[OUR BREAD AND BUTTER] Stratford Schools: A Leader in STEAM Early Childhood Education

Longtime Los Angeles educator, Paul Mastin, heads Stratford School’s new Melrose campus. Photo credit: Kimberly Gomez

Longtime Los Angeles educator, Paul Mastin, heads Stratford School’s new Melrose campus. Photo credit: Kimberly Gomez

After more than 40 years in education—which included roles as teacher and administrator at some of the finest private schools in Los Angeles, including the Mirman School, Harvard-Westlake and Laurence School—Paul Mastin had earned his retirement last summer. Only a dream job, he said, could keep him from the lovely home that was waiting for him in North Carolina. That dream job turned out to be head of school at the Stratford School Melrose campus, which opened this fall.

The Melrose campus is part of a 14-school network that is based in northern California. The White House has recognized Stratford Schools as a leader in Early Childhood education.

Starting with 25 Pre-K to Kindergarten students, the newly renovated facility opened with all new classrooms, abundant play areas, a multi-purpose room, science and computer tech labs, a music room, and a library.

“The support structure Stratford has for materials and facilities was astounding to me,” said Mastin.

In the classroom, Mastin said, Stratford is uniquely responsive to each child’s individual set of skills and curiosities.

“Parents want their children to be challenged and excited,” he said. “Los Angeles was hungry for a school like this.”

At the heart of Stratford School’s education is a curriculum infused with STEAM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics—learning and traditional liberal arts.

Concepts such as the fundamentals of coding are introduced even to the youngest students in an intuitive way so that the children develop skills naturally.

“It was more than I could have hoped for our son,” said Jorg Wallrabe of Hancock Park whose son, Lars, started at Stratford this fall. “A lot of preschools in Los Angeles are more play-based, but Stratford has a philosophy that embraces science and mathematics. They make it so much fun for the kids.”

Motivating students through high expectations in a collaborative and fun learning environment has been Stratford’s guiding core value since 1999. All students are encouraged to participate actively in leadership, community service, and extracurricular activities.

Stratford’s goal is to prepare and mentor students for admission to competitive high schools and colleges.

“I think what I love most about Stratford is the mix of traditional academics and focus on socialization of the kids,” said Brenda Kelly-Grant of Burbank who started her son Harrison in Stratford’s preschool.

“He’s already grown so much since going to school,” she said. “Stratford has exceeded our expectations.”

Cheryl Molencamp, director of the lower school, recently served as regional director for Stratford Schools in Northern California.

“We want [our students] to have academic skills and to articulate themselves in writing and speaking,” Molencamp said. “And we want them to be able to find their unique future using all of those skills.”

Stratford School, 1200 N. Cahuenga Boulevard, 323-962-3075 stratfordschools.com

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