Saint Stephen’s and Christ Church of Bradenton have announced an agreement of cooperation that will allow the school to build a multi-purpose performing arts center on property currently owned by the church.
With no existing space for construction on the school’s 35-acre campus, the Saint Stephen’s Board of Trustees and Head of School Dr. Jan Pullen began discussions last year with Christ Church Rector Fr. Joel Morsch and the church vestry on an agreement that was recently approved. Christ Church has given its more than 67,000-square-foot property west of 41st Street West to the school for the construction of a performing arts center and parking lot to be used by both entities. Saint Stephen’s will also build a 3,500-square-foot facility to replace the church’s existing thrift shop and food pantry, which currently serves more than 1,200 patrons monthly.
This collaboration allows Saint Stephen’s to begin a capital campaign to fund the project. School and church officials recently visited St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Tampa to tour its performing arts center. The multi-purpose Saint Mary’s Hall, which features a reception foyer, raised stage with backstage and technical support, and open floor seating for approximately 500, is being used as a model for the building Saint Stephen’s will create.
Although they are independent entities, Christ Church and Saint Stephen’s have a strong relationship that dates back 46 years. SSES opened its doors in 1970 as an outreach mission of the church. Since its founding, Saint Stephen’s has used the church sanctuary for weekly chapels, graduation, Baccalaureate service, and other special services. Fr. Morsch and a designated parishioner sit on the Saint Stephen’s Board of Trustees.
Photo: (L-R) Fr. Alex Andujar, Christ Church Vestry representative Doug Reiff, Fr. Joel Morsch, SSES Board Member John Neal, Head of School Dr. Jan Pullen, SSES Board Member Garret Barnes, SSES Board President Richard Walter
After fantastic performances at the regional meet in Clearwater in April, 10 Falcons qualified to represent Saint Stephen’s at the State Track and Field Championships, May 6-7 at IMG Academy. Leading the pack were regional champions Katie Siegel in the high jump and the boys 800-meter relay team of Andrew Csubak, Henry Howell, Hayes Chatham, and Dawson Hamilton. Every Falcon who competed at the state meet placed in the top 10 to medal in their event: Siegel was fifth in the high jump and sixth in the triple jump; Letherio Jones, Fred Billy, Jordon Murrell, and Bobby Harrison placed fourth in the 4×100 relay; Jones, Demetrius Davis, Murrell, and Csubak were seventh in the 4×400 relay; Chatham, Howell, Luke Valadie, and Csubak placed eight in the 4×800 relay; Murrell was seventh in the 200 meters; Csubak was sixth in the 800 meters.
Winter/spring student-athletes had their efforts on the playing fields recognized with local and state awards. The Bradenton Herald named boys soccer star Antonio Colacci its Player of the Year and he was joined on the All-Area team by Falcons Chris Morrish, Jonathan Boyd, and Alex Virgilio. Four soccer Falcons were also chosen to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune All-Area first team – Colacci, Boyd, and Virgilio, along with girls star Lindsay Leskinen. The Florida Athletic Coaches Association named senior pitcher Nick Runde All-State in Class 3A, as well as All-Academic. Baylee Barker, Emily Hiebner, Katie Pierce, and Kendall Miller from the girls lacrosse team were chosen All-District 17.
Fifth grader Julia Craig has been named the winner of the annual statewide essay contest sponsored by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. In March, Julia won the local round, qualifying to have her essay judged at the state level. The theme of the contest was, “What I Can do to Promote Americanism and Love of Country.” Along with a $1,500 prize, Julia receives an expenses-paid weekend in Orlando to present her essay at the Elks state convention in May.
