This summer, in keeping with an FCIS mandate that independent schools take stock of the success of their alumni, Saint Stephen’s tracked the graduates of the class of 2016 to ascertain their progress toward a degree. Of the 69 grads that year, we were able to account for 66 of those alumni. To date, 51 (77% of those reached) have graduated from college in or before 2020. The remaining 15 are all still pursuing their degrees.
Two alumni (at Miami and High Point) anticipate graduating in fall/winter 2020. One alumna is taking her third consecutive leave of absence from NYU as she collaborates on an important environmental film, but intends to return to finish her degree. Other colleges where alumni are continuing their studies include MIT, where an alumnus is finishing an additional physics degree; University of South Florida, University of Florida, Stetson University, and Lynn University, where an alumnus is playing varsity golf after being red-shirted for one year.
Two alumni (at Simmons College and Ohio University) graduated in less than four years. One Stetson graduate is taking a gap year after being accepted into Stetson Law School for 2021-22.
Many of the alumni distinguished themselves as collegians. One graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Washington University in St. Louis and now attends graduate school at Georgetown. One graduated magna cum laude from the University of Tampa; two graduated cum laude (from Sewanee and USF); another USF alumna graduated with her degree in chemical engineering and is now enrolled in medical school; an alumnus was selected valedictorian of his class at Rollins College; an alumnus of Denison University is now enrolled in a master’s program in geology at University of Nevada; two alumnae earned R.N. degrees – one is now a respiratory progressive care nurse and the other a BSRN; and an alumnus earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in cinematography and film/video production at Full Sail University.
Only three members of the Class of 2016 transferred to another institution from their original college destination.
The colleges and universities from which members of the Class of 2016 have earned degrees: Alabama, Amherst, College of Charleston, Colorado, Columbia, Denison, Emory, Florida, FGCU, FIU, FSU, Fordham, Fresno State, Full Sail, Furman, George Washington, Georgia Tech, High Point, Lehigh, Miami, Notre Dame, Nova Southeastern, Ohio, Rollins, Sewanee, SCAD, Simmons, Stetson, Tampa, University of Chicago, UCF, USMA West Point, USF, Washington (St. Louis), West Virginia, Yale.
Our 2020 AP test scores have arrived and Saint Stephen’s students, once again, excelled. Despite the challenge of the virtual environment and significant changes in the test format, SSES test takers achieved passing scores (3-5) on 90% of their Advanced Placement exams. That compares to 32.3% throughout Florida and 23.9% of students nationwide achieving passing scores. Our students took 283 exams in all, one of the highest numbers in school history. In science, math, English, social studies, modern and classical languages, Latin and Spanish literature, SSES scores all ranked at least a point higher than the state average. Students also recorded a 100% pass rate on exams for calculus, world history, European history, and visual arts. Other highlights include:
In English, 41 students took exams, with 91.3% scoring 3 or higher
World history students had an average score of 4.12, 1.2 points higher than the state average
Latin and Spanish literature students all scored 4 or 5, and Latin students scored double the state average
Seventy-one students took science exams and averaged more than a point higher than the Florida average in all areas
Long-time assistant A.J. Brown enters his first season as the Falcons head football coach in 2020. Coach Brown sat down for a quick Q&A session as he prepared for his inaugural campaign leading Saint Stephen’s:
Q) You are taking over from Tod Creneti after being a big part of an amazing run as an assistant. What sort of impact did he have on you?
A) Tod had a very positive impact on me. He always coached his coaches. He wanted to make sure everyone had a plan and he wanted to make sure everyone knew how to execute that plan. He taught me how to see the game as a whole: offense, defense, and special teams. He also taught me how to change and shape my coaching attitude toward different individuals. He told me, “You can’t coach every kid the same way; you have to find out what works for each individual and build a plan.” That was powerful to me because it made me begin exploring other avenues of coaching and reaching my players.
Q) What things have you learned over the past nine seasons as an assistant that have prepared you to lead the Falcons?
A) One thing I have learned is how to lead a team. Being an assistant coach, I was able to learn the day to day operations such as: developing practice plans, game day duties, coaching clinics, and having a role with dealing with parents, as far as emails and face-to-face contact. Under Coach Creneti, I have coached multiple positions on the field. I think coaching multiple positions has given me an overall mindset to see the big picture as a head coach should. Having veteran coaches return to the staff does make leading this team much easier for me as a first-year head coach.
Q) What sort of things will look the same about SSES football?
