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October 2013

2013 Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year

Craig Speziale, principal of Ponte Vedra High School (PVHS), has been selected as the St. Johns County School District’s (SJCSD) nominee for the 2013 Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership.

Jessica Richardson, assistant principal at Cunningham Creek Elementary School (CCES), was chosen as the district’s nominee for the Outstanding Assistant Principal Achievement Award.

These programs honor principals and assistant principals who utilize teamwork and leadership skills to increase student performance, establish partnerships with parents and community members, and promote safe learning environments.

Awardees are also recognized for ethical leadership and their use of innovative technology as well as their commitment to forging personal, social, economic, and cultural relationships in the classroom, the school and the community to build and support a learning organization focused on student success.

Speziale has been the principal of PVHS since he joined the SJCSD in 2007. Prior to this he served as a principal, assistant principal and teacher throughout the Miami area.

Under Speziale’s leadership, PVHS has realized an increase in AP participation and students’ scores every year. For the last four consecutive years, a student in the Academy of Biotechnology and Medical Research at PVHS has received the honor to compete on behalf of St. Johns County in the International Science Fair. The Academy of International Business and Marketing earned model status from the National Career Academy Coalition and has developed a wonderful partnership with THE PLAYERS to promote its tournament through social media.

“Craig is a fine example of outstanding leadership,” said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner. “His work at Ponte Vedra High has been stellar and we are very fortunate in St. Johns County to have such high performing principals. Craig truly motivates and encourages excellence in his students, administrative staff and teachers. I am proud and honored to work with him.”

Speziale holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida, a master’s degree from Barry University and a certificate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

Outstanding Assistant Principal Nominee Jessica Richardson started her teaching career in St. Johns County 14 years ago and is in her second full year of serving as assistant principal at CCES. Richardson has taught second, third and fourth grade as well as serving as an instructional literacy coach for two and a half years. Most of her career thus far has been spent at PVPV/Rawlings Elementary School. Some of Richardson’s fondest memories of teaching come from years spent working with students in the unique learning environment that an inclusion classroom offers.

Utilizing technology and instructional resources to bring learning to life, while allowing all students to capitalize on their strengths, is what makes Richardson smile. Seeing students actively engaged in learning and growing as leaders is why Richardson became a teacher and ultimately why she decided to become an administrator. She is committed to high standards and expectations of excellence in education, collaborative leadership models, and meeting the learning and life needs of the students, staff, and families of CCES.

“Jessica possesses a very positive, can-do attitude and her work with our ESE population is amazing,” said Joyner. “She faces challenges with a very high degree of professionalism and competence.”

Richardson holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Florida, a master’s degree from Grand Canyon University and is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher in the area of Middle Childhood Generalist.

These two St. Johns County nominations will be forwarded to the state where the nominees will compete at the regional level. The statewide winner in each category will be announced later this year.

CHARACTER COUNTS! Community Breakfast

This week marks the national observance of CHARACTER COUNTS! week and this program has a very strong presence in St. Johns County. This was evident last Thursday when the CHARACTER COUNTS! Community Breakfast took place at First Coast Technical College. The six pillars: Fairness, Citizenship, Caring, Trustworthiness, Respect and Responsibility were highlighted by 15 middle school eighth graders chosen by each of their schools for exhibiting these character traits in their daily lives.

Madeleine Ross from Fruit Cove Middle School; Summergrace Grable from Alice B. Landrum Middle School; Joshua French from Liberty Pines Academy; Luca Stauble from R. J. Murray Middle School; Ellie Kenyon from Pacetti Bay Middle School; Zachary Mikan from Gamble Rogers Middle School; Daniela Muzquiz from Sebastian Middle School; Jagwan Adkinson from St. Johns Technical; Hannah Rose Gonzales from St. Johns Virtual School; Logan Robertson from Switzerland Point Middle School; Emily Cook from the Academy of Business and Leadership Education; Marcus Wiley from Beacon of Hope Christian School, Ava Bratic from Cathedral Parish School; Rikia Martin from the Florida School for the Deaf and Jackie Gutierrez from the Florida School for the Blind each expressed what the pillars of character meant to them. I was truly touched by the powerful and meaningful messages each student shared.

The breakfast also served as a way to thank sponsors of the annual American Youth Character Awards Banquet. Schools were able to recognize and show appreciation to their business and community partners for their support as well as the dedication of school staff, parents and volunteers who foster and develop those relationships.

Special student-made CHARACTER COUNTS! artwork decorated the tables at the breakfast and was provided by Durbin Creek Elementary School, coordinated by School Counselor and CHARACTER COUNTS! Steering Committee Member Renee Labaw.

Mr. Tim Forson, deputy superintendent for Operations, was this year’s recipient of the Marjorie Davidson Individual Service Award. Mr. Forson has led efforts to educate businesses, organizations and civic groups on CHARACTER COUNTS! and has created a more positive environment to celebrate the success of Pursuing Victory with Honor athletes at our high schools.

The Community Service Award was presented to Bozard Ford Lincoln for its efforts in making the inaugural CHARACTER COUNTS! Six Pillars 6K/3K Run/Walk a huge success.

For more information on CHARACTER COUNTS! in St. Johns County and upcoming events visit

SJESPA Negotiated Agreement

Negotiators for the St. Johns Education Support Professionals (SJESPA) and the St. Johns County School Board have reached a tentative agreement on their 2013-2014 contract for the district’s non-instructional employees.

  • Move one level up on the salary schedule for eligible non-instructional employees.
  • An increase of .25 per hour for those employees with 0-9 years of work experience. This increase will be retroactive to the employee’s 2013 start date.
  • An increase of .15 per hour for those employees who have 10-13 years of work experience. This increase will be retroactive to the employee’s 2013 start date.

“The negotiation process was a very collaborative effort by all parties,” said Cathy Weber, director for Human Resources and chief negotiator, St. Johns County School District. “It is wonderful to be able to recognize those employees who work so hard to support our students and instructional staff.”

“We have many members who are happy,” said Carolyn Coffey, president of the local SJESPA. “The school district and union worked very well together to outline the terms of this tentative agreement.”

Following ratification, the tentative agreement will be presented to the School Board for acceptance.


SJESPA is the recognized bargaining agent for the approximately 1,500 non-instructional personnel including paraprofessionals, clerical staff, bus drivers, custodians, maintenance and food service.