Saint Stephen’s alums (Class of 2018) Chase and Sydney Brown, star student-athletes on the football team at the University of Illinois, were selected to throw out the honorary first pitch on Wednesday, May 25, at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago prior to the White Sox game against the Boston Red Sox.
The twin brothers were record-setters at SSES, leading the Falcons to back-to-back independent state football championships in 2016 and 2017, as well as the FHSAA Class 1A state track and field title in 2017. They have continued their success in Champaign, Ill.
Chase, a running back who transferred to Illinois after his freshman season at Western Michigan University, was an All-Big Ten Third Team selection as a sophomore in 2021. He ran for 1,005 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Illini, including a 233-yard rushing game against Penn State that was the most yards ever gained by a visiting player at Beaver Stadium. Sydney led Illinois in tackles in 2021 with 81, and added a quarterback sack, three pass breakups, and two forced fumbles from his safety position. He was named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. In addition to their on-field exploits, the affable Browns have also become the current face of Illinois football and are featured in the majority of the program’s marketing efforts in video, print, and social media.
Saint Stephen’s celebrated its 47th graduating class on Saturday, May 21, with a beautiful commencement ceremony at Harvest United Methodist Church in Lakewood Ranch. The 58 seniors collected their diplomas in front of family and friends, and enjoyed an inspirational graduation address from Ms. Elizabeth Djinis, an alumnae of the Class of 2012, graduate of Duke University, and a decorated journalist.
The Class of 2022 will matriculate to 40 different schools in 20 different states and countries. Acceptances included 105 unique institutions and 57-percent of the graduates were accepted to their first and/or second-choice school. The class features a National Merit Scholar and multiple honors college acceptances to universities including Southern California, Ohio State, South Florida, Florida, Xavier and others. Seven graduates are recruited student-athletes who will attend universities to play men’s soccer, men’s tennis, sailing, football, track, and women’s basketball.
The complete matriculation list: American University, Boston University, Bryant University, Carleton College, Duke University, Eckerd College, Elon University, Emory University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida Polytechnic University, Florida State University, Hastings College, Jacksonville University, Lake Forest College, Louisiana State University, Ohio State University, Rice University, Rollins College, Saint Leo University, San Diego State University, Savannah College of Art & Design, State College of Florida, Stockholm School of Economics, University of North Carolina, University of North Georgia, University of Texas, Sewanee University, Trinity College, University of California-San Diego, University of Central Florida, University of Colorado, University of Florida, University of Iowa, University of Mississippi, University of South Florida, University of Southern California, Wofford College.
Following an extensive national search, the Board of Trustees has named Peter Kraft the new Head of School at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School. He will officially begin in the role on July 1, 2023, after a one-year leadership transition period common at independent schools.
With more than 25 years experience as a teacher and administrator, Kraft comes to Saint Stephen’s from Oregon Episcopal School in Portland, where he has served as Associate Head of School since 2017. After beginning his career in New England, Kraft moved to Peddie School in Hightstown, N.J. in 1995 as a history teacher and coach. He left Peddie as Academic Dean in 2011 to become Associate Head of Academic Affairs at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, Ind. He also served as Interim Head of School at Park Tudor in 2016-17.
“As I told the community during my visit, Saint Stephen’s values are my own. I believe in scholarship, leadership, service, and integrity,” Kraft said. “To be able to lead a school with which I am so aligned — one that cherishes traditions but also embraces innovation — is truly a blessing.”
A native of Pittsburgh, Penn., Kraft earned a bachelor’s degree in history from The College of William and Mary, a master’s in U.S. history from the University of Virginia, and a master’s in private school leadership from Columbia University Teachers College.
He becomes the sixth Head of School at Saint Stephen’s and succeeds Dr. Janet Pullen, who has been an administrator at SSES since 1988 and has served as its leader since 2003. Pullen will remain in her position throughout the 2022-23 school year while meeting regularly with her successor. Kraft will visit the Saint Stephen’s campus at key times throughout the year to help assist with the transition.
“Peter Kraft is someone who is well-educated, has extensive leadership experience, understands the importance of Episcopal schools, and is an extremely personable man who wants the best for children,” Dr. Pullen said of the selection. “I’m very much looking forward to working with him all next year to help him get Saint Stephen-ized!”