A) I don’t foresee any major changes to the football program this year. Our uniforms, practices, and game day operations will pretty much stay the same for now. As a team, we will continue to love one another under my leadership. We will continue the tradition of working hard, playing for one another, and representing our school and community with class and character.
Q) What will look different about SSES football under your leadership?
A) Well, one thing that will be different will be some new faces on the coaching staff. After losing some veteran coaches this past season, I have to find some new guys to take over key positions. I am fully confident that we will fill those roles with great coaches.
Q) You’ll have a young team in 2020, but with some returning leaders like DJ Clark, Matthew Konkol, etc. How important will those guys be with their experience?
A) Yes, we will be fairly young in 2020, but we actually have nine seniors returning to the team. Daniel (DJ) and Matthew will be called upon to lead this team and mentor the younger athletes. There are other seniors that will have to step up and be leaders, as well: Keaton Donnelley, Brock Gay, A.J. Hyppolite and Joel Erby. With the seniors that you mentioned, it will be very important for them to step up as leaders because of the experience that they bring to this team. After missing spring practice and a month of summer training, those guys are going to have to be like coaches on the field, teaching the younger players while learning information about their own positions, too.
Q) The coronavirus pandemic wiped out spring practice. How did that impact the preparation for your inaugural season as head coach?
A) The pandemic has been tough on everyone. Not being able to have spring practice was difficult because spring is the best time to evaluate players before summer break and the upcoming season. As a coach, it gives you a chance to try kids at new positions, to see if they can serve the team in other ways. So, yes, the pandemic did have a huge impact on certain things, but every other school in the nation was affected, as well. We were able to meet virtually as a team and staff to get some “mental” work completed. I do think that was a success and our kids really enjoyed the virtual meetings.
Q) What sort of goals/expectations do you have for the 2020 team?
A) We have always set a goal to win our division in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference (SSAC) and have an opportunity to make the playoffs, which gives us another opportunity to play for a championship.
Q) What does the new SSAC divisional alignment mean for SSES?
A) The new divisional alignment for us does mean we have to travel a lot more than we usually would. It is also a great opportunity for us to continue to get better and put in the work to go and win another division title. I think that will show people that we can play in any division and be successful.
Former pro player and coach Ken Bolek has been named the next leader of SSES baseball. Coach Bolek brings a long and impressive resume to the Falcons that started at the University of Arizona, where he was a member of the school’s 1976 College World Series championship team. After graduation, he was drafted as an outfielder by the Detroit Tigers. Bolek began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Mississippi State University before moving to the professional ranks. For more than a dozen years, he served as a coach and manager in the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, and Chicago Cubs organizations. In 1995, Coach Bolek helped develop the baseball program at IMG Academy, and he served as the school’s Director of Baseball for 19 years.
Falcon student-athletes were honored on Thursday (June 2) when the Florida High School Athletic Association named Saint Stephen’s as the recipient of this year’s Fred E. Rozelle Sportsmanship Award in Class 3A. The prestigious award recognizes schools whose athletic teams demonstrated exemplary sportsmanship, on and off the field, during the 2019-2020 regular season, as well as FHSAA State Series competition. Named in honor of FHSAA Commissioner Emeritus Fred E. Rozelle, the award has been presented annually since 1991 to one school in each classification whose total sports program best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship as demonstrated by its coaches, players and spectators. Criteria for selection of the winners includes programs and activities implemented within the school and community to promote sportsmanship; the number and type of exceptional sportsmanship reports; and the source of the nomination. Winners receive a commemorative plaque and $2,500.
Saint Stephen’s celebrated its 69 graduating seniors with a unique drive-through commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 23. With traditional graduation exercises cancelled because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, SSES invited the members of the Class of 2020 and their families to drive through the Upper School parking lot where the seniors – in cap and gown – collected their diplomas and had a photograph taken while “Pomp and Circumstance” blared through speakers. The school was decorated with banners featuring photos of each senior. It was an atypical but fitting way to celebrate the close of the most unusual school year in SSES history.
Class of 2020 highlights:
- Three graduates are National Merit Scholarship finalists; one is a National Hispanic Scholar
- Of the graduates who identified a first-choice college, 77% were accepted to that school
- Four graduates were awarded their university’s top-level academic scholarship, paying full tuition plus research and/or study abroad grants
- Nine graduates were offered Honors College/leadership programs, including merit scholarships, research, travel and enhanced academic opportunities
- Nine graduates were recruited to play intercollegiate sports: football, golf, sailing, swimming, tennis and track
The entire Saint Stephen’s community was saddened on May 19 by the passing of beloved former Headmaster John Howard, following a brief battle with cancer. During John’s tenure from 1987-2003, SSES grew into the modern campus it is today, highlighted by construction of the buildings that now house the Pre-Kindergarten, Campus Center, Lower School, and Upper School.
