10-25-15 Update (Owl Post Preview)

The Louisa Boren STEM K-8 Emerging Vision serves as a guide for school priorities. We discussed what it means to “Develop rigorous STREAM skills to ask and answer audacious questions” at the October PTA meeting. During the Early Release on 10-28-15 (school gets out at 1:40), staff will focus on the Reading element of STREAM–Reading instruction utilizes Balanced Literacy practices to teach reading and writing skills, and integrate literacy into content areas and PBL projects. We will be looking at how to use guided (small group) reading instruction to support our range of readers. The PTA’s Direct Give plays a vital role in helping us acquire STEM reading resources. Depending upon grade level, all students should be reading between 20 and 30 minutes each night at home.

I’ve had many questions about the SPS Bell Times proposal. The goal of the Bell Times Task Force was to move start times back for Middle Schools and High Schools to account for their need for more sleep and to move most elementary schools to earlier times when younger kids are best able to focus. Because of funding restrictions (all proposals had to be cost neutral), when the final recommendation for new bell times were published, several schools (including STEM K-8) were moved to a “Tier 3” time slot. This would make start and end times for next year 9:40am – 4:20pm. This later bell time may create a variety of hardships. You can provide direct input prior to board action on Nov. 4. The PTA provided a sample letter on their website. If the proposed Bell Times are a concern for you, send feedback to the following addresses: arrivaltimes@seattleschools.org, schoolboard@seattleschools.org, superintendent@seattleschools.org.

There is a potluck on October 28 at 5:30 in the school cafeteria. Join us for food and fun! Students are able to wear non-gory costumes (please leave toy weapons at home) for the evening. In line with past practice, on October 30th we will not wear costumes or have candy parties at school to limit learning disruptions.

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Dear STEM K-8 3rd and 3rd/4th Families:

As communicated previously, Seattle Public Schools finalized its fall staffing adjustment, and STEM K-8 lost our class size reduction position. This position had been assigned to lower class sizes in our 3rd and 4th grades. Smaller than projected district-wide enrollment, combined with higher than anticipated operating costs, resulted in SPS being unable to support positions below contracted class size ratios.

The affects of staff displacement are hard on families and staff. Teachers have developed relationships with students, and are already implementing instructional programs. Our SPS bargaining agreement assigns displacement by years of Washington State teaching experience. John Castilleja, the support teacher for our 3rd and 3rd/4th grade team, graciously volunteered for displacement. Although Mr. Castilleja was at STEM for a short time, he has many years of teaching experience in Washington State. He volunteered for displacement to minimize the affect on students and families of changing classroom teachers. He will move on to a position teaching high school Spanish. Staff planned opportunities for students to say goodbye on Friday, October 23, Mr. Castilleja’s last day at STEM K-8.

The feedback gathered from families centered on three priorities: maintaining a multi-grade, team-oriented program; minimizing social and academic disruption; and concerns about student/teacher ratios in math and reading. Those themes were placed front and center during staff planning. As we move forward, Mr. Daniels, Ms. Graves, and Ms. Colby’s students will maintain their current teacher assignments. The 3rd and 3rd/4th team will also continue to develop a collaborative environment that emphasizes community and shared responsibility for students. For example, students will choose PBL units developed from their interests and facilitated by any of the three teachers. Language Arts blocks will also continue as previously planned, with instruction occurring primarily within homerooms. I will prioritize instructional assistant time targeting reading intervention for the third grade team to increase support in that area. One clear change will happen in mathematics, for which Mr. Daniels 4th graders will join Ms. Giza and Ms. Newton’s 4th grade classes for math instruction. Ms. Giza and Ms. Newton’s classes have been progressing through Singapore Math at an identical pace to Mr. Daniel’s students. Some of Ms. Graves and Ms. Colby’s students will be moving to Mr. Daniels classroom for math. There are likely to be some unanticipated challenges and concerns that emerge in the weeks to come. Please share questions and feedback with your child’s teacher or me.

The 3rd and 3rd/4th team will continue to plan enriched learning experiences together. Undoubtedly Mr. Castilleja’s support and skills will be missed. As a staff and school community we can continue to look for opportunities to support to a team whose student/adult ratio just increased. Your teachers will share needs for volunteer support and involvement as they emerge. Working together, we can make sure all of our students experience the benefits of a high quality STEM education.

Thanks for the ongoing support of your children and Lousia Boren STEM K-8 .

Sincerely,

Ben Ostrom

Principal

Louisa Boren STEM K-8

Gratitude and Challenge

Louisa Boren’s STEM K-8 has faced a few challenges this fall requiring big lifts to get our plans going. Our partnership with parents makes results possible: 6th grade scholars putting tower designs to a pressure assessment with genuine force testers, teachers using release days to plan Next Generation Science and Project Based Learning units, scholars at all grade levels reading nonfiction text at their reading level, students using a video application to produce and share conclusions from research, and many more experiences each day. Now is a great time to log on to the stemk8pta.org website and participates the PTA’s annual Direct Give campaign at whatever level you are able. Special thanks to those who were able to join the work party last weekend working on beds in one of the courtyards bordering Delridge Way. The work didn’t just improve an eyesore, but also helped prepare the way for class gardening projects.

Seattle Public School’s finalized its fall staffing adjustment, and STEM K-8 will lose our class size reduction position. STEM K-8 teacher John Castilleja, the support teacher within our 3rd and 3rd/4th grade team, graciously volunteered for displacement. As staff met with parents last week and collected their priorities, the majority of feedback centered on three themes: maintaining a multi-grade, team oriented program, minimizing social and academic disruption, and concerns about differentiation and student/teacher ratios for math and reading.   We will keep those priorities in mind as staff meet to finalize plans addressing the loss of staff this week. Our STEM K-8 vision aims to grow 21st Century readiness in a community that values equity, sustainability, and the whole child. The four C’s of 21st Century skills—Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication, will be front and center as we map a path through this challenge.