Five SSES students led a team of six from Manatee County to the Division 1 championship of the statewide 2016 Florida Commissioner’s Academic Challenge, April 21-23 in Orlando. The three-day competition featured teams from 38 counties competing in a series of academic challenges covering topics in language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, fine arts, world languages (French and Spanish), physical education, health, and technology. Teams were rewarded for speed and accuracy in answering individual and team questions. Team Manatee completed a perfect championship round with no incorrect answers to top Palm Beach County, 260-247. Manatee County holds local competitions throughout the fall, and the top six students from the county earn the opportunity to represent the team at the state level. This year, Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School won the local competition and had five of the top six individual scorers. Saint Stephen’s students representing Manatee County were Ethan Leuchter ’16, Hannah Sage ’16, Joe Class ’16, Alex Siegal ’17, and Vanessa Yan ’17. They were joined by Julian La Rosa ’16 of Lakewood Ranch High School. The team was coached by Saint Stephen’s Library Director Christina Pommer. As champions, team members receive recognition from the Commissioner of Education, a trophy, a championship ring, and each student is awarded $500 in scholarship money to support their college education.
Girls lacrosse won its first district championship in just its third season of competition, topping Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 13-8 on Friday, April 8. The Falcons (9-4) charged out to a 5-1 lead less than 10 minutes into the first half thanks primarily to the offensive play of sophomore Katie Pierce, who notched three of the Falcons’ first four goals. Cardinal Mooney (10-5) narrowed its deficit to within 8-6 at halftime, but Saint Stephen’s responded with a dominant second half to close out the game and the District 17 title. Pierce scored four times and junior Emily Hiebner added three goals as the Falcons advanced to host a state play-in game against Estero High School on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Moore Athletic Complex.
With a live television audience watching, the SSES Academic Team won the first Manatee Academic Challenge on March 15, defeating students from Lakewood Ranch High School, 157-121. In three rounds of gameshow-style general knowledge trivia questions, seniors Joe Class, MaryAnn Placheril, and Ethan Leuchter emerged victorious for Saint Stephen’s. The competition was broadcast live on cable TV’s Verizon and Bright House networks, and also streamed on the internet from the Southeast High School studio – SETV. Read more about the challenge and view some photos and video from the event in a report from the Bradenton Herald.
Niche.com has released its 2016 rankings, and Saint Stephen’s is No. 9 on the website’s list of the top 100 private high schools in Florida. SSES is the only Bradenton-Sarasota area institution recognized among the top 30. The site ranks schools based on a formula that includes composite SAT/ACT scores, matriculation to four-year colleges and universities, quality of college acceptances, student/teacher ratios, campus culture and diversity, and parent/student surveys of overall experience.
The entire school community was on hand to celebrate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opened the new campus Marine Science Center on Feb. 18. The nearly 6,000-square foot facility features a wet lab, one outdoor and two indoor classrooms that will be utilized by students in all grade levels for their study of marine science. The grand opening event featured comments from Head of School Dr. Jan Pullen, lead donor Elizabeth Moore, Bishop Dabney Smith, and Ann Marie Shields, chair of the SSES science department. A time capsule to be reopened in 2036, at the building’s 20th anniversary, was placed in the ground by Ms. Moore’s daughters – current SSES students Merry and Grace. The building was also dedicated to Mrs. Shields, a 31-year Saint Stephen’s faculty member and the architect of the school’s early marine science program. Located on the McLewis Bayou, Saint Stephen’s is the only area school with direct access to the Manatee River and Gulf of Mexico. One Ocean, a custom designed Pre-K through grade 12 marine science curriculum, provides an opportunity for each student to study the wonders of the ocean environment.
Last September, five Saint Stephen’s seniors were named semifinalists for 2016 National Merit Scholarships, half of the 10 chosen throughout Manatee County. All five – Hannah Sage, Sabrina Priestly, Zack Gromko, Joe Class, and Michelle Yan – have now advanced to be among 15,000 finalists nationwide. That’s the highest number at Saint Stephen’s since 2005. Approximately half of the finalists will win National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32-million this spring. The process of becoming a National Merit Scholar begins during the junior year of high school when students take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Those named finalists are the highest-scoring entrants in each state — fewer than one-percent of all U.S. high school seniors.