St. Stephen Construction Progress 2016-09-17 Communication Coordinator on Vimeo.
In the summer of 1999, Father Irwin and Bishop Lynch envisioned a school being built on 39 acres of land that had been donated to the Church of St Stephen. A building committee was formed and a school design was completed in the summer of 2000 which included provisions for two classes per grade level from early childhood three year olds (EC3) through 8th grade.
In January of 2001, Mary Liddy, the first principal, spearheaded the efforts to open St Stephen Catholic School. Construction began in July 2000 and was completed in May 2001. The school opened for the first day of classes on Aug 11, 2001 with one class per grade, EC3 through 5th grade. The first annual fundraiser, Angels among Us was started to fund the furnishings of the school. A School Advisory Board (SAB) was formed to frame the future of the school, set high standards, support the principal, and find solutions to problems as they arise. A Parent Teacher Community Organization (PTCO) was also formed and By-Laws developed. An extensive religious education program was moved into the school the beginning of this first year.
During our second school year, 2002-2003, the student population was increased by adding a sixth grade class and a sixth grade teacher. A school web site was created to improve communication between the school, the parents, and prospective student families. A technology plan was developed and approved by the State of Florida.
With the addition of a seventh grade class in 2003-2004, a committee was formed to study aspects of an exemplary middle school program. Committee members surveyed the current population, conducted focus groups, and visited top rated middle schools. An elective program was developed to provide additional student enrichment. A resource specialist was hired to enhance the academic program.
The fourth year of operation witnessed the success of St Stephen becoming a school that could serve the community in all grades from EC-3 through eighth grade. This year also saw the graduation of the first eighth grade class. Graduates who proved to be critical thinkers reflective on their work while building on the Catholic values learned. The elective program grew to offer additional choices. The school purchased a mobile computer lab consisting of 25 laptop computers for middle school students allowing for greater integration of technology into the curriculum.
School enrollment continued to flourish in 2005-2006 with the student enrollment increasing to 295 students. This year started the process the school’s first accreditation. On July 1, 2005, Fr. Bill Swengros, the new pastor of St Stephen Catholic Church continued to focus the parish community’s attention and support on the children of the St Stephen School.
In 2007, the school received its accreditation from the Florida Catholic Conference. Specific learning goals for the students based on our self-study were created and recommendations were addressed from the FCC Visitation Team. The curriculum was improved by aligning content throughout grade levels and additional technology was introduced. Construction began of a new building affectionately named Angels Wing to accommodate students in grades 5 thru 8. The School began participating in the parish steering committee’s efforts to build a new church on the school property.
Phase 3 of Angels Wing began in 2010. iPads were incorporated into teacher planning for the 2011 school year and in 2012 were rolled out in the classroom and integrated into the curriculum. This period saw the introduction of technology upgrades at the school and the moving forward of building initiatives for the Family Life Center (FLC) and the new Church. On December 27, 2015, the school shared in the blessing of the cornerstone for the new Church and witnessed the beginning of the construction. On April 30, 2016, all joined in a mass celebration for the newly constructed Family Life Center. The Family Life Center serves many purposes for the St. Stephen Catholic community, from a gym for St. Stephen Catholic School to a meeting place for the Edge, a religious education group for middle schoolers.
For the 2016-17 school year, Chromebooks were incorporated into the Middle School curriculum, augmenting iPads. Students joined thousands of volunteers from across five counties to help local communities during the Week of Caring which was orchestrated by the Diocese of St Petersburg as part of Carefest 2016. The students and families of St Stephen School watch the continued construction of the new Church in anticipation of the anointing of the altar planned on June 29, 2017.