Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New superintendent = bye bye STEM programs?

Yesterday I found out on Facebook that our superintendent was leaving our district to go to a MUCH bigger district.

Minutes later I checked my work email and saw that the Facebook rumor was true.
I sent a text to one of my friends who works in the elementary STEM program that the superintendent’s wife runs. Funny, she was actually at breakfast with his wife as she had just broken the news to her and some of her other coworkers.
Their departure makes me sad on various levels.
I didn’t know our previous superintendent, and I don’t know the current one—but as I also worked in the elementary STEM program, I got to know this superintendent’s wife fairly well. To me, she is much more than a superintendent’s wife. She has a PhD of her own, and she is extremely funny and bright. She actually got me into the STEM program that I work in at the middle school level. She has been extremely supportive of me and decisions I had to make for my own career. When our baby was born, she was one of the first people I sent a baby picture to.
I am also sad because of the uncertainty of what can happen to the elementary STEM program. This program was the superintendent’s wife brain child. It was something she had developed for years and these plans were able to come to fruition as two new elementary schools opened in our district. It is a great program because kids who had been previously underserved in our district are finally being challenged—or so many of their parents report. The kids learn about engineering and work on engineering projects in 4th and 5th grade. These STEM teachers are able to focus more on content than testing, yet their test scores show that this program is successful.
Also, since I work in the middle school STEM program—there is some uncertainty there. Will the district continue to support the Gateways to Technology programs? Will there still be money designated for the licenses, trainings and consumables that my program needs? Will the new superintendent view STEM as such a priority?
I love my job. I have taught several subjects in the seven years I have been teaching, but teaching the Gateways to Technology curriculum is my absolute favorite. I have done this for the last two years and I was hoping to teach this curriculum for many more years. I love over hearing my students say to their friends that, “they can’t wait to come to my class so they can finish their _________ project.”  My class focuses on project based learning and the students study and solve real world engineering problems.
True, we don’t know what will happen when the new superintendent is hired in our district. Perhaps they will be someone who also views STEM as a priority? I don’t see how or why the district would want to get rid of the STEM programs that are currently in place, because it seems like they would be allowing the district to take a step backwards?
STEM is not only a popular buzzword in the media but it helps our kids to become global thinkers and problem solvers. I know this firsthand.
Can we continue the STEM programs without our superintendent or his wife’s leadership? Yes. Like any good parent who raises their child—they have given us the tools and resources we need to be successful. Now, we just need the support of the school board and the new superintendent.
I will do whatever I can to make my voice heard.

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