Three Saint Stephen’s students were part of the six-member Manatee County team that finished second in the state at the annual Commissioner’s Academic Challenge, March 31-April 2 in Orlando. Falcons Jackson Nealis, Sophia Berry, and Luke Phommachanh helped Manatee win the Preliminary and Semi-final rounds to advance to the Division I Finals. In the six-team championship round, Manatee ultimately fell short against the eventual winners from Brevard County, 262-233. Polk, Orange, Pinellas and Seminole finished 3-6. You can view the complete results here: https://academic-challenge.org/results/
Since it began in 1986, the Commissioner’s Academic Challenge has been a showcase of Florida’s high school academic excellence. Teams representing school districts throughout the state compete for scholarships and more. Originally started as the Florida Tournament of Academic Excellence by the Polk County Public Schools, the event became the Commissioner’s Academic Challenge when the Florida Department of Education became involved in the early 1990s. Held each spring at Walt Disney World Resort, players answer questions from the areas of language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, the fine arts, world languages (French and Spanish), physical education, health, and technology. New questions are written each year by educators from high schools throughout the state.
Saint Stephen’s annual Fine Arts Week kicks off on Friday, March 18, with the first performance of the Upper/Middle School musical “Beauty and the Beast” at 7 p.m. in the Falcon Playhouse. Performances will also take place on Saturday, March 19 at 7 p.m.; Sunday, March 20 at 2 p.m.; Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m. and Friday, March 25 at 2 p.m. Tickets for the March 24-25 shows can be purchased online here: https://e.givesmart.com/events/q9N/
The rest of the schedule for Fine Arts Week includes:
Monday, March 21: Lower School work on display in the Campus Center windows, Lower/Intermediate/Middle work on display in the Sunshine Library, Middle School Ensemble/Strings/Band (Palm Courtyard) at 9:35 a.m.; Upper School Alexi Tucker Art Show and Awards (Palm Courtyard) at 5 p.m.; Upper School Masterworks Recital in the Gallery at 5 p.m.
Tuesday, March 22: Middle School concert for sixth grade (Palm Courtyard) at 9 a.m.; Upper School Arts Chapel at 9:35 a.m. including Arts Honor Society induction, Music Honor Society induction, Theater Odyssey plaque presentation
Wednesday, March 23: Third grade watches “Beauty and the Beast” (Falcon Playhouse) at 1:45 p.m.
Thursday, March 24: Intermediate School Lunchtime Concerts (IS Picnic Tables) – sixth grade from 11-11:45 a.m., fourth/fifth grades from 12-12:35 p.m.; “Beauty and the Beast” at 7 p.m.
Friday, March 25: Lower School Flag Friday at 7:45 a.m.; “Beauty and the Beast” at 2 p.m.
Library Director Christina Pommer was honored on March 3 with the highest award given by the Association of Independent School Librarians (AISL) – the Marky Award. It is given annually to an AISL member who has made a significant contribution to the national organization. Pommer has been a leader in AISL for more than a decade and has held multiple roles within the organization, including conference organizer, technology coordinator, president-elect, and president. She currently serves as past president.
At a ceremony announcing the honor, Pommer was noted for, “always being the first to say, ‘We can do this,’ and ‘How can we make it happen?’ She gracefully and resolutely led AISL through the beginning of the pandemic when none of us knew what to expect. One of her biggest accomplishments in a particularly challenging year was the 2021 AISL virtual conference, which she envisioned and wrestled into reality. She has remained an integral part of AISL after her leadership role was complete, and is a consistent and passionate advocate for everything we do.”
The Marky Award was inspired by Mark Hillsamer, the librarian at St. Albans School in Washington D.C. for 36 years. Hillsamer helped to establish AISL in 1987 and fostered its growth for 14 years. The Marky Award has been given annually since 2002. The award itself is a mask from Thailand of a lady who holds her index finger gently to her lips in a familiar “shushing” gesture. A mounted replica is given to the winner to be displayed in his or her library for a year, together with a small unpainted replica of the mask for the honoree to keep. The honoree is chosen by the past Marky winners.
SSES students placed second overall at the Spoonbill Regional of the National Ocean Science Bowl at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg, Feb. 11-12. It was the highest-ever finish in the competition by a Saint Stephen’s team. Falcons Braden Mohr, Devin Mohr, Dillon Ogle, and Matthew Talbot finished tied with the Academy of Environmental Science (Crystal River) in the championship game and eventually fell by one point in an edge-of-your-seat, sudden-death overtime.
