Los Angeles, Ca. – As school districts across the country grapple with teacher shortages, one local charter public school network is creating its very own teacher pipeline. STEM Preparatory Schools, a charter public school operator in the West Adams and Jefferson Park neighborhoods of South Los Angeles is looking to cultivate and invest in local talent who live and understand the communities it serves, rather than hiring from out of state. Over the next 5 years, the network will invest $1.6 million to build and strengthen teacher preparation.
“The teacher pipeline is disappearing,” said Emilio Pack, CEO of STEM Preparatory Schools. “Very few people are going into teaching and instead, people are leaving the profession. We’re also seeing a lack of teacher and school staff diversity. For this reason, we are making a huge financial and human resource investment in our community to turn this around,” added Pack.
According to Pack, the network is funding college degrees and teacher credentialing across the organization, and benefiting staff at all levels like Julieta Lopez, an office employee who is on her way to obtaining a degree toward a future position. Lopez, a 40-year-old from Mexico who is mother of two children, is a DACA recipient whose dreams of becoming an education professional were stifled due to a lack of equity and opportunity. Thanks to STEM Prep, Lopez is on her way to making her dream a reality. The network is paying in full for both her bachelor’s degree and teaching or other certificated credential.
“STEM Prep’s guidance is invaluable,” said Lopez. “It’s helping me achieve my professional goals, and I am immensely grateful. Not only has STEM Prep’s financial assistance brought much-needed stress relief, but the ongoing encouragement keeps me on my journey,” she added.
Like Lopez, more than 190 employees, including instructional aides, school alumni, parents, and campus and office aides will benefit from this new investment. Half are credentialed, and half classified (non-credentialed such as office instructional aides). There are currently 90 staff members seeking a bachelor’s degree and/or credential. So far, thirty have been tapped.
In addition to the teacher pipeline investment, STEM Prep has developed an Emerging Leader Program for teachers who aspire to be administrators. Johanna Parker taught elementary school grades for 20 years before joining STEM Prep Elementary as one of its founding teachers. She began teaching third grade with the organization and after three years, decided to participate in the Emerging Leader Program. Today, Johanna is the network’s Director of Race, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“STEM Prep’s Emerging Leaders program provides aspiring leaders with direct coaching from the organization’s leadership,” said Parker. “It allows them to ask questions and receive guidance as they examine changes they would like to see within the organization. They also have a unique opportunity to receive exposure to leadership opportunities and feedback, and provide each other with support as they put ideas into real-time practice at school sites. This experience provides excellent training for future leaders and is an opportunity for them to widen their leadership aperture,” she added.
STEM Prep is used to leading with successful bold initiatives aimed at increasing opportunities for students and staff. At its three school sites in South Los Angeles, STEM Prep is known for its celebrated and award-winning STEM-themed program. In 2021, and at the height of the global pandemic, its Math & Science College Prep (MSCP) was named a California Distinguished School and one of the Best High Schools in the state, according to U.S. News & World Reports. This year, more than 90% of its high school students have been accepted to a 4-year university, more than 50% have a declared major in a competitive STEM field. For a school serving a majority of underserved students of color, most of whom are female, STEM Prep is an outlier, and successful case study.
“Our teacher pipeline program is still in its early stages and being piloted this year,” said Pack. “We’re just getting started. Next year, we’ll go broader and deeper; we’ll invest more,” he added.