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The Long and Winding Road to Serenity: Stephen Issa’s Journey Continues as the New Principal for Serenity High

Press Release|
Shane Mauldin|
Friday, May 20, 2016

Serenity High Principal Stephen Issa

McKinney, Texas – McKinney ISD has chosen Stephen Issa as the new principal of Serenity High, believed to be the only public recovery high school in Texas. The position became available when longtime Serenity Principal Juli Ferraro announced her retirement earlier this month.

After 10 years at Serenity, 15 years in education and a recent appointment to the Executive Board of the Association of Recovery Schools, Issa is the logical choice for the job.

“Stephen has worked for a number of years as the assistant to Juli Ferraro at Serenity,” said McKinney ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel. “And, he has been responsible for many of the school’s successes and many of the structures currently in place there. Stephen’s knowledge of Serenity’s mission and his desire to see Serenity continue to serve our district is without question what made him the logical choice for this position.”

Issa didn’t originally set out to be an educator. A few years in research and development for General Motors in Detroit, however, made him realize that he wanted something different out of life.

So, he joined the Peace Corps and landed in Guatemala where he introduced alternative methods of energy conservation and trained rural community members in new technologies. He was passionate about the work and eventually became a regional recruiter for the Peace Corps and served as national advisor on minority affairs for the organization. He was great at his job; Issa played a role in bringing in over 500 international recruits.

It was his work in the Peace Corps, particularly the time he spent in Guatemala, engaging with the people there, that drew Issa to education.

The next leg of his journey kicked off in 2001 at the Academy of the Americas in the Detroit Public School system, where he would teach 3rd grade for the next three years.

In 2004, he made his way southward again, this time to Texas and McKinney ISD where he took a job teaching 3rd and 5th grade bilingual students at Webb Elementary. Two years later, Issa became the recovery coordinator at Serenity High, and in 2011 served as an administrative intern at the MISD District Alternative Education Placement campus.

Now, he takes the next significant step in his journey. “Educating students in recovery is not only my profession, but it has become my passion,” said Issa. “Being selected as the next campus leader of Serenity High is a tremendous honor. Unique in the world of education, recovery high schools play a vital role in supporting students and their families by providing a drug-free learning environment. While I am thrilled to fill this new role, I plan to continue the legacy of compassion that focuses on teaching the whole child established 17 years ago by the founding Principal Juli Ferraro.”

Issa’s journey has brought him a long way from his days at GM in Detroit. But, there is still much that lies ahead, and Issa has his sights set on the success that lies ahead for the students of Serenity High.

“Investigating creative ways to engage students and develop a stronger bond with parents will be an important component of our school culture,” Issa said. “Doing so will further promote a collaborative culture that will benefit the students’ ability to stay sober and earn a high school diploma. From a national perspective, leveraging our longevity and affiliation with the Association of Recover Schools to support other recovery high schools will also be important. It has been my good fortune to be a part of the Serenity family for 10 years, and as principal, I look forward to continuing the work of saving young lives!”

Issa earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Eastern Michigan University and his Master of Eduction in Education Administration from Concordia University.

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Serenity High Principal Stephen Issa

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