Ryan Kelly and students

Notes from the Head of School



STEM, Entrepreneurship, and the Impact on Girls at CDS

For my doctoral dissertation for the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, I focused on STEM, Entrepreneurship, and the impact on girls at Carrollwood Day School. Thank you, Kimberly Santamaria from Writing Coaches of America, for being an amazing editor and taking over 33,000 words down to 2,000.

The Issue

In the United States, women are significantly underrepresented in fields involving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Although they made up half of America’s paid work force in the year 2000, women held only one-quarter of the STEM jobs, limiting their participation in many lucrative, fast-growing professions (Pantic, 2007). More recent data reveals that this cannot be attributed to ability differences.

The literature (e.g., AAUW, 2015; Beede et al., 2011; Lowell et al., 2009) illustrates that women’s interest in STEM careers has waned and that they have increasingly chosen other professions. “Study after study finds that women have ability, good grades, and high test scores in STEM subjects, and yet women are turning away, or being pushed away, from engineering and computing fields…Women often feel as if they don’t fit or belong in these fields” (American Association of University Women, 2015, p. 34). This deficit of women in STEM holds the United States back from leveraging the full body of talents possessed by its citizens and denies science and engineering the diversity of voices, viewpoints, and innovation that drives STEM fields (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2010).


Read full article.


Posted by Ryan Kelly on Tuesday July 25, 2017
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Preparing Students for the Future Job Market

As the head of one of the best schools in the nation, I do my best to remain a lifelong learner and stay on top of the latest news in education and higher education, as well as what our students will face in the global job market of tomorrow. Staying current with a range of professional literature helps inform the plans and decisions my team and I make for CDS. Harvard Business Review, MIT Technology Review, Wired Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc. Magazine, Independent School Magazine, NET Assets for Independent Schools, in addition to a plethora of books on subjects ranging from pedagogy and leadership to design thinking and innovation are a sampling of what my team and I read to stay abreast.

Recently, I received an alert regarding a new report just published by The Chronicle of Higher Education. The title of the report is “The Future of Work: How Colleges Can Prepare Students for the Jobs Ahead.” As a college preparatory school, there are many parallels between what we are doing here at CDS and this type of research. I was immediately intrigued and could not wait to read the article. Unfortunately, due to copyright laws[1], I cannot disseminate the whole report, but I can provide a summary and some insights into how it speaks to what we are doing at CDS.

The job market of the future will be very different than what many of us experienced. Michael Sciola, the associate vice president of institutional advancement and career initiatives at Colgate University says it best,

"It used to be that you got a good education from a good school and you had a good internship. You’d start your career and, with
a little bit of bobbing and weaving, you’d be successful. That’s gone. In this new workplace, students must have a fundamental understanding of what it means to manage their own career, with intention and with impact. They are going to have to create opportunities for themselves going forward." (Carlson, 2017, p. 7)

STEM and healthcare fields, along with entrepreneurial endeavors (the “E” in CDS’s STEEM initiative) will continue to be highly employable areas with good growth[2] for the foreseeable future,

"…employers are actively seeking out graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, and students with that training will likely continue to be in demand in the future, even as colleges churn out more of them… "(Carlson, 2017, p. 14)

I have long been aware of this trend and have worked with administrators and faculty to create our focus on STEEM[3] at CDS. The report goes on to discuss the need for fluency in coding and it even states, “…people will be expected to bring that skill set [coding] into their daily work” (Carlson, 2017, p. 16). This is an area where I feel CDS needs to lead. I am proud of the classroom and extra curricular experiences students in our ECC through high school have had with coding and I will be working with all divisions to assure that coding becomes ubiquitous in our curriculum mapping throughout every grade.

