Stephenson named charter superintendent
The single most important aspect Nelson Stephenson wants people to know about his hiring as the new Cape Coral Charter Schools superintendent is that he was willing to make a commitment to be here for a long time.
“I’m glad to be here,” said Stephenson, 45. “We love the Cape Coral area and the boating and outdoor activities it presents. We’ve lived here about two years. It’s a beautiful place.”
He signed a contract for the next 30 months to coincide with the school calendar at a rate of $115,000 per year. He replaces Dr. Angela Pruitt, who left in August after just one year in office to become the human resources director with Lee County School District.
Stephenson considers himself a Southwest Florida native since his family relocated to Naples soon after his birth in Kentucky. He was educated in Collier County and earned his Master’s degree in educational leadership at Florida Gulf Coast University and a Master’s in public administration at Western Carolina University.
“We settled here and my only northern experience was in college in North Carolina,” said Stephenson. “It was too cold for me and fortunately I was able to come back. My in-laws are here, we bought a home in the vicinity of City Hall, so we’re staying here.”
Stephenson maintains his Cape home with his wife, Rosica, and two young children.
Stephenson’s first official day on the job was Monday, but after he was confirmed as the governing board’s choice in November, he spent a couple of weeks visiting the school to familiarize and orient himself.
“It was a long process,” he said. “One of my main priorities is building relationships within the school, with parents and the community. I’m going to be a cheerleader for all the things the school is involved in. I’m going to continue the good things and bring some new ideas to make sure our students are prepared and ready for college or career paths.”
Stephenson was a principal at DeSoto County middle and high schools over the past two years. Before that he was an administrator at Naples High, Lely High and Gulfview Middle School. Before becoming an administrator, he taught international relations, politics and American Government courses 10 years at Edison State College. He also has alternative school and high school classroom experience in Collier County.
“I want people to know that I have faith in this Charter School system,” said Stephenson. “I plan to enroll my own two children (Nicholas, 4, and Sophia, 2) in this system. I’ll be upping the enrollment by two.”
Stephenson’s other goals include meeting with City Council members, the Rotary and Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m going to be an advocate of our system and its needs,” he said. “The only shortcoming I see is that perhaps we don’t advertise how great a school it is. We have to do a better job of selling ourselves and all the good things that go on here. Students should want to come here because of the amazing things happening by using social media and push it hard by any means necessary.”
Stephenson became aware of Oasis’ most successful volleyball program even while still at DeSoto County High. He sees the building of the athletics programs as a challenge worth undertaking.
“I’m for increasing their growth while maintaining high academic standards,” he said.
The schools lack adequate practice and playing facilities, which he said he will be working on in the coming months.