After having nearly 30 staff vacancies at the start of summer, STEM School Highlands Ranch filled all but two positions before the start of the 2020-21 school year.
In May, STEM parents expressed concern over the continued loss of teaching staff during the school year and when summer started. In total, the Douglas County School District charter school had 29 open positions heading into summer.
At the end of the 2020 school year, STEM had 22 open positions. In 2019, there were 31 vacancies. Altogether, the charter school has 175 employees.
Calling it a busy summer, Nicole Bostel, director of communications for the charter school, said STEM was able to fill all but two full-time teaching positions in math and engineering. The math position will continue to have a long-term substitute who has experience in teaching, Bostel said. The qualified teacher did not want a full-time contract, Bostel said.
The second position, Bostel said, is a secondary engineering position that remains open until filled. In the meantime, the class is being taught by an in-house substitute teacher who is working with the other engineering teachers to get students started, Bostel said.
“We are screening candidates for that position and hope to have that filled soon,” she said.
Many STEM parents have expressed frustration over teachers leaving the school, the site of a deadly May 7, 2019, shooting.
During a virtual meeting on June 15, dozens of STEM parents expressed frustration about teacher turnover and with the leadership of school Executive Director Penny Eucker. A few weeks before that, a letter from more than 400 “concerned parents and community members” to the school’s board, citing turnover and teacher dissatisfaction, called for Eucker’s removal, CPR News reported.
Bostel said some changes were made this year, including a review of the master schedule to make sure staffing levels are tied to school enrollment. Bostel said this assures the school is not overstaffed.
Over the summer, Bostel said, more focus was placed on the teacher-support program, which is part of the school’s strategic plan.
“That was in the works throughout the last school year,” Bostel said. “We took the summer months to hire for those positions and to also develop and launch that program during our Professional Development week.”
In the program, Bostel said, STEM has a four-person team that is headed up by Director of Professional Development Michelle Gasser. If needed, Bostel said a fifth member will be added to the support team in the future.
Eucker, in her ninth year at STEM, is in the final year of a three-year contract. Eucker’s renewal is up for discussion at the end of the current school year.
While it is common for charter schools to have a higher teacher turnover rate than regular public schools, teachers have continually raised concerns with the rate teachers have left since 2019.
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