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April 2022

In this Issue:


Did you Know?

Okaloosa County is the only school district in Florida to be designated as an Academically High Performing School District by the Florida Department of Education every year since 2012-2013.

What does it mean to be Academically High Performing?

     Earn a grade of A for two consecutive years;
     has no district-operated schools that earn an "F"
     Complies with ALL class size compliance requirements
     Has NO material weaknesses or instances of material noncompliance noted in its annual independent   financial audit

The Legislature created this distinction to recognize and reward school districts that demonstrate the ability to consistently maintain or improve their high-performing status.

In the Okaloosa County School District
Opportunities are Provided, Passions are Ignited,
and Everyone is Important!

OCSD Spotlight

Zot Artz Visits Silver Sands School

On April 11th, the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation sponsored an Artist in Residence at Silver Sands School. Dwayne Szot, the founder of Zot Artz, wants all students, regardless of physical ability, to be able to experience the magic of creating art. Mr. Szot has engineered different tools that can be connected to wheelchairs or handled by students who may have difficulty using traditional art tools. Watch the video to learn more!

Richbourg School Hosts Olympics

Richbourg students participated in the Richbourg School Winter Olympics. Each class got to pick a country they wanted to represent and learned about the country. Once the class picked their country, they had to make a replica of the flag and a poster with fun facts about their country. Students carried the flag and poster around the gym during the opening ceremony. Over two weeks, the students competed in 4 different events during PE (curling, slalom race, bobsledding single/double, and speed skating). They were awarded gold, silver, or bronze medals based on their placement in the events. Parents were invited to attend the closing ceremony to watch students receive their medals.

Anne T. Mitchell Awards Ceremony

The School Board of Okaloosa County hosted the 48th Annual Anne T. Mitchell Academic Senior Honors Assembly on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, at the Northwest Florida State College Raider Arena. Five hundred eighty-three students were recognized for earning a Weighted Grade Point Average high enough to designate them Summa Cum Laude (4.25+), Magna Cum Laude (4.00-4.2499), or Cum Laude (3.75-3.9999) at their respective school. 

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Peggy Gorday Bruner Award, which is Okaloosa County’s highest award for educational achievement and excellence. Mrs. Bruner was a teacher in the Okaloosa County School District for 25 years and was married to former Superintendent Max Bruner. The 2022 nominees for the honor were Stella Hurley, Baker School; Amirah Ricks, Choctawhatchee High School; Aubrey Tew, Crestview High School; Olin Wolfgram, Fort Walton Beach High School; Dylan Adams, Laurel Hill School; and Page Dolloff, Niceville High School. Olin Wolfgram was named the most outstanding academic scholar among all of the county’s graduating classes!

Each honors student was highlighted in a video tribute to the Senior Class of 2022: The Stars of Tomorrow, which you can watch here:

For your planning purposes, Graduation dates and times have been scheduled and can be found here: . Each ceremony will be streamed live on YouTube, and schools will distribute links closer to graduation!

Crestview High School Band Selected to perform at Southeastern Regional Concert Band Festival

The Crestview HS Wind Ensemble was recommended and selected to perform at the Southeastern Regional Concert Band Festival, an invitational event sponsored by Music for All. The event was held at Georgia State University’s Rialto Theatre in Atlanta. 

The program included “O Vos Omnes,” a piece that was commissioned for the Crestview Band. The music was arranged and conducted by Dr. Clifton Taylor, the Associate Director of Bands at Mississippi State University. 

“The band received rave reviews from four world-renowned clinicians as well as other bands, band directors, and audience members in attendance,” said Jody Dunn, Crestview HS Director of Bands. “Okaloosa County was well-represented at this most prestigious event by the Crestview High School Band members!”

Okaloosa Public Arts Banner Contest

Twenty-three Okaloosa County School District high school students were recently recognized at the Cinco Bayou Town Council as winners of the Okaloosa Public Arts (OPA) banner contest.

