Eliminating Opportunity Gaps

STEM K-8 Families,

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) just made an ambitious commitment.  In the words of Superintendent Nyland: “Eliminating opportunity gaps and ensuring educational excellence for each and every student is the issue of our time.  While Seattle Public Schools outperforms like districts academically….We have the 5th largest academic achievement gap in the nation between black and white students. While we are making progress, we are also committed to doing better.”

Seattle Public Schools kicks off a new campaign to eliminate opportunity gaps called #CloseTheGaps this week. Seattle Education Association is promoting October 19 as a day of solidarity to bring focus to racial equity and affirming the lives of SPS students – specifically our students of color. In support of this focus, some staff will choose to wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts, stickers or other symbols of their commitment to students.

In tackling racism, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Education Association, and STEM K-8 are not promoting Black Lives Matter as a political movement.  Our goal is to raise awareness about the struggle to address educational inequality in our country and school system. Staff wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts are not saying that All Lives Don’t Matter.  They are making a statement about visible and violent racism in the treatment of African Americans in this country; one that aims to start conversations about creating a more equitable school with our students and families

We grow our capacity to create equity through dialogue that starts with listening.  In the words of African American educator Lisa Delpit, “…a very special kind of listening, listening that requires not only open eyes and ears, but open hearts and minds.  We do not really see through our eyes or hear through our ears, but through our beliefs.  To put our beliefs on hold is to cease to exist as ourselves for a moment, and that is not easy…. I contend that it is those with the most power, those in the majority, who must take the greater responsibility for initiating the process.”

Some resources for learning about racism and Black Lives Matter, and addressing those topics with children are pasted below. Resources on this list are not being endorsed by SPS, but are offered to further learning and dialogue.

  1. Teaching Tolerance
    1. Talking Race (any level) http://www.tolerance.org/talking-race
    2. What’s Fair (elementary school) http://www.tolerance.org/lesson/what-s-fair
    3. Toolkit for Ferguson, U.S.A. (preparing yourself to teach about race and racism; any level) http://www.tolerance.org/ferguson
    4. Teaching Ferguson, USA (middle and high) http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-49-spring-2015/feature/ferguson-usa
    5. Teaching about Race, Racism, and Police Violence: http://www.tolerance.org/teaching-about-ferguson  (middle and high)
  1. New York Times Book list on Race
  2. Ben & Jerry’s (yes that Ben and Jerry’s) 7 Ways We Know Systemic Racism is Real
  3. San Francisco Unified School District Library Guide on BlackLivesMatter

Undoubtedly this week’s activities will produce mixed feelings at STEM K-8. Conflicting viewpoints provide opportunities to grow community.  I look forward to conversations with staff and families in the coming months as we work to provide equal opportunities for all students.


Ben Ostrom

Principal, STEM K-8


Welcome Mr. McGavick

Welcome to new STEM K-8 third grade teacher Matthew McGavick!  We were fortunate to attract a teacher in September with Mr. McGavick’s skills and experience. Mr. McGavick has taught a range of grade levels between Kindergarten and 5th grade.  He also has collaborated in the past with current STEM K-8 peers Kent Daniels and Ryan Schaedig.  He’s looking forward to meeting third grade students and families on Wednesday on the first day of school!

Welcome back!


Dear Louisa Boren STEM K-8 Families:

Hello and welcome back to a fabulous year at Louisa Boren STEM K-8! With all the changes involving facilities, programs, and staff, it’s going to be a scramble at the start.  Contractors are busy pulling wiring, adjusting plumbing, and moving furniture around and out of the building as I type.  Our staff have been meeting, planning, and working overtime to craft an amazing school year.  The community of new and returning staff coming together this year are truly remarkable.  I am proud to work with them.  When are staff are joined by students and families, STEM K-8 becomes a special place.

Our journey towards K-8 will continue to produce some growing pains.  The additional time involved in adding staff, developing plans, modifying facilities, and obtaining instructional resources make it hard to stay on top of communication. There are more interesting things happening than I have time to share!

A few ways to keep in the loop:

  1. Bookmark the Louisa Boren STEM K-8 and STEM K-8 PTA websites (they overlap and contain a wealth of useful information).
  2. Make sure your email address is accurate and updated in the school information system (check and fill out the data verification forms you receive at the beginning of the school year). You will receive the PTA/School newsletter (Owl Post) weekly and other updates via School Messenger that use that email address.
  3. Bookmark my school blog at principalostrom.wordpress.com and follow @PrincipalOstrom on Twitter. Both are linked to the school and PTA website and combined school/PTA Facebook page (at Louisa Boren STEM K-8), and share news, ideas, and developments as they happen.


Some key information regarding the new year:

  1. Start and End Time:

9:30 am and 4:05 pm!  ***These are new*** (The posted SPS start time of 9:35 demarks the tardy bell)

  1. Pick up/Drop off/Parking:

Supervision is provided starting at 9:15 am. Please do not bring your child to school before 9:15 am as there is no supervision.

For Morning Drop off and Dismissal:  Students may be dropped off or picked up in the designated zone on the west end of the playground.   Parents may pull into the drop off/pick up zone and supervisors will direct children accordingly.  When in the pick up line please remain in your car.  We will bring your child to you.  Parents wanting to walk and pick up their children may park in the visitor parking section of the parking lot, or the park and walk section designated “School Load and Unload only” along Delridge.  Students may not be dropped off on Delridge to walk to the playground.  To respect instructional time and traffic flow in a building serving more than 500 students, we ask that parents pick up and drop off outside (or in the office for late arrivals) rather than at classroom doors. On the first day of school students and parents may go directly to classrooms. If you need to talk with the teacher, you are welcome to come into the building.