Interestingly, the report also places emphasis on skill sets associated with liberal arts education. It states, “…evidence suggests that the biggest wage gains will go to people who combine STEM training and technical skills with the kinds of soft skills often thought to be the hallmark of liberal-arts majors” (Carlson, 2017, p. 14). Some of the soft skills mentioned in the report are professionalism, initiative, the ability to accept critical feedback, skills in networking, communication (both oral and written), leadership, creativity, problem-solving, global/multicultural fluency, and critical thinking. As far as cultural competency, “…Many talent-acquisition managers said they actively look for employees who have experience with people from other cultures and have shown that they can work across cultural lines…”(Carlson, 2017, p. 26). After reading the many pages devoted to this topic, I felt so proud to be part of a school that embraces these soft skills. This is done at CDS via our IB curriculum and is supported by our purposeful advisory programming and character education initiative. IB is a liberal arts approach to education with a laser focus on building these skills in students along with infusing global/cultural competence. I know that as you read this and look at your own child(ren), you know exactly what I am talking about.

The report also addresses AI (artificial intelligence). Basically, the report outlines that if a job is a series of routine tasks, it could be taken over by AI sometime down the road. Some of the jobs impacted could be accounting and pharmacy, along with other jobs that are highly routine in nature; however, many of the careers our students will pursue should be minimally impacted.

Frankly, I expect CDS students will have a leg up as they enter the workplace of the future. Throughout their school career at CDS, students are developing the skills that will enable them to successfully navigate this uncharted future workplace. Immersed in a STEEM-rich, IB learning environment, they become adept at being inventive, creative and resilient, essential qualities for generating their own paths to success.

I am asked the question, “Why CDS?” quite a bit. Your children are in a school where the teachers and administrators take their future success very seriously. As CDS parents, you are witness to your students becoming empowered to be world citizens prepared to lead us into the future.

[1] If you would like to purchase the report, click here

[2] Some STEM fields have projected growth from 30% to over 100% from 2014-2024

[3] Please see information on this initiative here

Posted by Ryan Kelly on Wednesday June 7, 2017 at 06:09AM
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Wrapping Up a Great Year!

I had the opportunity to sit down with Ken Akins last week and reflect on the success of the wonderful fundraising events Carrollwood Day School had this year. The generosity of our families has enabled us to accomplish much and CDS is poised for greatness. Thanks to the many families who have supported Annual Giving this year! We are very close to meeting our goal for Annual Giving and if everyone gives a little bit, we can surpass our goal! If you have not yet made your Annual Giving gift for 2016-2017, please consider making it today.  (You have until June 30, 2017 to pay your Annual Giving pledge.)

Posted by Ryan Kelly on Friday May 5, 2017 at 12:03PM
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CDS Takes Flight in 2015-2016

I invite you to take a moment to view this video of a recent chat I had with Ken Akins reflecting on this year of Taking Flight at Carrollwood Day School. I am excited about the continued learning and growth the 2016-2017 school year will bring!  I hope everyone has a great summer.


Posted by Ryan Kelly on Friday May 27, 2016
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Update on Doctoral Studies

In September 2014, as I embarked on my doctoral studies in educational leadership at the University of Pennsylvania, I wrote a message to the CDS community explaining, “Both my coursework and dissertation will be grounded in data and challenges drawn directly from CDS. I look forward to engaging with the entire CDS community as I apply my research and learning to sustain improvement within our school. I look forward to implementing research-based advances in pedagogy and leadership to benefit CDS and its future!”

As I enter the final year of this program, I am designing and preparing to carry out an independent research project to support my dissertation, the final milestone toward completing my degree. Recognizing the importance of the STEEM initiative at Carrollwood Day School and the ongoing public debate about STEM related gender imbalance in schools, I decided to assess how CDS’s STEEM initiative supports female students’ development as future participants in STEM fields and how teachers and students have received the addition of entrepreneurship to the curriculum at CDS. It is my hope that this study will assist me in making informed decisions about our STEEM program so that we can continue to refine and improve it.  
I will be asking female student participants from grade 5 through high school to complete a brief survey and/or take part in a focus group interview. The purpose of the survey and focus groups is to gather information about female students’ experiences with Science, Technology, Engineering Entrepreneurship, and Math (STEEM) education here at CDS. In addition, I will be interviewing CDS STEEM teachers who work with these students. The information collected from the survey, focus groups, and teacher interviews will be used anonymously for my doctoral dissertation.

