After hearing from school administrators, principals, teachers and the community, the Coronado Unified School Board voted unanimously to adopt the program, which will be funded by the Coronado Schools Foundation, through an endowment from the late .
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. It is a holistic approach to learning, where each subject is taught in relation to the other and incorporated in real life situations. It also fosters extracurricular activities that enrich the student’s learning experience.
The concept was championed with a full-court press at the school board meeting on Thursday. Superintendent Jeffrey Felix called for the implementation of STEAM and pushed the agenda item to the head of the schedule. Administrators from each school, including Village, Silver Strand, Coronado Middle, Coronado High and Palm Academy, filled the first row. The outgoing and incoming presidents of the Coronado Schools Foundation joined them.
Bill Cass, principal of Silver Strand Elementary, Jay Marquand, principal of Coronado Middle, and Karl Mueller, principal of Coronado High, each spoke about how important the program was to their students.
“We are already doing a lot of this, but we’ve been doing it with gum and glue,” Mueller said. “Our opportunities to grow are limited.”
“STEAM will help us take our program to the next level,” Marquand added.
At Silver Strand, Cass envisions robotics and young physicist clubs. With these he sees a chance of intra-site cooperation. For example, students for the high school robotics team could work with kids at Silver Strand.
The bugaboo for all three has been money. Silver Strand already has a number of innovative programs, including a science lab. “Each year we wonder, ‘Will we have the money to do this?’” Cass said.
With funding from the foundation, each site will be able to build on what they’ve begun. For example, the high school could add a pre-calculus section to its new engineering course. The high school choir might also be expanded and elementary schools could have an arts program.
And it was funding that gave board members pause. The foundation has committed to spending $200,000 annually.
But, as board member Dawn Ovrom asked, “Will $200,000 a year in perpetuity be enough?”
“This is a huge undertaking. We need to make sure we have the funds to back it up,” she added.
“The whole board wants to set this up, so that funds will be available long term,” CSF President Terry Farrelly told the board.
Brenda Kracht said if STEAM is as popular as she expects it will be, “parents will demand funding.”
The funds will be divided among the five schools. Most of the money will be spent on teachers, with some of it going to materials.
At Coronado Middle School, for example, $12,000 will be spent on an introductory health careers class, another $12,000 on a sixth grade performing arts class, another $12,000 on an engineering or biotechnology class, and $4,580 on materials.
Time was also a concern.
“We already have a jam-packed schedule,” board member Doug Metz said. “This is something that we can develop, where can we make additions to our Master Calendar without replacing our core classes—math and science—and enable us to hold onto what we have.”
Board President Bruce Shepherd called for “dollars to project” details on exactly what projects would be funded and how it would all work.
The principals offered some possibilities. Mueller, for example, pointed to using the high school’s heath sciences program to launch a biomedical course. He also suggested they expand the collaboration between the high School and Palm Academy.
Lack of specifics and clarity didn’t dissuade Ledyard Hakes. “Life is a project,” he said. “I’m encouraged that we are finally bringing life into our schools.”