There is now a crosswalk and flashing lights that make it permissible to park on the west side of Delridge and walk your child to the playground/school.  For safety reasons students may not be dropped off on either side of Delridge to walk to the playground. Parents must walk from those parking spots to drop off/pick up their children on the playground.  FYI—During school hours/flashing lights driving faster than the posted speed limit will incur a hefty camera-recorded ticket!

  1. Classroom Assignments:

Due to changes in FERPA regulations, classroom assignments are no longer posted publicly.  Classroom assignments were shared on Thursday, Sept. 2nd via email.  On the first day of school there will be staff and volunteers available to share assignments and families may walk students to new classrooms.


  1. Important Dates:

September 7th: First day of school for students in Seattle Preschool Program and grades 1-7.

September 7: First day of school decompression coffee hour!  9:35-10:30am meet with other parents and school principal Ben Ostrom to celebrate/decompress.

 September 7, 8, and 9: Family Conferences with Kindergarten families.

 September 9, 5:30-8:00 pm: 5th ANNUAL STEM BACK TO SCHOOL BASH! Lincoln Park NORTH END Shelter 1 & picnic tables 1-13 . Stay tuned to school/PTA Facebook page for updates.

September 12th: The first day of school for kindergarten students.

September 14, 6:30-8:00 pm PTA meeting.  Come to the first PTA meeting of the year to discuss plans and what’s happening! There will also be a Uniform Swap – bring uniform items that don’t fit anymore and exchange them for ones that do.

September 19:  First day of school for Developmental (Special Education) preschool.

September 29: Curriculum Night and Open House

  1. Uniform Expectations:

STEM K-8 is a uniform school (yes, for middle schoolers too)!  Uniforms were adopted to build community, decrease inequalities and distractions, support safety, and many other reasons.  Visit the STEM School Website for full details on uniform expectations and guidelines.  A uniform closet exists to support families requesting financial assistance to meet uniform guidelines, and also address short term needs.

  1. School Supplies:

We will not be distributing a school supplies list. In lieu of an expensive list of supplies we ask K–5 students bring a backpack and a check made to STEM K-8 for $45 and middle school students a backpack and check for $85. This can be left with teachers the first week of school and payment can be spread out over multiple months if needed. The supply payment is not required and all students will receive the same supplies ordered by their teachers in each classroom. Middle school fees help cover additional technology and science additional supplies used at the middle school level.

  1. Welcome to New and Returning Staff:

STEM K-8 welcomes several new staff members, and some staff changed assignments.  K-8 and program expansion means we added multiple staff members.  We added 7th Grade, Access Special Education, a Special Education Preschool, and Seattle Preschool Program.  We also said goodbye to some staff members who transitioned to new places and jobs.  We were fortunate to add amazing educators to support our students and further our vision.

Grade/Program Teacher


Anya Dale
Seattle Preschool Program Abby Reid
K Wendy Morgan
K Alisha Henderson
1st Jessica Brodland
1st Soheyla Nur
2nd Jodi Williamson
2nd Krissy Soltman
3rd To be announced!
3rd Sunny Graves
3rd Kirsten Colby
4th Joseph Roicki
4th Deborah Giza
4th Ryan Schaedig
5th Kent Daniels
5th Lauren Martin
6th Travis DesAutels
6th-7th Craig Parsley
6th-7th Adrienne Perkins
7th Heidi Paulson
Resource Katie Griffith
Resource Feige Engelsberg
Access Melissa Graham
SM4 Mary McGuire
SM4 Shamsah Rahim
PFA Marie Nelson
Computer Julie Schmick
PE Ed Adams
Library Mary Bannister
Band Casey Cheever
ELL Lee-Chin Chua
Counselor Meredith Osborne


Special Education Craig Rankin
Special Education Caroline Ong
Special Education Greg Wolfe
Special Education Michael Brown
Special Education Ron Adams
Special Education Hayward Coleman
Special Education Lynn Ferguson
Special Education Jennifer Ramierez
Special Education Anisha Madden
Seattle Preschool Program Clara Hanson
ELL Maria Asuncion
LAP Stephanie Hughes
Custodial Engineer Tom Zech
Evening CE Jeanette Profit
Administrative Secretary Cindy Baca
Elementary Assistant Christa Howsmon
Nurse Rena Anderson
Assistant Principal Kim Noble
Principal Ben Ostrom


Many good things are happening!  STEM K-8 staff have been working hard to prepare for the year ahead.  We will have much to share and celebrate in the weeks to come.  Thank you for joining me and Louisa Boren STEM K-8 Staff to create a powerful learning community filled with scholars who are aspiring, creating, and expecting.



Ben Ostrom

Louisa Boren STEM K-8 Principal

Third Grade Update

Dear STEM 3rd Grade Families,


I am writing to share what I know will be disappointing news for some 3rd grade families.  A late staff resignation by one of STEM K-8’s 4th grade teachers led to the reassignment of Joseph Roicki to that grade level.  Mr. Roicki had been planning on looping and seeing many of his students again.  A close evaluation of student and staffing needs led me to prioritize Mr. Roicki’s skills and experience for a 4th grade assignment.  A small consolation prize will be that many of his former students will have an opportunity to see him again in 4th grade.

We are hoping to announce the name of the new third grade teacher by tomorrow.  We are waiting for the selected candidate to be processed by Seattle Public Schools HR department.  I am excited by our choice and can’t wait to share it.



Benjamin Ostrom

STEM K-8 Principal

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!



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.


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!


Benjamin Ostrom

Louisa Boren STEM K-8 Principal