you over many chasms early on,

now raise the daringly imagined arch

holding up the astounding bridges.

 

Miracle doesn’t lie only in the amazing

living through and defeat of danger;

Miracles become miracles in the clear

achievement that is earned.

 

To work with things is not hubris

when building the association beyond words;

denser and denser the pattern becomes —

being carried along is not enough.

 

Take your well-disciplined strengths

and stretch them between two

opposing poles. Because inside human beings

is where God learns.

 

We are stretching this year—new staff, programs, grades, and spaces. The arc of last year’s challenges will be swallowed by a dump truck load of new opportunities. Daringly imagined arches will not be sufficient to bridge the chasm; our relationships, collaboration, and sweat will fill the gaps. Building a strong K-8 school is not a three-year journey; it’s a six-year feat filled with gods learning inside human beings. I find direction in my core values and our tripart vision: 1) Grow 21st readiness in a community that values equity, sustainability, the whole child 2) Develop rigorous STREAM skills to ask and answer audacious questions, and 3) Use Project Based Learning to tackle real world challenges.

I’m jazzed about the journey. And it’s not because of building construction and reorganization, new grades and programs, nor the cool resources that have been coming in. Our students, staff and families fill me with excitement for the coming year! A remarkable group of new staff are joining an exceptional team at STEM. Our partnership with families makes it possible for us to do cool things. Our students are simply amazing. We have the collective talent and commitment to lift STEM K-8 to new heights.

Nothing’s going to be easy. We are living evolution. We are growing from an intimate community of informal connections and make-do into a large collective crafting new systems and common practice. Yet our fundamental building blocks remain passionate staff members bringing high expectations, committed families partnering to create engaging learning experiences, and your extraordinary children.

Happy August! Summer’s still in the air!

Ben

August2

Midde School ELA/Social Studies Teachers!

I sent the note below to SPS’ teachers with contingency contracts, who are eligible for our next hiring phase 4/18-4/25.

Dear Seattle Public Schools’ ELA-Social Studies Applicants,

Louisa Boren STEM K-8 is an option school emphasizing Project Based Learning and STEM subjects.  We are a growing school (currently in our 4th year), adding 7th grade next year and 8th grade in 2017-18. STEM K-8 staff are creating an innovative K-8 school. Visit the STEM K-8 PTA and school website to learn more about our vision and school developments.  You can also get a taste of what happens at STEM K-8 by checking @PrincipalOstrom on Twitter.

STEM K-8 is developing ELA and Social Studies programs that support interdisciplinary and Project Based Learning. Experiences with technology integration, Next Generation Science and Engineering Standards, Positive Discipline, and diverse populations are valued. Our middle school grades utilize a 1:1 iPad program. We are looking for an energized teacher qualified to teach middle school ELA and Social Studies to collaborate in developing a ground-breaking middle school. If you’re interested in innovative teaching and program development, consider applying to Louisa Boren STEM K-8 during Phase 1B from 4/18-4/25. Feel free to contact me at bostrom@seattleschools.org if you have further questions.

Sincerely,

Benjamin Ostrom

Louisa Boren STEM K-8 Principal

Recruiting staff for the middle school

It’s a little quieter working over Spring Break.  Almost lonely in here!  As SPS moves on to Phase 1B of hiring outside applicants are still not eligible, but those with contingency contracts can now apply.

Here’s a brief note to contingency staff eligible to teach math  to apply to STEM K-8:

Dear Seattle Public Schools’ Math Applicants,

Louisa Boren STEM K-8 is an option school emphasizing STEM subjects and Project Based Learning.  We are a growing school (currently in our 4th year), adding 7th grade next year and 8th grade in 2017-18. STEM K-8 staff are creating an innovative K-8 school. Visit the STEM K-8 PTA and school website to learn more about our vision and school developments.  You can also get a taste of what happens at STEM by checking @PrincipalOstrom on Twitter.

STEM K-8 uses Singapore math in grades K-8 to build an advanced math pathway for all students. Experiences with technology integration, Next Generation Science and Engineering Standards, Project Based Learning, Positive Discipline, and diverse populations are valued. Our middle school grades utilize a 1:1 iPad program. We are looking for energized teachers to collaborate in developing a ground-breaking middle school. If you’re interested in innovative teaching and program development, consider applying to Louisa Boren STEM K-8!

Sincerely,

Benjamin Ostrom

Louisa Boren STEM K-8 Principal

 

A budget mitigation request

I spent a while this afternoon working on a budget mitigation request for STEM K-8 next year, asking SPS to provide a 1.0 AP and some additional program planning funds. Excerpts from the application is included below to help see what we are preparing for.

Purpose:

The Mitigation Fund is an auxiliary source of operating funds. These funds will be allocated to address extreme school and program needs that are not adequately funded by WSS allocations, baseline carry-forwards, grants, self-help or other sources of funds.

Criteria:

The criteria used to evaluate requests include program, and equity considerations, unique school characteristics student achievement and other funding availability.

 

[Describe the reason for the mitigation request. The reasons should be tied directly to the mitigation criteria described above. Requests that are not specifically related to these criteria are unlikely to receive mitigation funding.]

