Upper School Principal at International School of Florence in Italy
Italy < Back to Leadership Vacancies

Upper School Principal
International School of Florence (Italy)

Appointed - Jan Stipek
Oct 15, 2020
Nov 11, 2020



Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of the community of the International School of Florence ( ISF ), we are pleased to announce the appointment of JAN STIPEK as their next Upper School Principal, effective the summer of 2021.

Jan Stipek is a citizen of the Czech Republic who began his teaching career in 1998 at the International School of Prague, followed by teaching roles in Denmark, China, and Singapore. From 2011 to 2016 Jan worked at the International Baccalaureate (IB) Global Center in The Hague first as the Curriculum Manager for the DP, and then as Head of Global Professional Development (DP and CP). Since 2016, Jan has served as the Secondary Years Principal and Deputy Head of School (Strategy) for GEMS World Academy in Singapore, a 4-programme IB World School.

Jan holds a BA in teaching ESL and English, a MSc in Curriculum and pedagogy from SUNY Buffalo (USA); and has recently completed a MEd in Educational Leadership and Policy from Monash University (Australia). In addition, Jan holds a Certificate in Management and Leadership from Chartered Management Institute (UK). 

Joining ISF is a return to Italy for Jan and his family, having served as MYP Coordinator and Head of Modern Languages at the International School of Turin from 2009 - 2011. Jan will be joined in Florence by his wife Katerina and their two sons.

The Head of School Simon Murray, and his leadership team, organized an outstanding Virtual Search Program. Commenting on the selection of Jan Stipek, the Head of School noted that Jan “brings a wealth of very relevant experiences entirely in keeping with the school’s ambitions”. The ISF community, in Murray’s closing words in the community announcement, looks forward to welcoming Jan and his family back to Italy and to "working with a professional of Jan’s calibre”.

The ISF community and Search Associates would like to thank all the outstanding candidates who expressed an interest in the Upper School Principal position, and to everyone who supported and assisted the search process.

Gunther Brandt

Search Associates



International School of Florence

Seeks an

Upper School Principal

Effective July 1,2021 (or earlier)



The International School of Florence is proud to be a research led organization that inspires young people around the world to become independent thinkers and compassionate members of society. Founded in 1952, ISF has a mature history of international education and plays a central part of the infrastructure of the city.  ISF currently serves the needs of 530 students from over 40 countries. A not for profit association governed by a largely parental Board, the school has been accredited for many years by both the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Middle States Association (MSA).  ISF is also authorized to offer the IB Primary Years and Diploma Programmes. The school currently occupies two beautiful, historic buildings in the centre and periphery of Florence. Oversubscribed and enjoying a strong reputation amongst the international and local communities, ISF’s Florentine location is central to its identity and Florence continues to be a city of global significance. As such, the school has unmatched opportunities for the city to act as both its campus and curriculum and students joining the school for any length of time have unique learning opportunities.

In response to continued demand and in order to modernize its learning environments, ISF has begun the search for a unified and expanded campus; growth, both literally and metaphorically, will shape its immediate future.

In 2018, The Board of Governors and the Head of School committed ISF to a comprehensive strategic planning process that reviewed the school’s Vision, Mission, and Guiding Statements. The outcomes of this process have allowed the school to enhance the provision of a student experience that is culturally rich, intellectually stimulating, inclusive and research-led.

The school has recently launched its own Research & Development Unit that will respond to emerging challenges and opportunities. It will have a horizon-scanning function with a participatory character drawing on school, Florentine and international expertise to ensure that ISF acts as a hub for contemporary thought. ISF has also recently launched its own funded Professional Research Programme to support reflection, creative thinking and innovation.  Such recent developments give a flavour of the character of the school’s ambitions.



Faced with a social and educational landscape that is shifting rapidly, even well-established institutions such as ISF need to ask afresh, “What now counts as a meaningful education?” This allows us to reflect on what should be our appropriate identity, purpose, and ambition in the face of emerging challenges and opportunities. Throughout the course of the 2018-2019 school year, we used a variety of community meetings as well as formal planning processes to address these questions. The outcomes of this engaging collective effort are reflected in our new Mission, Vision, and Strategic Plan. These will act as our roadmap for the future as well as representing a series of commitments for which we can all be proud, and to which we can all be accountable.

