Stephen Nelson, LEED AP
Director of Educational Architecture, Larson & Darby Group
Bio and Professional Experience
Stephen Nelson serves as the Director of Educational Architecture for Larson & Darby Group. Larson & Darby Group is a full service A/E (Architectural & Engineering) Firm based in Rockford, Illinois that serves clients throughout the Midwest and around the world. Stephen has 27years of experience in public architecture with a primary focus on educational architecture. Stephen is also one of the co-founders of BluePoint Alert Solutions that provides state of the art, emergency rapid response/notification alert systems to schools, public institutions and commercial/industrial facilities across the US.
Stephen is a licensed architect in Illinois & Wisconsin and has his degree from the University of Illinois. He has served well over 40 public school districts as well as numerous other municipal and public institutional clients. Mr. Nelson successfully chaired a community referendum committee for the passage of a city wide real estate transfer tax to provide additional unencumbered financial support to the school district. He is a frequent speaker at Educational Conferences and author for a number of local, National and International publications/organizations regarding education, master planning, strategic planning & design, educational architecture, school finance, asset management and security& safety. Stephen serves as Vice President of his local SD427 School Board and is a member of the SD427 Education Foundation Board, Technology Committee, Curriculum Committee, Financial Advisory Committee and the Local Planning and Zoning Commission along with co-vice-chairing the Alignment Rockford Committee for College Readiness. He is a member of AIA, IASB, IASBO, USGBC and Rotary. Stephen lives in Sycamore with his wife Pamela, (a middle school teacher), and his two children, Katelyn (Junior) and Griffin (Freshman). He enjoys travel, woodworking, cooking, art, history and cosmology (space). He is looking forward to helping advance the mission of Alignment Rockford and Rockford Public Schools to benefit the students and the overall Rockford Community.
When and why did you decide to get involved with Alignment Rockford?
I joined the Alignment Rockford Team in the fall of 2013, soon after I joined the Larson and Darby Group here in Rockford. I was asked by co-chair, Chris Anderson to assist him with the College Readiness Committee for Alignment Rockford and I happily accepted. Education is a passion of mine. I have served on my local school board for the past 10 years as well as numerous education committees over the past two decades. In my work, I focus primarily on educational architecture, so it is a natural fit for me to be involved in Alignment Rockford. I hope that my varied educational and professional experiences and leadership can help to benefit RPS205 students, staff and the Rockford Community.
As a member of the College Readiness Alignment Team, please describe what initiatives the team is working on in support of College Readiness for RPS205 students.
After going through the detailed alignment planning process, our committee has finally gotten to issuing its first ITP. It is for a Math Tutor Program to be implemented at Kennedy Middle School this fall, 2015. It will pair a local professional with two students who need assistance with math. They will meet at the school on a weekly basis to tutor and hopefully even mentor the students throughout the year. The program will begin with 6th grade students, with the hope that it would grow and expand in to 7th grade in 2016 and 8th grade in 2017. This program will be able to provide extra personal assistance, continuity and direction for these students as they move through their middle school years, thus preparing them for not only the demands of High School but also College. It will provide them with the tools and confidence to go on and pursue continuing education after High School and to be prepared for it.
Why is it important both individually and for the community to become involved with the initiatives such as those within the College Readiness Alignment Team?
I believe that it is extremely important for people to become involved in initiatives like our College Readiness ITP both individually as well as a community. If we want to affect real change and improvement in RPS205 and the overall Rockford Community, then we all need to step up and participate at any and all levels that we are able. This is not an overnight fix or change, this is really affecting generational change which takes time and long term commitment. It has to start sometime and somewhere, and there is no better time than the present…right here right now. It starts with a math tutor program at Kennedy and moves to a math tutor program in grades 6-8 in all middle schools in a few years. This makes these students time in high school more productive and successful and they go on to higher education, during this time, the younger siblings of these students and their parents witness the success and drive of these students and realize that they too can work hard and do better and succeed. Eventually these students return to Rockford and help to build and improve the economy in better paying jobs and entrepreneurial endeavors and as the next generation enters school, they enter with wholly different and much higher expectations from their families, their community and themselves.
How can you suggest community members new to Alignment Rockford support these efforts?
Simple…first, volunteer to be a math tutor for the new program at Kennedy Middle School. If not that, then watch for other ITP’s and choose to be involved!! Volunteer for an ITP, or a committee, be a leader, be an assistant, be a worker bee if that is what you are comfortable with. Recruit others to volunteer or simply promote the mission and vision of Alignment Rockford, but ultimately, “CHOOSE to be INVOLVED!!” Together we can achieve great things for the benefit of many people and our community as a whole.