Louisa Boren STEM K-8 is a new option school adding a middle school and special education programs. For the 2016-17 school year STEM will be adding two 7th grade classes, an Access program, morning and afternoon Special Education preschool classes, and a Seattle preschool. There will be construction and change throughout the Boren building as Arbor Heights leaves and STEM reorganizes to inhabit the entire school. Additionally, only in it’s 4th year of existence, STEM continues to pursue the work of solidifying its option school program. Implementing a clear school vision has required extensive professional development in Project-Based Learning, Next Generation Science and Engineering Standards, and Singapore Math. We are currently trying to develop alignment in Balanced Literacy practices. STEM’s number of ELL students doubled last year, and STEM experienced a substantial increase in Special Education students (before the assignment of two new programs). Not counting the Seattle Preschool teacher, STEM K-8 was assigned 26.6 certificated teachers (27 qualifies for a 1.0 AP).

The extraordinary level of ongoing change and development happening at Louisa Boren STEM K-8 requires investing in leadership and planning. It takes substantial leadership to develop new programs. A full-time AP and funds to support individual, team, and staff planning for new programming is essential for STEM K-8 to meet the expanding student needs Seattle Public Schools has assigned.

 

Result of not Mitigating

[Describe the negative results of not mitigating the resources as requested. How will this violate the guiding principles and mission of the Seattle Public Schools?]
[If multiple items are requested indicate the priority of needs.]

Seattle Public School is committed to equity.  The level of change and growth at STEM demands at least minimal allocation of additional resources.  With new 7th grade, Sped, and preschool programs (and 26.6 certificated teachers-many of them new to the school and profession), not investing in leadership and planning is tantamount to adopting a “sink or swim” development strategy.  Seattle Public Schools’ mission states SPS is committed to ensuring equitable access, closing the opportunity gaps and excellence in education for every student.  This is particularly vital for Special Education students, our most vulnerable learners.  Not investing in leadership and planning will lead to lower achievement, a lack of compliance and poor implementation of IEP’s and new Special Education programs, insufficient development of middle school programming, and frustrated staff, students, and community members.

Robot Dreams

Six Robot Engineers competed on Lopez Island this weekend.  STEM Teams  took first place in the Skills Competition and Robot Design!

STEM K-8 Robotic Engineers have qualified 3 robots for the State competition in Ellensburg this coming Saturday.  Congrats to the following teams: Hailey and Kalea, Zaid and DJ,  Eva and Lizzie!

2-21-16 Update

We are entering a month that will put many topics topics in air: next year’s school budget, an updated facility plan for the Louisa Boren Building, and program planning for the next year. Some of the items being addressed: 7th grade class offerings, room moves and modifications, continuing and expanding the 6th grade 1:1 iPad program, and more. I’m hoping that we will receive more clarity about bell times for next year soon. We also learned recently that STEM K-8 will integrate three new school programs for next year—a Developmental Preschool, a Seattle Preschool program, and a primary Access program.

The Developmental Preschool and Access are described on SPS’s Special Education Service Descriptions Homepage:

  • Developmental Preschool: Programs provide high quality early childhood environments where activities are designed by Special Education Teachers and Therapists to meet the individual developmental needs of students. Typically developing preschoolers from the community are included in many of the programs. . Instructional content varies, based on each student’s IEP. This service is open to all disability categories
  • Access: Services are intended to provide specially designed instruction to students with more intensive academic and functional special education needs. These services support students who are able to make progress on their IEP goals while spending most of their instructional time, including specially designed instruction, in general education settings with a range of supports. But, services may be provided in any setting, based on the individual IEP. Instructional content varies, based on each student’s IEP. This service is open to all disability categories.

Don’t forget to buy your tickets to the 3rd Annual STEM Auction–Out of This World–on March 26 from 5:30-11:00. Th things you love at STEM are possible because of PTA support. Get your tickets and more information at louisaborenstemk8.schoolauction.net/auction2016.

 

Sweet ’16

I hope that in addition to time with family and friends, the holidays created opportunities to slow down and reflect. Without such space, we run run run; sometimes forgetting what towards. Visiting relatives in Tucson over break provided me with a few introspective STEM moments. Playing a hybridized version of badminton-lacrosse-soccer, I relearned Newton’s Second and Third laws: force equals mass times acceleration, and that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The ultimate conclusion, my broken foot, slowed things considerably. My second STEM dive was through the door of Yaqui shaman’s sweat lodge. The connection between mass, energy, and light (everything else), e=mc2, manifests during a sweat lodge ceremony. Participants purify purpose and interconnectedness in the rising heat. It was not a large leap (even in a walking boot) to link the sweat lodge and our school journey. As we grow Louisa Boren K-8, each step carries direction, learning, and connections. There is are few exact answers–our Emerging Vision points towards a path we travel together rather than a destination. Rainer Marie Rilke wrote in “The Walk:”

 

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,

going far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

It has its inner light, even from a distance—

 

And changes us, even if we do not reach it,

Into something else, which, hardly sensing it, we already are;

A gesture waves us on, answering our own wave…

But what we feel is the wind in our faces.

 

We are entering the second of three consecutive spring scrambles to grow our school. In addition to creating 7th grade (translation–opening a gate to another universe), we will plan and enact our long-term inhabitation of the Boren building. Arbor Heights’ departure will result in a landslide of moves and changes that will be felt through next fall. Juggling the various balls will open doors for involvement, questions, trust, input, support, and fun. I will do my best to facilitate open communication and participation; I’m asking for forgiveness in advance regarding the many times I know workload will interfere with my responsiveness.