OPA Board Member Toni Dineen presented each winner with a check and displayed the banners before a packed audience of parents, family members, and the Okaloosa County School District representatives. The banners will be hung on poles along Eglin Parkway from the Cinco Bayou Bridge to Hughes Street. Mayor Jean Hood said, “The Town of Cinco Bayou is honored to partner with the OPA to display this incredible artwork.”

“Okaloosa Public Arts is an organization of Okaloosa County artists and other citizens who are committed to providing exceptional and meaningful art in our public spaces through private donations,” according to contest coordinator and OPA Board Member Toni Dineen.

Congratulations to these high school winners:
  • Laurel Hill School – Heaven Green, Calie Steele, Maryssa Bryan, Briana Mott
  • Fort Walton High School – Sophia Krantz, Jayde Claybrook, Eliana Batarao, Evdokia Watkins
  • Crestview High School – Zoe Van Zandt, Katie Everett, Fiona Adair, Vivian Brooks
  • Destin High School – Hope Wheatley, Megan Kurtz, Tony Martin, Colt Moore
  • Niceville High School – Paetyn Hoffman, Natalie Larsen, Samantha Feldman, Lillian Mook
  • Choctawhatchee High School – April Boutin, Yvonne McDaniel, Laikyn Worth
Choctawhatchee High School
Mayor Jean Hood, Sarah Harris (Art Educator), Yvonne McDaniel, Laikyn Worth, and April Boutin, Lisa Hall (Art Educator), and School Board Member Linda Evanchyk.
Crestview High School 
Mayor Jean Hood, Alex Pottinger (Art Educator), Vivian Brooks, Zoe Van Zandt, Fiona Adair, Katie Everett, and School Board Member Linda Evanchyk
Laurel Hill School
Winning banners created by Briana Mott, Maryssa Bryan, Heaven Green, and Calie Steele.
Niceville High School
Mayor Jean Hood, Darla Jones (Art Educator), Samantha Feldman, Natalie Larsen, Lillian Mook, Paetyn Hoffman (not pictured), and School Board Member Linda Evanchyk.
Fort Walton Beach High School
Mayor Jean Hood, Kim Moran (Art Educator), Principal John Spolski, Sophia Krantz (not pictured), Eliana Batarao, Evdokia Watkins, Jayde Claybrook, and School Board Member Linda Evanchyk.


Theater Arts

Fort Walton Beach High School (FWBHS) Senior, Amy Syverson, was instrumental in drafting the Theatre Arts Proclamation passed by the School Board in March.  Syverson is pictured above with Jason Blanks, FWBHS Theatre Arts Director, Lisa Tucker, OCSD Fine Arts Specialist, and Superintendent Marcus Chambers. Syverson serves on the International Thespian Student Leadership Council (ITSLC). The ITSLC is an initiative of the International Thespian Society with the goal of connecting student leaders from across the world to better theatre education for all students.

Fine Arts

Educators and administrators represented OCSD Fine Arts programs at the March 14 School Board Meeting for the Proclamation of Fine Arts Appreciation Month. The Proclamation honors the continued excellence and positive impacts of the fine and performing arts education program on student achievement. The schools' fine arts education includes a broad range of educational experiences and academic content accessible to all students through band, chorus, art, and theater courses.

Human Resources

April Milestones

The following employees are enjoying a milestone this month based on their continuous service date.  Congratulations and thank you for your loyal service and commitment to excellence!

5 years of continuous service:

  • Mr. Barbour, Crestview High
  • Ms. Richert, Pryor Middle
  • Ms. Wright, Riverside Elementary
  • Mr. Young, OTC

10 years of continuous service:

  • Mr. Cawthon, Destin Middle
  • Mr. McNeely,  ITV

15 years of continuous service:

  • Mr. Huerkamp, OTC
  • Ms. Poynor, Transportation Central

25 years of continuous service:

  • Ms. Henderson, Elliott Point Elementary

35 years of continuous service:

  • Mr. Powell, Maintenance Central/South

Mental Health Minute

Congratulations to our Newly Appointed Administrators!