The Spoonbill Bowl consists of round-robin and single-elimination games for teams of high school students. The format involves a timed competition of multiple-choice or short-answer questions within the broad category of the oceans. Questions are drawn from the scientific and technical disciplines used in studying the oceans (physics, chemistry, geology, atmospheric science, biology, etc.) as well as topics on the contributions of the oceans to national and international economics, history, and culture.
The Saint Stephen’s One Ocean Marine Science program was well represented by the nine students who participated in the annual event, along with teachers Allison Misiewicz and Jessica Angelo. The NOSB is designed to introduce high school students to and engage them in ocean science, preparing them for ocean science-related and other STEM careers, and helping them become knowledgeable citizens and environmental stewards.
In the first in-person games since February 2020, 36 Upper School and 11 Middle School students joined students from around Tampa Bay on Feb. 5 at Plant High School in Tampa for the Regional Latin Forum. All 47 students earned at least 10th-place honors and SSES finished second overall. Leading the way with two first-place finishes each were senior Tyler Kadivar, sophomore Edward Gao, and freshman Dylan Dam. Also collecting first-place finishes were seniors Sophia Berry, Maxine Mandt, Luke Phommachanh, and Michael Thomas, junior Joshua Sket, sophomore Theo Frano, 8th grader Kai Parker, and 7th grader Emily Dowd. Saint Stephen’s also fielded six certamen teams and won first- and fourth-place honors in the Novice division, second place in Level 1, first place in Level 2, and second and fourth place in the Advanced division. #worldclasseducation
Senior Jamie Springstead has rewritten the SSES basketball record book, as she became the school’s all-time leading scorer – regardless of gender – in a Jan. 6 home victory against Patel High. Springstead eclipsed the career scoring mark set by 1981 graduate Mack Barnes (1,361 points). She established the new record for girls’ basketball as a junior, surpassing 2001 graduate Amy Pullen’s 1,027 points.
Springstead, who has committed to play basketball at Lake Forest College in Illinois, broke into the Falcons’ varsity roster as a seventh grader. She averaged 6.1 points per game that season and 4.3 the next before becoming a starter and key performer (9 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) for SSES as a freshman. Over the past three seasons, Springstead has averaged nearly 17 points per outing.
More importantly, she has led the turnaround of a program that failed to post a winning record or reach any kind of postseason play from 1999 to 2017. Since Springstead’s seventh grade season in 2016-17, the Falcons have gone a combined 91-47 with five consecutive winning seasons. The 2019-20 team reached the state Final Four and produced the best record in school history at 26-5. This year, the Falcons are 15-6 and riding a 10-game winning streak as post-season play approaches.
Springstead is averaging 17.9 points and a team-best 2.7 rebounds per game. She scored a career-high 32 points in a Jan. 20 win over Venice High. The Falcons open district tournament play on Feb. 2, hosting Out-of-Door Academy.
Four Saint Stephen’s students have been selected among the eight finalists in Theater Odyssey’s 10th Annual Student 10-Minute Playwriting Festival. Patrick Van Eyck, Jake Pettingell, Lexi Vega, and Elaina Bayard will present their plays live on-stage at the Asolo’s Jane B. Cook Theater in Sarasota on Feb. 5-6.
Entries for the contest were invited from students in grades 9-12 in Sarasota and 15 surrounding counties. The winning playwright receives a $1,000 cash scholarship. Runner-up award is $500. The inaugural festival was held in 2013 and Saint Stephen’s students have won the top prize five times in the nine previous events – most recently in 2018.
Elaina is in her second year as a finalist in the competition. She took runner-up honors in 2021 with her work, “Fermatta.” Her entry this year is “A Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy,” the story of Alice who is the picture of a perfect teenage girl – cheerleader, nuclear family, happy life – but when her beloved dog dies suddenly, she turns to local loner Oliver and some dark magic to fix her first real loss.
Patrick’s play is “The Last Colony,” which tells the tale of a religious group of hopeless colonists on Mars who must overcome a moral and social dilemma to save their chance at life.
Jake will present “The Real World.” Set in a post nuclear war era, a family of four lives together in a military bunker. The older sibling Timothy has a taste for the outside world and is fed up with the “lockdown lifestyle.”
Lexi’s work is “The Unspoken Problem,” and tells the story of Chloe, a hard-working student who encounters a problem with her most recent assignment. According to her teacher, her paper on racism “did not meet the assignment requirements.” Chloe knows that she met all of the requirements and is compelled to challenge the teacher’s claim.