The Design Team for the new K-5 STEM at Boren option school opening this fall in West Seattle has now met twice. We covered its first session (here’s that story) but were unable to go to the second one last night; a community member who did, Kathleen Voss, offered today to share her notes, and we took her up on that offer. Here’s her report:
The design team for the new STEM Elementary School at Boren met for the second time on Wednesday at the John Stanford Center in SODO. With the exception of the new incoming principal, Dr. Shannon McKinney, all design team members were present. Also in attendance were eight community observers who represented parents of prospective students, teachers from a local elementary school, as well as some who described themselves only as “interested community members.”
The meeting began fairly shortly after the 6:15 scheduled start time and opened with an opportunity for public testimony. It was stated that in future meetings, the public testimony portion of the meetings will occur at the end, rather than the beginning, of the allotted meeting time. Only one observer stood to offer commentsm which consisted of a reminder to the design team that there are many interested and committed individuals who are eager to assist the design team in whatever way possible. She suggested that a volunteer coordinator might be helpful in connecting skilled volunteers to some of the extraneous tasks that will emerge and lighten the load of the design team members. The team was also reminded of the fully functioning Yahoo group (groups.yahoo.com/groups/K5STEM) that currently boasts more than 70 links to local STEM resources, numerous research articles, as well as an events calendar.
Public comments were followed by a report from assistant superintendent Dr. Cathy Thompson regarding the Steering Committee’s recent walkthrough of the Boren site.
Thompson said all were pleasantly surprised by the current state of the building after years of hearing horror stories regarding its disrepair. As stated in earlier public meetings, all of the flooring will be replaced and walls will be freshly painted. Discussion is ongoing regarding a space that can be utilized for before- and after-school child care. The school will contain two computer labs (with one located in the library) and two science labs (most likely configured for K-2nd and 3-5th grades). The extra space in the administrative office area may lend itself to a family resource center.
The majority of the meeting was spent identifying and discussing the Key Program Features of the school. While the core values and mission statement will wait until Dr. McKinney’s arrival in early April, the design team took on the task of identifying the “Big Ideas” and big tasks to be accomplished before September.
The first priorities for the next two months are hiring faculty and choosing curriculum materials. Materials needed in September will have to be ordered in May. This timeline includes any waivers needed for non-district endorsed materials.
After hearing a multitude of ideas, Aurora Lora, the Executive Director of Schools for West Seattle, was able to identify seven key areas of focus for the team going forward:
Role of technology
Diverse learning community
Teaching the whole child
Becoming a leader in STEM education
Other items of discussion:
What is project-based learning? Is is the model we want to use?
Subcommittee needed to focus on grants to assure deadlines do not get forgotten.
List of questions to ask when visiting other STEM schools.
Kathleen says the district promised its notes will be up on its website by the end of the week (sometime tomorrow). She also says the team has added a Saturday meeting, 8:30-noon April 7th, and that several members will tour the state’s only currently operating STEM-focused public elementary school, in Bremerton, on April 27th.