New Head of School Appointment 2022-2023

Tenured Educator, Tasked with Leading All School Aspects and Supporting Vestry and Church, Set to Join in July 2022

CORAL GABLES, FL - (January 25th, 2022) - St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School (STEPS), one of Miami’s elite Schools for Preschool-Grade 5, is proud to announce the appointment of Ms. Sarah Kemeness as new Head of School beginning July 1, 2022. Ms. Kemeness joins STEPS from Palm Beach Day Academy, where she has served as Middle/Upper School Head (Grades 4-9) since 2015. She succeeds Mrs. Lillian Issa, who is continuing on to the next chapter of her life with her husband and family, after successfully leading STEPS for the past six years and more than forty years in education. We are grateful to Mrs. Issa and thank her for her leadership and valuable commitment to St. Thomas during her time with us and wish her the very best. Ms. Kemeness was selected after an extensive nationwide search led by The Education Group and an in-depth interview process with STEPS’ Search Committee and key constituents.  

“We are thrilled to welcome Sarah to our School and community! When we embarked on this search, we had a clear sense of the type of leader needed to drive forward the School’s mission and vision,” said Kurt Bauer. “Sarah not only has the experience needed to take on this role, but she possesses strong leadership and management skills, a warm and approachable personality, and a passion for faith-based education that will continue to set St. Thomas apart from other institutions.”

In this role, Ms. Kemeness will be responsible for the School’s strategic planning and implementation, establishing a long-term vision to build upon the success of the current administration, supporting faculty and staff, nourishing the School’s community, and collaborating closely with the Board of Trustees, Vestry and Church. “At St. Thomas, our School is a ministry of our Parish,” said Reverend Timothy Fleck, St. Thomas’ Rector. “Educating children is what we are called to do, and I know Sarah understands that.” She will also be instrumental in upholding St. Thomas’ standards of excellence, honoring the School’s mission, and strengthening the School’s Episcopal identity.

“I’m excited and honored to lead this strong community known for student-centered education, a deep ecclesiastical tradition, and academic excellence,” said Sarah Kemeness. “I look forward to working with a dedicated faculty who during my visit, made it clear that they love their students. Finally, I am thrilled to be partnering with St. Thomas’ Board of Trustees, the clergy, and families to bring our mission to life.”

Ms. Kemeness comes to STEPS with more than 25 years of experience in education. Prior to serving as Middle/Upper Head at Palm Beach Day Academy, Ms. Kemeness was the Upper School Head at Lake Mary Preparatory School, where she oversaw the revamping of the AP program and always kept one foot firmly in the classroom by teaching a tenth-grade English class. Passionate about teacher development and the faculty community, she created a new model for teacher professional development. Rather than bring in outside professionals, Ms. Kemeness tapped faculty members for professional development days and began a “teachers teaching teachers” movement that helped ignite new ideas in veteran and new faculty alike, while showcasing talent on campus.

Additionally, she held various positions at Palmer Trinity School – a stronger feeder school for St. Thomas – including Upper and Middle School Dean of Students, Lead Advisor, English Teacher, and Varsity Soccer Coach.

Originally from Long Island, NY, Ms. Kemeness earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami and a Master of Arts in Education Administration from Florida International University. She currently resides in Palm Beach but will be relocating to South Miami in order to be close to the St. Thomas community. When she’s not working, you won’t find her sitting still but rather paddle boarding or out on the golf course. 

About St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School 
Located in Coral Gables, Florida, St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School (STEPS) was founded in 1953. Now in its 69th year, St. Thomas has grown to include grades junior preschool through 5th grade and has 425 students. St. Thomas is a loving, secure, and inclusive community that nurtures, challenges, and inspires children to honor God, care for their world, and develop a passion for discovery and learning. STEPS equips children to better navigate and lead in a rapidly evolving world through an innovative and proven education grounded in Episcopal values. For more information on St. Thomas, please call 305-665-4851 or visit www.stepsmia.org

    • Sarah Kemeness

      New HOS beginning July 2022

Head Search Committee

List of 6 items.