SPS Staffing adustment will affect STEM K-8

Oct. 13, 2015

Dear Louisa Boren STEM K-8 community,

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) October staffing adjustment has been finalized and unfortunately affects STEM K-8. District enrollment shortfalls necessitated the displacement of STEM’s K-8 class size reduction position. This position was assigned to reduce class sizes in our 3rd and 4th grades. Lower than projected district-wide enrollment, combined with higher than anticipated operating costs, resulted in SPS being unable to support positions below contracted class size ratios. Displaced staff are reassigned to support schools with enrollment above projections.

The affects of staff displacement are challenging for schools and families. Teachers have already developed relationships with classes and are implementing vital programs. Our SPS bargaining agreement assigns staff displacement according to years of Washington State teaching experience. STEM K-8 teacher John Castilleja, who currently fills a support role for our 3rd and 3rd/4th grade team, graciously volunteered to be displaced. Although Mr. Castilleja has been at STEM for a short time, he has many years of teaching experience in Washington State. He volunteered for displacement to minimize the affect on students and families of changing classroom teachers. Mr. Castilleja will continue to work at STEM through October 23. He will be missed!

We have not figured out all the answers regarding how Mr. Castilleja’s displacement will affect our 3rd and 4th grades. During the next two weeks we will finalize plans to respond to the staffing adjustment. Our discussions will place students’ interests first, and work to minimize disruptions to learning. We will keep you informed regarding necessary changes. Please feel free to contact me directly with questions and concerns.

Information was previously sent to all SPS families explaining how the fall staff adjustment process works. Some of that information is pasted at the bottom of this letter for reference.

On behalf of Seattle Public Schools I offer my heartfelt apology for the pain and disruptions this adjustment will create for students, families, and staff. Thanks for your ongoing support of Lousia Boren STEM K-8. It makes all the difference.

Sincerely,

Ben Ostrom

SPS Fall Staff Adjustment Process:

Annually, at the beginning of the school year, Seattle Public Schools undergoes a staffing adjustment process to monitor enrollment at every school and to adjust staffing levels relative to actual student enrollment.  Staffing adjustment decisions are made to match student needs with limited staff resources.  In this process, adjustments are made in staff levels at schools to reflect the number of students actually enrolled in a program, grade and school, as opposed to forecasted/ projected enrollments.  While our enrollment projections are historically very accurate at the district level, a wide range of factors can influence the final number of students enrolled at a grade, program and school level.

Once receiving student enrollment counts for each school, the district then reevaluates staffing across schools, making adjustments up and down based on each school’s enrollment. Please know that our best efforts are being made to assess all factors for staffing adjustment decisions at all schools.  Staffing adjustment recommendations are developed by a team composed of members from Budget, Human Resources, Enrollment Planning, School Operations, Capital Planning, Special Education, Advanced Learning and English Language Learning departments, who use current enrollment numbers in determining staffing adjustments.

Additionally, Enrollment Planning also takes into account other factors in staffing allocations, including projected changes, expected attrition, historical trends in enrollment for each school as well as unique factors affecting each schools’ enrollment.  Each school is carefully reviewed for any factors which could impact the classroom.

There are 52,399 students are attending Seattle Public Schools this year, according to SPS 10 day headcount (9/30). That is an increase of 411 students over last year. While while SPS has more students this year, the number is still lower than we projected by 675.

A note from Ben…

Louisa Boren’s STEM K-8’s partnership with parents creates engaged learning experiences: Thanks to all the families who were able to join the third and ¾ multiage team to pull of the Camp Long overnight last week! 6th grade students are presenting multiple approaches to math problems on a shared screen connecting a class full of iPads. Ms. B is ordering hundreds of books to create a library that supports students and teacher’s desires to learn about STEM topics! A vital foundation for these and other learning experiences is the PTA’s annual Direct Give campaign. It funds STEM literacy, Project Based Learning, and other efforts to implement the Louisa Boren STEM K-8 vision.  Imagine tools, construction materials, books, scientific instruments, software, and training and support. Please consider making a donation at whatever level you are able.

 

Indigenous people in the United States are reclaiming Columbus Day! We are now celebrating October 12 as Indigenous Peoples Day. Washington State has 29 federally recognized Native American tribes, and Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has thousands of people who identify as Native American—from students to teachers to our district webmaster. We celebrate this day to honor the dignity and diversity of the cultures, traditions, histories, and aspirations of our city, state and country’s indigenous peoples.

 

October is National Bullying Prevention month. STEM K-8’s counselor, Renee Davis, has included information on the difference between bullying and conflict. This week’s Owl Post also includes a copy of STEM K-8’s Anti-Bullying Policy.  Throughout October students will learn to identify the dynamics of bullying, how to report concerns, and how be assertive in creating a safe environment for everyone. All in For STEM, our school norms, places safety at the top of the list; we want to create a community where feeling safe and included is a foundation of learning,

 

Many people have asked whether Seattle Public Schools (SPS) October staffing adjustment will include STEM K-8. There is a real possibility that district enrollment shortfalls will affect STEM’s allocation of a class size reduction position. I am also hopeful that this impact may be avoided. SPS is currently reexamining the numbers and circumstance associated with each class size reduction allocation.   I will communicate clearly with families our plan to address any staffing changes if a staffing adjustment becomes certain.