We are therefore delighted to envisage a future for ISF that will be distinguished by core characteristics that will allow the school to offer an educational experience that is internationally-minded, uniquely Florentine, outward looking and research-led in its commitment to educational innovation. The principal agents of change will be the young people in our community as they learn and work together to shape a shared future. The challenges that they will face are diverse and complex, and will require original, critical and creative response. To that end, we should be prepared to experiment, foster new forms of professional engagement for teachers and aim to be a hub for international best practice.

At the heart of any meaningful and rewarding experience is the wellbeing of the learner. At ISF, we will continue to educate the whole person, recognizing that the definition of success, as well as the path to achieve it, is as diverse as the community we serve. Indeed, our cultural and linguistic diversity are our greatest assets and these need to be reflected in the values that we uphold, and how these shape our daily interactions with each other and a wider world.

It is difficult to imagine a more interesting time to be involved in learning and teaching. The challenge of change is also the excitement of opportunity. It seems entirely appropriate that innovation, authenticity and experiment, all hallmarks of our city’s past, should also be the distinctive features of our school’s future.





A laboratory for learning where we collaborate to add meaning to a shared future.


We aspire to build communities of creative makers and doers.



MEANINGFUL LEARNING AND STUDENT AGENCY | Cultivate growth through a meaningful and inspiring learning experience.

  •  Provide relevant innovative methods of student and professional learning consistent with inquiry
  • Empower students to take ownership of their learning experiences
  • Ensure that student wellbeing is at the core of our practices
  • Promote and honor home language learning in recognition of our unique identities
  • Embrace, foster, and promote diversity within our community
  • Draw upon the unmatched learning opportunities of Florence
  • Recognize the impact of our actions on our interdependent world and promote a culture of solidarity

ENABLING CHANGE | Develop constituencies for change.

  • Develop of culture of participation to define the direction of the change demanded by our Mission and Vision
  • Ensure regular and purposeful communication regarding changes and their benefits

CONNECTING WITH PURPOSE | Communicate and reflect our unique, shared identity and connect effectively with local and international partners.

  • Communicate our shared identity effectively
  • Develop a strategic marketing plan that addresses the aspirations of the school
  • Cultivate dynamic relationships with local, national, and global partners

LEADING BY EXAMPLE | Further a virtuous culture of leadership and governance.

  • Ensure that whole-school structures and systems continue to reflect evolving international best practices
  • Ensure that roles and responsibilities continue to be clear
  • Harmonize internal strategies with external obligations
  • Implement frameworks of self and collaborative appraisal

FINANCE AND RISK MANAGEMENT | Build sustainable financial and risk frameworks to ensure achievement of strategic intents.

  •  Implement and monitor a long-range budgeting process
  • Ensure the cost efficient use of available resources
  • Support the development of a variety of income streams
  • Ensure that risk is effectively monitored and managed
  • Ensure that all financial and risk management strategies and actions remain consistent with the Mission and Vision


Successful applicants for the position of Upper School Principal will be distinguished by core characteristics consistent with the school’s strategic obligations. As such, the school is keen to appoint professionals committed to working in a not for profit organization in a European setting. This comes with challenges as well as opportunities and collaboration will be required in order to secure progress.  The school’s Senior Leadership Team needs to be conspicuous in its strategic focus, collaborative in outlook, able to mentor and hold colleagues accountable, as well as demonstrate the beneficial impacts of its decision-making.

The school encourages applications from like-minded professionals able to work collegially, demonstrate educational imagination and innovation, and act with a significant amount of autonomy. Future colleagues are likely to be seasoned international practitioners who can speak with authority on the value(s) of international education, the programmes of the IB and are actively engaged with professional research. As you will be expected to represent the school nationally and internationally, you either will have an established profile or will be keen to develop one.  You will be able to demonstrate drive, ingenuity and be infectious in your commitment to student learning wherever that takes place. You will certainly wish learning to be fully immersed in Florentine culture and will naturally regard the fostering of student agency and leadership as one of your main priorities.

The immediate future of the school is extremely exciting and post-holders will bring a great deal to its success. This is a significant opportunity for professionals interested in crafting a future-orientated educational vision and positioning the school as a leader in its field.





