A few months ago, a panel comprised of industry experts representing some of the leading employers in the country and academics from prominent college programs gathered in Chatham to discuss opportunities for curricular improvement in K-12 public schools in general and Chatham in particular.
After careful analysis the overwhelming recommendation was to bolster some of the current offerings to include STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Computer Science in particular, at different levels of instruction, with the specific goal of engaging the minds of students at an earlier stage of their academic development.
The 2014/2015 school budget proposal does just that.
It puts Chatham on the right path by reintroducing Science and Technology support for the elementary schools, offering STEM electives at the middle school and reinforcing the High School technology department. The result will put us on the path to acceptable norms of STEM staffing. As such it is a good first step toward the type of education leadership designed to prepare our children for the careers that the future will undoubtedly demand.
Of course there remain opportunities for growth. While the Chatham Board of Education does an exceptional job of providing a first class education in several areas there is room for further improvement in subjects such as Computer Science, Chemistry and Statistics. High school students could also greatly benefit from a Science Research program to better prepare themselves for college-level courses. Additionally the school could offer coordination services for an expanded summer internship programs for junior students, rather than waiting until their senior year.
We are aware that the burden of responsibility should not reside with the school system - and therefore the taxpayer - alone. We are fortunate to live in a community with a wealth of talent, creativity, civic-mindedness and potential corporate support. In fact vibrant community efforts are already underway in a number of areas:
- Connecting: networking between students and employers and student visits to world-class technology companies
- Mentoring: Parents or retirees with Science or Business backgrounds mentoring students interested in scientific research or in Entrepreneurship
- Engaging: Students themselves committed to helping mentor, tutor and otherwise assist younger students in their exploration of STEM subjects
We urge you to get involved and offer whatever support you might be able to: it’s good for the community, it’s good for our students, and it’s good for our taxes. Whether you are a retiree, transitioning careers, a homemaker or a busy professional with little time but plenty of advice and networking, the community would like to hear from you.
These efforts have already contributed to the overwhelming response of students themselves to the new AP Computer Science elective offering. In 2012/13 just 19 boys (no girls) took computer science courses at the high school. For next year there are 198 students signed up - one third of them girls - clearly illustrating the pent-up demand for this area of study.
We also urge you to support the proposed 2014/2015 school budget on April 23rd. A ‘yes’ vote to the budget and the 2nd question will ensure that Chatham continues to offer our students the first class educational experience that we’ve come to expect and set many of our children on the right path to developing the skills that they will need to compete in college and beyond.
The Board of ChathamSTEM
Nabil Moulin, Kash Vyas, Colm Lynch, Mark Liotta, Austin Barkhorn
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