Ms. Jerral Horton

 is the new Assistant Principal of CTE, she was formerly Assistant Principal of Niceville High School. 

Mr. Victor Mann

is the new Assistant Principal of Fort Walton Beach High. He was formerly Assistant Principal of Baker School.

Mr. Jon Williams

has been promoted from Assistant Principal to Principal of Okaloosa Technical College.

Risk Management

Delta Dental

It has come to the attention of the Okaloosa County School District that some local dentists are no longer accepting Delta Dental Insurance. Representatives from OCSD and Delta Dental have met and will continue to discuss this concern and explore possible solutions. 

The Okaloosa County School District is committed to maintaining a valuable package of benefits. We will continue talks with Delta Dental about servicing OCSD employees in a way that better addresses our needs. These conversations are a priority for us, and we will keep you informed of any changes. 

Important: United Healthcare

A significant change is coming if you have United Healthcare medical coverage through OCSD or participate in the Flexible Spending Account (FSA). On May 24th, your existing “Take Care” card will stop working due to a change in the card transaction software. By June 1st, you will receive a replacement card in the mail that you may activate and begin using. 

This transition will require a blackout period during which no transactions will be processed from May 24th through May 31st. You may still submit a claim during the blackout period using the form found at the link below, but it will not be processed until June 1st. Please plan doctor visits accordingly if you intend to use your card for medical, dental, or vision benefits.

If you have any questions, you may contact the Risk Management Department for assistance at (850) 833-3190.

Online Training: Vector Solutions

Don’t forget about your online training companion, Vector Solutions. Formerly known as SafeSchools, the name has changed, but the excellent content is the same. If you are hungry for knowledge or need to assign custom-curated training to your staff, look no further than Vector Solutions. Vector Solutions is your resource for K-12 and our new Special Education training through their Course Library. 

To browse the selection, log in to and use your Employee ID (EID) as your Username and peruse all the courses that Vector Solutions offers to help you become more engaged in your role. 


Professional Services

Do you know someone who has mentioned an interest in becoming a classroom teacher? Now is the time for them to look seriously at what it would take to make their interest a reality. 

With a bachelor’s degree in ANY AREA, they have already completed the minimum requirement for becoming a classroom teacher. Please share this invite, and let’s get them on the pathway to a career in teaching!

Join the Professional Services Team to learn how you can be a classroom teacher this fall.
Zoom Question and Answer Opportunity
No pre-registration necessary
Monday, May 2, 2022 at 6 PM
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 846 8462 8971
Passcode: Q04tTw


Monday, June 6, 2022 at 6 PM
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 896 9758 6955
Passcode: 7iywGC


To DROP or Not to DROP- What Are the Questions?

If you are eligible to retire (or getting close and thinking about it), one of the most important issues you will face is deciding whether to retire now, retire later, or join DROP and, in effect, do both; retire now, but continue to work for up to five years, allowing your retirement benefits to accumulate into a “nest egg” to enhance your retirement benefit. This decision is a highly personal one, and your individual answer will depend greatly on your own particular circumstances.

To help you decide, you may ask the division to prepare a DROP estimate for you. The estimate will show the benefits you could receive if you join DROP versus the benefits you would receive if you choose to remain in the FRS for the same period. Once you get these estimates, you might want to gather any significant financial data relevant to your situation and meet with an accountant or financial planner to discuss your personal financial situation.