Born in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1937, John graduated from the Blake School in 1955 and Brown University in 1960. He launched his long career in education by returning to Blake for nine years, where he taught English, coached hockey and directed the Glee Club. John also served as Assistant Headmaster of the Kimberley School in Montclair, N.J., and as Director of College Counseling and then Upper School Head at Breck School in Minneapolis.
John packed up his young family and headed for Florida in 1987 to take on the role that was the ultimate challenge and joy of his career. During his years at Saint Stephen’s, enrollment grew from around 200 students to more than 600. Many of the campus traditions now held dear – Falcon Friends, Interim Quest, Cum Laude Society membership and more – were established, and he helped foster the warm and caring culture that Saint Stephen’s is known for today.
“John was an outstanding educator who loved Saint Stephen’s and always instilled that love of learning in his students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Jan Pullen, who was hired by Howard in 1988 and succeeded him as head of school in 2003. “His caring, fun-spirited demeanor was contagious and inspired us all to put joy in our lives. I was honored to have been mentored by John for 15 years. He will be missed but our memories of John will be with us forever.”
After retiring, Howard still made a difference in the broader community, serving as the Interim Executive Director of the South Florida Museum, Habitat for Humanity and We Care Manatee. A Celebration of Life is planned for the fall at Saint Stephen’s and the family has requested that memorial contributions in John’s name be made to the Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School Endowment Fund.
The international Water is Life Conference, which SSES was set to host June 22-26, has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Saint Stephen’s was to be the first U.S. site for the bi-ennial gathering, which brings together high school students and their teachers from around the world to discuss and share research on a variety of issues impacting water quality. Participating schools had registered from Zimbabwe, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Iceland, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, Poland, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Canada, and Curacao. Saint Stephen’s remains an active member of the Water is Life Association and is represented on its board of directors. We hope to be able to host a future conference. Thank you to the many partners who had agreed to support the conference: New College of Florida, the Parker and Bishop foundations, Elizabeth Moore, Bill Johnston, Mote Marine Laboratory, Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, Florida Park Service, Manatee Fish & Game Association, Reef Ball Foundation, Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Sandbar Restaurant, Pier 22, Omeza, Lovibond, ReefSafe Sun, Gulfcoast CEO Forum.
In order to align with the Governor’s decision on Friday to close all Florida public schools for two weeks, we are instituting the following plan:
The campus will be closed March 16-20. Teachers will communicate with students/parents about how we will proceed with virtual lessons, which will be introduced Wednesday through Friday (March 18-20). From March 23-27, the campus will remain closed and students will receive daily virtual instruction from their teachers. From March 30-April 3, there is NO school and we will honor our already scheduled spring break.
This plan allows us to carry out the Governor’s decision, while also ensuring that we are not away from our academic program for three consecutive weeks. All extracurricular and athletic activities will be canceled from March 16-27.
During spring break, we will inform parents about whether we will return to campus for classes on April 6, or if we will continue with virtual instruction. This decision will be based on the latest information available.
Tod Creneti, the head coach who built Saint Stephen’s football into an independent school powerhouse, has resigned his position after nine seasons at the helm. Veteran assistant coach A.J. Brown has been named as Creneti’s successor.
The Falcons posted a record of 68-32 during Creneti’s tenure, including an impressive 50-7 mark over the past five seasons. Saint Stephen’s advanced to four consecutive Sunshine State Athletic Conference (SSAC) independent state championship games under Creneti from 2015-18, and won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017. The Falcons fell one win short of a fifth straight trip to the Florida Bowl last season, finishing 9-2.
Creneti’s teams have established the standard of excellence for the fledgling SSAC, winning 24 consecutive games between August 2016 and September 2018. The Falcons’ loss in the 2019 playoff semifinals to eventual SSAC champ The Master’s Academy snapped a 25-game home winning streak. A series of student-athletes coached by Creneti have successfully gone on to the collegiate ranks, including Division I signees Sydney and Chase Brown (Illinois), Jacob Westberry (Fresno State), Wyatt Knopfke (Boston College), Cam Vining (Army), Dylan Davis (Furman) and others.
Brown, who has served as a physical education teacher at the school and as secondary coach on Creneti’s staff since 2010, will guide the Falcons through spring practice and into the 2020 season. He has also been the school’s head track and field coach since 2015, and led the Falcons to a boys Class 1A state championship in 2017.