SCPS will launch new magnet programs at three elementary schools this fall, and three of the leaders involved all have quite a bit in common
Thanks to a $15-million grant, three Sanford elementary schools will launch new magnet programs next school year. It’s a major win for local students and a pretty amazing coincidence for the three assistant principals who will help lead these new programs.
Carson Stone of Wicklow Elementary School, Stephanie Wall of Idyllwilde Elementary, and Kristin Sweeney of Pine Crest Elementary are all Seminole High School graduates. Carson is from the Class of 1999, while Kristin and Stephanie both graduated in the same year, 2003. Their journey together didn’t end there, however. After earning their degrees, all three returned to Seminole High to teach.
“Graduates from Seminole High School come back to our community for our kids,” says Julie Ciocca, a student assignment and program access coordinator for Seminole County Public Schools.
Returning to your alma mater to teach has other benefits, as well.
“I knew where everything was!” laughs Carson.
The trio didn’t know each other well when they shared the halls of Seminole High as students. They became close as fellow teachers, though, and now as assistant principals they’re working together constantly to prepare their respective schools for the new magnet programs.
“We’re tackling the same problems,” says Kristin, who always looks forward to weekly planning and strategy sessions with her former classmates.
“This has definitely bonded us,” adds Stephanie.
She says it’s a collaboration and working relationship built on commonality that none of them could see coming, especially because none of the three knew they would end up working in education – at least not right away.
Carson always had a passion for history and knew he liked interacting with people. A graduate of the University of Central Florida with a degree in history, Carson earned a master’s degree in leadership from Stetson University. He ended up teaching history as part of Seminole High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, then became its coordinator, working at Seminole High from 2005 to 2017, when he took the assistant principal post at Wicklow.
Though he didn’t consider education as a possible career until he was in college, Carson admits it was in his blood. His father was a teacher, his grandfather was a principal.
Kristin graduated from UCF with a degree in advertising and public relations, and she worked in that field for over a year. But she says she found her passion in education. Once at Seminole High School, Kristin taught subjects such as world religions and sociology from 2006 to 2010. She then taught at Millennium Middle School until becoming the assistant principal at Pine Crest Elementary in 2017. Along the way, Kristin earned a master’s degree in liberal studies from Rollins College and a doctoral degree in educational leadership from UCF.
Stephanie was a psychology and Spanish major who graduated from the University of Florida. After earning a master’s degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois, and a doctorate in leadership at the University of Florida, Stephanie taught at Seminole High School from 2009 to 2012. She was also a facilitator of the district’s ePathways College, Career, and Citizenship program. Though Stephanie started out her educational journey studying psychology, teaching became a different way for her to work with and help children.
“I thought I could do more for kids by being in schools every day,” she says.
Once the trio reunited at Seminole High, other connections were discovered: Carson’s uncle was Kristin’s water polo coach in high school, for example. And Carson and Stephanie remember Kristin’s uncle, who was a media specialist at Seminole High while they were there as teens.
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Now, with Carson, Kristin, and Stephanie as assistant principals, the Sanford community is watching with excitement as Wicklow Elementary School for Global Pathways, Pine Crest Elementary School for Innovation, and the Idyllwilde Elementary Future Ready Academy go on to grow and excel.