The advice you get will probably not be free, but if you are unsure about how to proceed, it could be well worth the expense. You will want to consider your potential DROP benefit, your expected monthly FRS benefit, any personal investments or other assets you may have (such as your home), and your anticipated Social Security benefit (and when you expect to begin drawing this benefit). You will also want to consider any significant debts you may owe as well as other liabilities you may have. You might want to ask yourself some questions in order to maximize your chances of coming to the right conclusion for you. For example: 

  • How much time do you have to decide? Are your circumstances such that you must decide quickly, or are you in a position to defer your DROP election to a later date? 
  • Are you anxious to retire now, or can you wait? Can you picture yourself continuing to work for a few more months or years? 
  • Will you be ready to stop working in no more than five years from your DROP eligibility date (or deferral date)? If not, do you have another job in mind or other plans? 
  • Do you expect a big pay increase or promotion (or have you recently gotten one)? If so, will it increase your compensation significantly over the next five years? Would the increase in your monthly benefit resulting from the boost in your AFC be enough to offset the value of your projected DROP lump sum, withdrawn in monthly increments over the course of your lifetime? (You could ask an accountant or financial planner about potential payout methods, such as various types of annuities, IRA structured payouts, individual qualified trusts, or other possible financial arrangements, to determine the form of investment and/or structured payout that will best enhance your retirement.) This is an individual consideration that each member will have to compare and decide. Will the money you expect from DROP participation be used to increase your retirement income after DROP by “rolling over” your DROP proceeds into a tax-sheltered individual retirement account (IRA) or other investment? If so, how much interest must you earn on your investment to exceed the loss of retirement income that results from a lower FRS benefit? 
  • What impact might retiring early have on your potential Social Security benefit? For example, if you enter DROP at age 50, stay in DROP for five years and terminate at age 55, under current federal age requirements you could have from seven to 10 years of zero salary factored into the calculation of your Social Security benefit (the years between ages 55 and 62 to 65). This could reduce your benefit. Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to determine the potential impact on your future benefit. You could call the SSA toll free at 800-772-1213 or, if you have access to the Internet, you could reach the SSA at: From the SSA homepage, under “Online Direct Services,” select “Request a Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement” and follow instructions from there. 
  • Would you like to leave a lump sum to your beneficiary or do you want to provide a guaranteed benefit to an otherwise ineligible beneficiary? If so, DROP could allow you to do so. (Under the FRS, a retiring member has limited payout options, none of which directly provide for a lump sum payout. Moreover, to leave a benefit to someone other than a spouse or financially dependent family member, you must elect the Option 2 form of payout, which provides a benefit to your chosen beneficiary at your death only for the remainder of the 10-year period after you retire.) 
  • Do you have a retirement “dream” that would cost more than you have in savings, but might be afforded through DROP? For example, if you don’t need your DROP capital to make your retirement more secure, and you have always dreamed of buying a boat and sailing into the sunset or buying an RV and touring the back roads and campgrounds of America, DROP might give you a way to make your dream a reality. 
  • If you envision yourself retiring at a relatively early age and embarking on a new career or starting a small business, would a DROP account provide the money you’d need?



Curriculum and Instruction

World Autism Month

April is World Autism Month! Light it up Blue and spread Autism Awareness while also spreading kindness!

Child Abuse Prevention Month

National Child Abuse Awareness Month is observed during the month of April to recognize the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. The Okaloosa County School District visited the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center this morning to offer our support to Sheriff Eric Aden as he read and affirmed a proclamation to continue the fight against and eradicate child abuse.

Month of the Military Child

Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation observing April 2022 as the Month of the Military Child (MOMC) in Florida to pay tribute to military children and youth for their commitment, their struggles, and their unconditional support of our troops - because when parents serve in the military, their kids are heroes too.

Let's Celebrate...Military Youth together by wearing purple for the month of April. Purple highlights all branches of service.

For more information, visit the Military page on this website.

Our schools are doing great things to show their support for Military Children and recognize their sacrifices this month. Bluewater Elementary decorated classroom doors and invited Military dads to come to see the students' country reports on display in their cafeteria. Eglin Elementary is participating in Spirit Week the April 18-22. These are just a couple of examples of how we are showing appreciation to the military dependents enrolled in our schools!

Social Studies Corner

Civics and Government Teachers

Welcome to Florida Citizen!

