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It's March of 2022... can you believe it has been two years since we entered the pandemic? We have done our best to navigate these challenging times with grace and compassion, with our students' and employees' safety and education at the forefront of our decisions. 

I hope you had a great St. Patrick's Day as we enjoy this beautiful weather, and our OCSD family is enjoying Spring Break. Here are a few highlights from the most recent Okaloosa County School District School Board Meeting. We would love for you to share our latest news. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends, family, coworkers, businesses, and organizations and encourage them to subscribe!

A full agenda is available on our website www.okaloosaschools.com. You can watch the meeting and the meeting workshop in their entirety by visiting the School Board of Okaloosa County's YouTube page.
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Off Beat: Governor DeSantis Signs a Bill in Okaloosa

The Florida Standardized Assessment (FSA) will no longer be administered after this school year! Governor DeSantis signed bill 1048 at Florosa Elementary School on March 17, doing away with the end-of-year exam and enacting Progress Monitoring. The Okaloosa County School District has been successfully implementing this for years. Progress monitoring allows teachers to collect and use student data to help them be successful. The data is provided in the Fall, Winter, and Spring after students take a diagnostic. The information collected provides an opportunity for "communication with all stakeholders, including the child, to create a plan to assist students in closing their learning gaps or accelerating their learning," said Monique Stinson, a fifth-grade teacher at Florosa.  Read the full article.
"Okaloosa is one of the top counties in the state!"
-Governor Ron DeSantis in reference to education
We are always happy to host Governor DeSantis, It gives us time to celebrate our accomplishments. Mr. Chambers was excited that the students were able to hear the Governor speak and just as excited that they wanted to take pictures with him.

Proclamations

We are excited to recognize our Fine Arts programs, and specifically our Theatre Programs, in our schools as we proclaim March 2022 as
National Fine Arts Appreciation Month
and
National Theatre in Our Schools Month!
"In the Okaloosa County School District the Arts are a source of pride and we are very excited to honor these programs! "
-Superintendent Chambers
National Fine Arts Appreciation Month Proclamation
National Theatre in our Schools Month Proclamation

OPPAGA Performance Audit

The Okaloosa County School District underwent an OPPAGA Performance Audit as required by statute before the Half-Cent Sales Surtax Referendum was placed on the General Election ballot in November 2020.

The Performance audit reviewed programs/areas expected to be impacted by the Sales Surtax in six ways.
  1. The economy, efficiency, or effectiveness of the program.
  2. The structure or design of the program to accomplish its goals and objectives.
  3. Alternative methods of providing program services or products.
  4. Goals, objectives, and performance measures used by the program to monitor and report program accomplishments.
  5. The accuracy or adequacy of public documents, reports, and requests prepared by the county or school district which relate to the program.
  6. Compliance of the program with appropriate policies, rules, and laws.

Total number of indicators within these six review areas – 26
Number of indicators receiving a Not Met designation – 0
Read the Audit Update

A New Marquee for Crestview High!

Chairman of the Board, Tim Bryant, is appropriating $10,000 toward the purchase of a new marquee sign for Crestview High School. Destiny Church and the school itself will also raise funds to aid in this endeavor.

Payroll Calendar 2022-2023

Minor Adjustments to Help Employees

Superintendent Chambers made a request with our Finance Department asking them to make minor adjustments to the Payroll Calendar so our employees receive their November paycheck BEFORE Thanksgiving Break. In the past, it has been a welcome surprise when this happens, but it is never a guarantee. Another adjustment that Ms. Julie Perry, Interim Chief Financial Officer and Budgeting Director, made at the Superintendent's request was arranging for an earlier January Paycheck to shorten the time between the December paycheck and the January paycheck! These changes put more stress on our payroll department but will benefit everyone. We appreciate them making this happen!

2022-2023 Payroll Calendar

IDEA Grant

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) IDEA Grant is a one-time funding opportunity, offering the first COVID-19 related resources to address the challenges faced in ensuring services for children with disabilities. Our ESE Director, Kathy Ard, plans to apply for the grant, which will pay for additional paraprofessionals, teachers, and comp time for ESE personnel to complete IEPs and strengthen educational opportunities for our students. It also addresses technology, including iPads and interactive screens for ESE classrooms. These are just a few examples of what this $1.6 million+ grant will provide for our PK-12 ESE students and teachers!