  • Serve as the Educational/Instructional Leader for the Middle and Upper School
  • Observe and evaluate professional staff, on a systematic basis, in collaboration with the Director of Learning and Research/Head of School, to provide feedback about instructional performance to ensure that the quality instruction remains the top priority
  • Establish a regular cycle of curriculum/academic programme review and or revision
  • Establish clear assessment practices to measure student growth at strategic intervals during the school year and to work collaboratively with staff to inform instruction
  • Monitor student progress by interpreting and analyzing assessment results, in collaboration with staff.
  • Devise appropriate instructional interventions to remedy deficiencies to effect improvement in student achievement and to ensure academic programme rigor
  • Establish a system of professional development, in concert with the Head of School, to ensure that staff are given appropriate opportunities to grow as professionals
  • Meet regularly with the school leadership team to ensure ongoing and effective planning and communication


  • Maintain supervisory authority for all staff associated with the Middle and High School
  • Coordinate and organize annual budgetary needs, in concert with the Head of School, heads of departments and other appropriate personnel, relating to instructional needs
  • Maintains effective and ongoing communications with the parent community concerning students and events at ISF
  • Meet with parents, as needed, to address issues of concern
  • Develop and maintain effective relationships with staff and students
  • Meet with student leadership groups, or individuals, to ensure that students have an advisory voice in the school
  • Actively participate and collaborate with the Head of School in staff recruitment, selection and retention
  • Provide oversight of the staff schedule, in collaboration with the Vice Principal for Learning and  the Head of School
  • Communicate periodically, as needed, with Board members
  • Work in collaboration with the Communications Office to ensure positive communications with the parent community
  • Works collaboratively with the Head of School and the Admissions Office to evaluate student applications on an ongoing basis


  • Lead, in conjunction with the Director for Learning and Research, staff professional learning across the Middle and Upper School and in consultation with the VP for Learning.
  • Ensure staff professional learning needs are met in a fair and equitable manner and based on the outcomes of appraisal
  • Evaluate, with the Vice-Principal Learning, the impact of professional development
  • Manage middle leadership training for all existing and aspiring Middle Leaders
  • Lead Staff Appraisal and the Career Development Continuum
  • Ensure all new teaching staff are working at the anticipated level on the Career Development Continuum and feel supported in their duties.
  • Monitor and support teachers and support staff in their duties
  • Support the Vice-Principals in their respective roles, ensuring there is clarity and parity between roles and the interface between Principal and Vice-Principals is understood and mutually supportive


  • Good quality first degree in a relevant teaching subject
  • Qualified teacher status
  • Post-graduate qualification or demonstrable experience of advanced professional learning
  • 3-5 years leadership experience in international schools
  • Experience of IB programmes
  • Experience of international accreditation protocols
  • Have overseas international school experience and demonstrated success in a multicultural school environment with the ability to foster trust in his or her leadership.
  • Demonstrate excellent interpersonal and communication (listening, written and oral) skills as well as strong analytical, decision-making and planning skills.
  • Be student-centered, open, approachable and positive.

Application Procedures:

ISF has appointed Search Associates to facilitate the search with Dr. Gunther Brandt and Dr. Eric Sands serving as the consultants.  The deadline for applications is November 11, 2020. However, candidates should note that the search committee will begin reviewing applications as soon as they are received from Search Associates. In the event an outstanding applicant is identified early in the search process, ISF reserves the right to make an appointment before the deadline. For this reason, it is essential that interested candidates apply as soon as possible. For further information about ISF, please visit the website at http://www.isfitaly.org/

Candidates who wish to apply should submit the information requested below in the form and manner requested.

  • A letter of application, no longer than two pages, explaining your strengths as a candidacy and why you are interested in the Upper School Principal role at the International School of Florence.
  • A current resume not to exceed two pages.
  • A one or two-page statement outlining your philosophy of education.
  • A one-page list of at least four references who have directly supervised the performance of the candidate with the current phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
  • A maximum of four letters of recommendation which you may already have in your possession.

Candidates should send the requested information in a single PDF attachment.

Please send all materials to Dr. Gunther Brandt at: gbrandt@searchassociates.com and Dr. Eric Sands at: esands@searchassociates.com with a CC to Admin@searchassociates.com



Did You Know…?

Senior Associate Bill Turner’s international teaching career has taken him to Sudan, Italy, Qatar and the UAE as well as his home country of England. His very first teaching position was in rural Sudan.