Check out this short introductory video to learn about the new registration process and some of the new website features. 

All Government Teachers 

Florida Civic Literacy Examination 

The Lou Frey Institute has created a supplemental resource guide and a practice examination for the Florida Civic Literacy Examination. They have been approved by FDOE and are now available here: .

Calling all A.P. U.S. Government and Politics Teachers!

The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship hosts a one-day, project-based learning workshop for Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics teachers. FJCC’s Politics in Action is a project-based approach to learning involving students engaging in political discourse and real-world scenarios to learn about U.S. government principles and policies. Participants will develop strategies to support students as they grapple with the complexities of the course content through a series of simulations designed to augment and enrich the learning environment.

The workshop is at the Lou Frey Institute Offices in Orlando on Saturday, May 14, from 8:30 am-3:30 pm. Space is limited to 30 participants, and registration is first-come, first-served. Breakfast and lunch will are provided, and participating teachers will receive a $200.00 stipend.

To register, go to

Questions? Contact Chris Spinale at

School Performance Plan Update

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” Leo Tolstoy

Teams of OCSD family members sprang into action, creating and tweaking elements of next years’ School Performance Plan. These plans identify goals, measurable objectives, and action steps designed to increase the achievement of all students. The SPP is the guiding document for a school’s significant initiatives to improve school performance. It is informed by data, needs assessments, and feedback from administrators and faculty. 

Many of you were asked for feedback or to attend SPP workshops. Thanks to everyone who participated in preparing this plan to reduce the gap between performance and potential. All of you are an integral part of planning for academic excellence and continuous learning in our next generation of Okaloosa County schools!

Spotlight Instructional Strategy

Writing to Learn: QuickWrites

While FSA Writes may be over, it’s essential that students are still writing to learn. Students’ comprehension of science, social studies, and language arts texts is improved when they write about what they read. In addition, retention in all subjects is increased when students write about ideas, concepts, and content immediately after it is presented. 

Use QuickWrites When You Want Quiet Time and Student Reflection

When interest is waning in your presentations, or you want to settle students down after a noisy teamwork activity, ask them to do a QuickWrite or short journal-writing assignment.

Ask, "What was most interesting about [blank]?" "What was confusing about [blank]?" "What was the clearest thing you understood?" "What was boring about [blank]?" "What did [blank] make you think of in your life?" Try prompts such as the following, or develop your own: "Summarize what you have heard." "Predict an exam or quiz question based on this material." "Defend one of the positions taken during the prior discussion." 

Teachers often avoid giving this type of assignment because regularly assessing them can be overwhelming. So instead, manage this load by having students use a green (or another color) pen to circle one entry from the week you guarantee you will read. Occasionally, have them write a few sentences next to their entry explaining why they want you to read that particular entry. Then, let them know that you will read the passages marked in green, and time permitting, you might read the rest!

New Buses

The Okaloosa County School District now has a bus replacement program and we are extremely excited about it! In the past, we purchased school buses when we could no longer fix them (and when we could afford to). This resulted in OCSD’s fleet being labeled the oldest in the state.

Our Superintendent Chambers and our School Board Members have been working together to create the Bus Replacement Program we now have in place. "I thank each of our Board Members for their vision and commitment to modernizing our bus fleet" said Superintendent Chambers. Because of the Half-Cent Sales Tax, funds in our Capital Outlay Project have been freed up, allowing us to purchase 40 new school buses in 2020-2021 and another 20 new school buses in 2021-2022. These four school buses are the first to arrive with the “22” sticker on the bumper!

The new buses have the latest safety and technology features available, and we are proud to have the "Okaloosa District Schools" name on them!

Material Adoptions

The Okaloosa County School District is currently examining materials for adoption to be used in elementary, middle, and high school math classes. Links and login information are available on for teachers, parents, and members of the public wishing to review the materials being considered.
Copyright © 2022 Okaloosa County School District, All rights reserved.

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