If you have a daughter in grade 5 or above, your child may be asked to complete a survey in advisory group and/or take part in a focus group interview. Participation in the study is estimated to take about 15-30 minutes for the survey and 30-45 minutes for the focus group. There will be no direct benefits to you or your child from participating in this study. However, the information gathered from the survey and focus groups will be beneficial in helping to guide programs and policies designed to encourage and retain more female students in STEM and entrepreneurship programs and activities.

Parents with daughters at CDS, please be on the look out for an informed consent form that will be sent in the coming weeks.  I am currently in the process of having IRB approve my research, and once that is done, I will commence with the student surveys. Student focus groups will begin next year.

Posted by on Thursday April 21, 2016 at 08:36AM
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From Inside the Gym

Posted by Erma R. on Wednesday December 16, 2015 at 07:39AM
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Education with Character

The advancement team at CDS has been working since the end of February with John Littleford, an international management consultant for independent and international schools, to enhance our school’s internal and external marketing. After spending several days on campus meeting with CDS administrators, parents, teachers and students it was gratifying to have Littleford confirm that our claim to deliver “Education with Character” is more than a tagline at CDS. While all private schools are expected to build character to some extent, character development is infused throughout the entire CDS experience. 

So, exactly what does “Education with Character” at CDS look like?

Our challenge now is to collect stories that illustrate our school's unique culture and reflect our values and community.

Sydney with the pop-tops she collected!I think we can all agree that sometimes a picture is truly worth a thousand words. Did you see this photo of kindergartener, Sydney Love?

When Sydney found out that she and her classmates were going to use aluminum pop-tops for their Everyday Math class and then give them to the Shriners Hospital, she and her family went right to work. They reached out to their church and family members all over the country. This picture shows what Sydney brought in to kick off the collection! The hospital will turn in the pop-tops for recycling and use the money for all kinds of benefits from purchasing and repairing wheelchairs to providing transportation. This is just one illustration of how “character” is embedded in the academic curriculum at CDS and ways that school and families partner to encourage even our youngest students to make a difference in our community and/or the world!

In the elementary school, Mrs. Fordyce’s fifth grade class has selected cancer as the focus for their upcoming PYP Exhibition. As part of their research, students are interviewing members of the CDS community who have been impacted either directly or indirectly by cancer. Olivia Giovenco, Isabel Mahoney, Libby McCaffery, and Matheson Woeste met with Mrs. Nancy Hawkins from the business office to learn about her role as caregiver for her husband while he undergoes chemotherapy treatment for cancer. After a few questions, the students asked how cancer has impacted her family. This question hit Mrs. Hawkins hard and she began to cry. The four students consoled her as she quickly regained her composure and answered the question. After finishing the interview, Mrs. Hawkins felt horrible that she had cried and worried that she may have upset the students. The students returned to their classroom and unbeknownst to their teacher, Mrs. Fordyce, immediately wrote the following letter and rushed back to put it in Mrs. Hawkins’ mailbox.

Letter to Mrs. Hawkins

As you can see firsthand, Olivia, Isabel, Matheson, and Libby displayed character and compassion without being asked to do so and simply reached out to comfort another human being struggling through a very serious event. This is another vivid example of Education with Character.

Mrs. Hawkins and fifth grade girls

As you read this, you probably are thinking of your own personal examples of Education with Character that have touched your child or that you have witnessed at CDS. I invite all families, students, and staff to submit their own stories of Education with Character at Carrollwood Day School. I do hope you will join me in sharing the amazing stories that we all have about CDS and the character displayed by our school family.

Please add a comment to this post with your story.  You are also welcome to use this link to submit your story, if you prefer to share it privately.

