Mission Impossible: A Successful Turnaround Story

James Stephens International Academy (JSIA) is located in the Dunbar community in Fort Myers and has a high rate of poverty and crime which impacts the lives of many of the students that attend the school. Since 2011, the school has either earned a D or F grade based on student achievement through standardized state assessments. In addition, the school had undergone drastic administrative turnover which totaled four different principals in a five year span. After starting the 15-16 school year with 12 teacher vacancies, JSIA earned its second consecutive failing school grade and was in danger of being shut down. The superintendent lobbied to keep the school open by restructuring school enrollment from K-8 to K-5 and focusing on primary and intermediate grade levels.

Under the guidance of a new administrative and instructional team, the mission was to systematically change the vision of education at James Stephens. Being that the school earned the second lowest math learning gains in in the state of Florida and severely underperformed in ELA, JSIA placed among the lowest 300 elementary schools. With this reality looming over the staff, a major shift was necessary.

As an instructional leader, how would you approach this challenge?  Join us on February 7th at 1:00 pm EST to learn how JSIA leveraged creative scheduling, revamping math instruction and assessment and integrating a culture of growth through daily student and teacher usage of classroom data.

Kelly Stedman, Assistant Principal, Director of Instruction

An Early Childhood graduate from Ohio University, Kelly Stedman, on a whim, moved to Florida to pursue a teaching career in Fort Myers and spent the first few years of her career in Title 1 schools as a math and writing teacher in grades 3 through 5.  She quickly learned that her passion was supporting educators through standards based instruction, so it was a natural transition to work with teachers as a curriculum specialist and then later as an Assistant Principal.  Currently, she has been working with an incredible team of teachers to turnaround James Stephens, an elementary school in danger of being shut down due to poor performance on state assessments.  She has also been recognized as Florida’s Assistant Principal of the Year for the 2016-2017 school year due to her successful turn-around work.


Nick Pietkiewicz, Assistant Director of Instruction

Nick began his career as a teacher in Fort Myers, FL after studying Elementary Education with a specialization in mathematics instruction from Ball State University. His trade of the bone chilling winters of the Midwest for Florida’s endless summers led to an exploration of both primary and intermediate grades.  After transitioning to instructional coaching, Nick supported teacher leaders in their implementation of a drastic rewrite of the district curriculum and assessment plan while working toward a successful school turnaround. His passion in education is based on empowering learners, both adult and child, to discover their potential and become responsible for their own success.