  • The Rev. Timothy Fleck

    Priest-in-Charge, St. Thomas Episcopal Parish Church
    Father Tim is Priest-in-Charge at St. Thomas Episcopal Parish Church and School.  He came to St. Thomas in February, 2020, from Bar Harbor, Maine, where he served a partnership of three parishes.  Prior to being called to the priesthood, Tim practiced architecture in Indianapolis for almost twenty years.  Tim earned his AB in History and Science from Harvard College, Master of Architecture from Columbia University, and Master of Divinity from Bexley Hall Seminary.  Tim’s husband Bob is retired from a career in Environmental Consulting.
  • Alejandro A. Dueñas

    Search Committee Co-Chair
    Alex is a Miami native and currently serves on the Board of Trustees. He also served on the Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2020, during which he served as Board Chair for 4 years and Vice Chair for 1 year.  He is married to a St. Thomas alumni (Jolie ’90) and the father of two St. Thomas alumna (Carlota ‘19, Paulina ’21) and one rising St. Thomas 4th grader (Fernanda). Alex has previously served on the school’s Trusteeship, Finance, Advancement, Facilities and Strategic Planning Committee. He also served as a member of the School’s previous Head of School Search Committee. Alex is President and CEO of a real estate development company with business in Florida and Central America.  He is also a Director of a wealth management and investment advisory firm that offers services to high net worth individuals, families and institutions both in the US and abroad. Alex earned his BA in Finance and International Business from Georgetown University.
  • Elizabeth Bacardi

    Search Committee Co-Chair
    Elizabeth is a Miami native and just completed a six year term on the STEPS Board of Trustees. During her time on the board  she served as the Chair of Trusteeship Committee and on the Executive Committee. Elizabeth earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and English Literature. Elizabeth is married to Facundo and they have three St Thomas Alumni, (Olivia ’13 , Sealey ‘15 , Remi ‘19), and one rising 4th grader (Lila).  She also served in a variety of capacities for the St Thomas Parents Association and served on the PA Board. She also served as a member of the School’s previous Head of School Search Committee. Elizabeth was also a member of the Strategic Planning Committee for St. Thomas. She serves on the Palmer Trinity School Board as Chair of Trusteeship and Secretary on the Executive Committee. Elizabeth also served on the Close Up Foundation Board  in Washington DC and on the St. Philip’s Episcopal School Board on both the Trusteeship Committee and Executive Committee. She has worked in a teaching capacity for Flamingo Elementary School, St. Philip’s Episcopal School, and St. Thomas School.
  • Jose A. Garrido, III ('93)

    Vice Chair, Board of Trustees
    Jose serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees. He earned a BS in Economics from Vanderbilt University and a JD/MBA from University of Miami.  Jose worked as a corporate attorney at Squire Sanders (now Squire Patton Boggs) before joining Walton & Post, Inc., a 40-year-old international grocery and personal care distribution company, where he currently serves as its President and CEO.  In addition to serving on the Board of Trustees, Jose serves on Belen Jesuit Preparatory School’s Board of Advisors and as President for the Miami Chapter of Vanderbilt University’s Alumni Association.  Jose is an alumnus of STEPS, and he and his wife, Olga, have three current students: Jose Garrido IV (Third Grade), Alberto Garrido (First Grade), and Fernando Garrido (Jr. Pre-K). 
  • Kurt Bauer

    Chair, Board of Trustees and Junior Warden, St. Thomas Episcopal Parish Church Vestry
    Kurt Bauer currently serves as both Chair of the School Board of Trustees, and as Junior Warden of the Vestry. He was previously a co-chair of the combined Church and School Facilities Committee, overseeing capital improvement programs for our campus infrastructure and buildings. Kurt is an active community leader, volunteering as Troop Committee Chairman for Boy Scout Troop 336 in Coral Gables, where he previously served as the unit’s Scoutmaster.  He is a native of Nashua, NH, and received a Bachelor of Science in physics from Tufts University and an MBA from Boston University. Kurt also has a Master Certificate in Six Sigma and Applied Project Management from Villanova University. Kurt served in the United States Navy, and has had an extensive career working with the Department of Defense, including United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM), United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and United States Marine Corps Forces South (MFS). He is the proud father of two St. Thomas Alumni (Anna ‘12 and Matthew ‘15).
  • Wendy Coles

    Senior Warden, St. Thomas Episcopal Parish Church Vestry
    Wendy Coles serves as Senior Warden of St. Thomas Church. She has a PhD in Education from Michigan State University, a Masters in Community Leadership from Central Michigan University and a Bachelors in Applied Social Sciences from the University of Waterloo. Prior to obtaining her doctorate, she served as a school administrator in Michigan.  Wendy enjoyed a 25-year internal consulting career with General Motors. Prior to moving to Miami, Wendy coordinated services for individuals and families in Monroe County, FL as Executive Director of the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League.