Posted by on Wednesday December 3, 2014 at 03:30PM
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Back to School

The 2014-2015 school year is off to an amazing start.  The energy and enthusiasm is palpable in the hallways and classrooms!  As an educator, I always try to put myself in the students’ shoes as the year begins and imagine what it would be like going back to school.  This past summer, I had the opportunity to actually wear my student shoes as I embarked on doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania. 

As the first day emerged on the horizon, the nervous butterflies that I used to get when school started once again appeared. While that back-to-school ritual may be the same, my how things have changed since I was last in school!  As the first day got even closer, I received my new iPad from Penn. I began accessing the Penn learning management system, Canvas (a beefed up version of Schoology), and started looking through the first set of courses I would be taking.  One thing to note is that absolutely everything I accessed was online.  There were no handouts, no paper, and all our readings were either PDF articles or electronic textbooks.  As I began formulating a plan to get the assignments done before my first classes, I started thinking about binders, notebooks, and dividers; along with planning how I would print everything I needed to read and organize.  However, it hit me that I was resorting back to how I did things when everything was handed out in paper form and the Internet was under utilized by educational institutions.  I quickly realized that to gain the full benefit of being a 21st century student, I needed to shed my familiar study habits and embrace the technology-enabled learning environment that is transforming today’s educational landscape. 

What I did next was truly put myself in a student’s shoes.  I began with the question of how would I organize my workflow and keep myself on track and very organized?  The first thing I did was export all my course files from Canvas to DropBox for safekeeping.  My next step was to determine how I would read all the PDF articles via my iPad, MacBook, and iPhone.  I needed something that would truly be cross-platform and allow me to annotate, highlight, and add notes.  I found iAnnotate and PDFpen and have been very pleased with the way each of these apps syncs with DropBox and allows me to read articles on all my devices—I do have to say that iAnnotate is much better for the iPad as PDFpen is quite buggy on the iPad.  For the digital textbooks I used the Kindle app because all of books were purchased through Amazon.  The Kindle app is great and allows me to read books on all my devices, much like iBooks. 

As I imagined stepping foot on the Penn campus to begin my first courses, my next thought was how would I organize myself with note taking in class?  For this particular job I chose to use Evernote.  This app is a great cross-platform tool that allows for note taking, audio recordings, photos, etc., to be organized in one place and syncs across all of my devices.  There are other apps, such as Notability, that do a great job as well.  When I did finally arrive at Penn, my book bag consisted of my iPad and MacBook.  I did not have one piece of paper, textbook, or notebook!

I am part of a cohort of 24 students going through Penn’s Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership. While my cohort and I were in the courses, we utilized GoogleApps for education, which encompasses Google drive, docs, spreadsheets, forms, and hangout, all of which allow for outstanding collaboration amongst a group of people.  As I finished up my first set of courses, I headed back to Tampa with an abundance of homework to complete.  Given that my day-to-day life and job are already quite busy, I needed something to help me keep track of my assignments and due dates.  The app I chose was Todo.  This app is phenomenal and has numerous ways to set up alerts, add assignment notes, track progress, etc. 

To a certain degree, I am catching up with the students at CDS! Our students are experienced digital learners.  CDS has had a one-to-one MacBook and now iPad program in place since 2007.  Our teachers and students have been eager to transition to electronic textbooks and resources as they become available and fit into our curriculum. Last week we shared with you how fifth graders are using augmented reality to enrich their creative writing assignments.  Read last week’s kindergarten newsletter and learn how these young learners are developing and using key organizational skills.

It excites me to look around Carrollwood Day School and see the abundance of opportunities we are providing for our students. From the ECC through high school our students are developing the skills, work habits, and attitudes they will need to excel in technology-rich learning and work environments. 