Superintendent Chambers Updates the Board

DoDEA Southeast Regional Conference

The Okaloosa County School District understands the importance of our military population and serving military families. In December 2020, we were awarded a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). The DoDEA Engage Grant builds OCSD's capacity to lead students to create a healthy body and mind and to prepare students for future educational dreams and aspirations- combining STEM education with a healthy body and mind focus.

Okaloosa County was honored to host the 2022 DoDEA Southeast Regional Grantee Meeting on March 10 and 11 at the Doolittle Institute in Niceville. Thirty professionals representing ten school districts, five public and private agencies, and six states gathered to share the common mission to help improve military-connected students’ educational outcomes.
Read the Article

HOPE Week

The Okaloosa County School District hosted our inaugural HOPE Week and HOPE Squad Conference. OCSD welcomed Dr. Greg Hudnall, the founder of HOPE Squad, as he hosted two community information sessions in Okaloosa County and two in our neighboring Santa Rosa and Escambia Counties. On Friday, March 4th, he and Superintendent Chambers traveled to six of our schools to talk to the HOPE Squad members about their importance. This Suicide prevention and awareness program is a pivotal tool in our mental health initiative and we are proud that our students and faculty have this resource if they need it.

"It was exciting to hear from the students and the adults how the program has helped them. This program has saved lives. This visit made me more passionate about the program and its importance, specifically on the heels of the last two and a half years."

-Dr. Diane Kelley, Vice-Chairman of the Board

Read More About HOPE Week

Youth Leadership Council

Every high school has a junior and a senior representative on the Youth Leadership Council. These students work together to help construct new ideas and more efficient ways of doing things not only in the school district but also in the community. This council is a partnership between Superintendent Chambers, Deputy Superintendent Horton, County Commissioner Mel Ponder, and the student leaders. On April 11th, these students will present their recommendations of what they would like to happen in Okaloosa County. 

Topics Sneek Peek: 

  • Ensure that Financial Literacy is implemented in Okaloosa Schools.
    • Doing so will put us ahead of the State Statute
  • Suicide Prevention
    • HOPE Squads in all schools.

"I am very proud that these students have recognized this need. At the end of this year, HOPE Squad will be in every secondary school in OCSD. By the end of next year, a Squad will be in every elementary school."

-Superintendent Chambers

ESSER III Update

As of the School Board Meeting on Monday, March 14, we had not received our ESSER III Funds.  The evening of Thursday, March 17, we were excited to inform our employees that the Disaster Relief Payments and Retention Bonuses requested through our American Rescue Plan - Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) application have been approved!  We are proud to provide a Disaster Relief Payment to the employees who did not receive one last Spring (up to $1000) as well as Retention Bonuses up to $1000 per 2021-2022 semester for those employees who have stayed with us during these challenging times.
ESSER III funds will also be used to purchase items and programs like internet hotspots for students, cleaning supplies/PPE, instructional technology, textbooks, band instruments, and to expand after school tutoring. Some of these items were written into the proposal with the intent to combat learning loss while others allow us to complete purchases that were already planned but will now benefit more students.

"These bonuses are but a small token of our appreciation for the work you have so selflessly performed."
-Superintendent Chambers

FOCUS Transition

We are in the middle of the transition from our current Student Information, Finance, and Human Resources software to FOCUS. This all-inclusive software will streamline productivity for everyone using it, including parents, students, and employees. Mr. Eric Mitchell, our MIS Director, and our MIS Department have been working hard to make this transition seamless. We are currently using FOCUS to enroll new students for the 2022-2023 school year. We have had about 500 families complete the process so far. Current students will be registered automatically. Our Registrars received training recently, and our administrators got a sneak peek at the software at our last Principals meeting. Training will be available to employees this summer!

"This is a methodically laid out plan, and I appreciate all of the work that has gone into this process."
-Superintendent Chambers
Introducing FOCUS: What Employees can expect with this highly anticipated transition!

Capital Projects

Our Capital Projects are open to companies across the nation to apply. Lord and Son, a local company, submitted a bid for our multipurpose room building projects and won. We are proud to have members of our community working on these projects!

Bids will go out soon for our much-needed upgrades to cafetoriums and classroom additions. These projects are required to accommodate the increased enrollment and growth within buildings. Other projects that have already started or been completed include roof replacements, air conditioning units replaced with new systems, painting, gym floor replacement, kitchen renovations, etc.

Because of the Half-Cent Sales Tax, we have some flexibility with our Capital dollars allowing us to finish our safety upgrades by the end of this summer, four years ahead of schedule. We also communicate with principals to find out what they need help accomplishing.

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