Bridging The Gap Between Rural Communities and Future Jobs
The Putnam County STEM Initiative bridges the gap between rural communities and jobs of the future. Through the establishment of strong connections with the North East Florida STEM2Hub Ecosystem, Putnam County has become a model for other rural school districts to prioritize STEM education, which has been proven to have a significant positive impact on students.
Dr. Melissa Coleman is a visionary leader in the field of education, renowned for her unwavering commitment to improving educational opportunities and outcomes for students across the nation. With a wealth of experience that spans 26 years in the capacity of teacher, principal, principal supervisor, and district lead. Dr. Coleman has emerged as a transformative figure in her role as the Executive Director of Federal Programs and Instructional Acceleration.
As the Executive Director of Federal Programs and Instructional Acceleration, Dr. Coleman has been at the forefront of shaping educational policy and practice. Her strategic vision and dynamic leadership have resulted in the successful implementation of numerous programs aimed at promoting excellence in education. Under her guidance, schools have seen remarkable improvements in student achievement, particularly in underserved communities.
One of Dr. Coleman's most notable achievements has been her ability to secure and efficiently allocate federal funds to support educational initiatives. She has been instrumental in creating opportunities for schools to access vital resources that drive innovation, enhance teacher development, and provide students with the tools they need to excel academically.
Michael Helms began his career in education as a paraprofessional and later worked as a substitute teacher. He eventually became a certified K-6th grade teacher and has gained seven years of valuable experience in this field. Currently, he works as the STEM Specialist for the Putnam County School District. Michael is happily married to his wife Taylor and they have three wonderful children.
Kathleen Schofield works to assure equitable access to STEM2 learning across the northeast Florida region. As a liaison between the corporate community and the school systems, she brings the pulse of the needs for a 21st Century workforce as she collaborates with school districts and universities. She has successfully executed the 21st Century Northeast Florida Workforce Development program, a state appropriation, bringing access to experiences with cutting edge technologies including robotics, coding, drones and augmented reality to over 75,000 students. She worked with district leadership teams to develop and infuse innovative approaches to STEM instruction, aligned to standards, into the school day. Further, she has increased access to STEM learning experiences in the after-school setting.
Dr. Surrency is in his 45th year of education serving as the elected superintendent of the Putnam County School District in his 2nd term. After serving as a school teacher, assistant principal, and principal for 38 years, he retired and ran for the office of superintendent in 2016. Dr. Surrency has made significant improvements in his district by improving the district graduation rates from 54.9% in 2015 to 92.5% in 2021, the largest increase in the State of Florida during the same time period. In 2023, Dr. Surrency was named the Superintendent of the Year for the State of Florida.