Posted by on Tuesday September 16, 2014
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The Ultimate Question

Would you recommend Carrollwood Day School to your friends, co-workers, and neighbors? You may feel this is an odd way to begin my second blog entry, but this question is the basis of many of my goals and initiatives for 2013-2014. This simple question, and the way you answer it, will be based on your child’s experience and thus your experience at CDS. This is more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, but is best answered on a continuum. I was introduced to this question while reading the book The Ultimate Question 2.0[1] by Fred Reichheld and his Bain colleague, Rob Markey. I was so impressed with the content and the system[2] Fred and Rob outlined that I had my leadership team read the book as well. Through our reading, and my subsequent connection with Fred via Twitter[3] and a conference call with both Fred and Rob along with a few other heads of school, I developed a plan with my leadership team that focuses on obtaining feedback from parents, and in some cases students, on their experience at CDS.

How will I implement this new initiative? I am glad you asked! The overall plan is to elicit feedback from parents a few times a year through very brief surveys. A separate student feedback component will be done in the HS and may be implemented in the MS second semester. The questions will be very simple and vary slightly depending on your child’s grade.


Multiple question survey each semester could include questions similar to the following:

  1. How happy are you with your child's progress?
  2. How happy are you with the learning objectives for this semester?


  1. How happy are you with your student’s progress in English?
  2. How happy are you with your student’s progress in Mathematics?
    Note: In the middle school and high school, questions will be asked for each subject.

The scoring will be on a scale of ten to zero (highest to lowest). The survey results will be compiled in a timely manner and reviewed by the respective division principal and myself. The survey will provide us with the opportunity to follow up with individual parents submitting lower scores to help work out a solution to their concerns.

CDS is in the business of developing great kids into great young adults. Every family at CDS is a valued customer and I hope that you will take the time to participate in these surveys. With strong school-wide participation, your feedback will provide a clear measure of our school’s performance through our customers' eyes. Naturally, I hope that you will rate CDS 9 or 10, but this survey will also be a valuable tool to help us “close the loop” and, when needed, we can take appropriate action in response to your feedback.

Towards the end of the year, I will ask The Ultimate Question, which is how I began this blog: Would you recommend Carrollwood Day School to your friends, co-workers, and neighbors? From the data we receive, CDS can begin to track its Net Promoter Score and ensure we continue to provide the best possible educational experience.

I look forward to another great school year and welcome your thoughts about this new parent and student experience initiative we are implementing[4].

[1] Harvard Business Review.

[2] The system is called the Net Promoter System and is used by some of the best companies in the world: Southwest Airlines, Apple Retail, and Enterprise Rent a Car just to name a few.

[3] I will discuss the value of Twitter in a later blog.

[4] Future use of NPS will expand to other areas of the school along with tracking employee experiences as well.

Posted by on Friday December 6, 2013 at 08:42AM
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Dominican Republic: reflections from our service trip

After two short plane rides from Tampa to Miami, to Santiago, Dominican Republic, all 47 of us with luggage in tow, packed into 3 buses for a 2 and a half hour ride to our final destination, Monte Christie.   Little did we know, this bus ride would be the last air conditioned space we would enjoy for the next 6 days as we endured the island’s sweltering heat and humidity- most days were in the mid-90’s with the “feels like temperature” well into the 100’s. 

We arrived at the Outreach 360 housing center late that evening, and had a quick debriefing with Sarah, one of the leaders.  She gave us a quick overview of the plan for the following day and made us aware of the delicate plumbing system in this beautiful country of the Dominican Republic.  This is a system so fragile, that toilet paper must not be flushed down the toilet.  We were all required to raise our right hand and take an oath promising to retrieve the paper from the toilet if we forget to dispose of it in the trash.  There was a stick provided in each bathroom for us to fish-out the TP if we happen to forget the new “Go, don’t throw” etiquette. 

Early morning each day, we woke to the sound of Dominican roosters crowing from neighbor’s homes.  And by early, we’re talking rooster early… sometimes around 4:00am!  This unique animal sound was observed by one of the chaperones as “a group of old men with raspy voices, laughing”- talk about a wake-up call!  Everyday, our group convened in the common area, an outside covered dining hall for breakfast.  There were a variety of offerings daily, ranging from freshly made pancakes, hot oatmeal and cornmeal, cold cereal, toast, hardboiled local eggs (which made their presence at every breakfast and lunch) and sweet, succulent fruit from pineapple to watermelon to cantaloupe.  Dominican coffee was also readily available at anytime throughout the day- delish!  The facility had an abundance of fresh, clean water brought in regularly which was kept cold for us in large orange sports jugs.  We all learned very quickly that these water dispensers would come to be our best friends, as we refilled our large water bottles every couple of hours.

Our first full day in the DR was Sunday.  We were given a tour of the small town of Monte Christie, and learned what businesses were “360 approved”, as far as sanitary places to eat, etc.  As we took in the sights and sounds of our walking tour, we saw much animal life in the streets of Monte Christie from dogs to goats, to pigs and chickens… and yes, those pesky roosters.  What seemed like “stray dogs” actually weren’t strays at all.  They had owners, but a dog’s life in the DR is spent outside of a house, rather than in it.  Just like their owners, the dogs just sat on the sidewalk or curb as we walked by, watching our large foreign group pass by in our colorful Outreach 360 T-shirts.  It was amazing to see the dogs and people all living in harmony without the need for fences, leashes or electric collars.  

Over the next four days, our group of 40 high school juniors and seniors and 7 chaperones, worked among 3 different schools helping children in grades 1-5 learn a few English words and phrases.  One of the schools we were assigned to was called JFK.  Here, the happy children attended school for a full day; a recent change by the government for the entire country, from a previous half day attendance.  The DR has the worst school system of all of the countries in Latin America- even worse than Haiti.  It felt incredible to spend a few days with these delightful students, working with them individually, when in a typical day, they have a 50 to 1 student to teacher ratio.  Though many of us did not speak their language, through our compassionate smiles, warm energy, and open hearts, the students beamed with joy and excitement every time we saw them. 

One of the most emotional and significant experiences of our trip to the DR was a visit to the Dajabon Market on Friday, our last full day in this special country.  The market was a 45 minute (air conditioned!) bus ride away to the border between Haiti and the DR.  This border, lined with armed guards, opens for 8 hours two days each week, Fridays and Mondays.  It is open for Haitians to cross over into their neighboring country, to bring any and all goods, which they have collected from donations sent by various organizations.  They sell their goods consisting mostly of used clothes, shoes, and house-wares, for basic food staples, which the Dominicans provide such as beans, rice, pasta and vegetables.  The Haitians trade their goods with the Dominicans at a low price, and in turn sell their “new” merchandise in the stores in the DR to their own citizens.  Though there is still much turmoil and tension between the two countries that share this island, as we voyeuristically stood on the bridge over Massacre River and watched the people hurry across the threshold, it was obvious that the Dominicans needed the Haitians and the Haitians needed the Dominicans.  We were instructed the night before our visit to the market, on how to navigate our way through the congested, hectic mosh pit of people-traffic, with occasional motorbike and wheel barrel traffic mixed in.  It was a strategic method of staying in a single file line, with assigned “turn leaders” to help guide our group through the chaotic flow of business.  We were advised not to carry anything in our pockets, as they would definitely be picked- and for a handful of our students, they most certainly were.  As we wove our way through the indoor and outdoor stalls crammed with people and products, one could feel the frenzy of energy bubbling throughout.  The scent of the balmy market was a combination of exotic spices, grilled meat, dried whole fish, and fresh produce.  It was astonishing to recognize a basic polo shirt from a name brand designer or an old Corning Ware set among the goods on display, as they represented things we Americans can so easily replace and part with, yet for the Haitians these products were a form of currency and perhaps represented their next weeks of meals. 

We concluded our intense morning tour, and piled back onto the buses with combined emotions of relief, amazement, wonder, and gratitude.  These 4 emotions summarize in its entirety, the experience of this unique service trip.  Though we were all anxious to return to warm showers, air conditioning, rooster-free mornings, and the freedom to flush our TP, there will forever be a piece of the DR in our hearts through our extraordinary week long journey.

Posted by on Tuesday October 8, 2013
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