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Safer, stronger schools are the top priority for Okaloosa County. The tragic events at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, remind us that we must be ever vigilant in taking all steps necessary to keep our children out of harm’s way. No words can express the heartbreak we feel for those families and their community. Each time such a tragedy occurs, it’s natural for all to grieve the senseless loss of life and ask honest questions about the safety measures in our own schools. I recently released a letter about the Okaloosa County School District’s School Safety plans, including response and prevention initiatives. You can read the entire letter here.

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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Recognitions

School Board Member Makes Proclamation

School Board Member Linda Evanchyk, District 3, is the School Board's representative to Okaloosa County Public Schools Foundation Board (OPSF). One of the Foundation's biggest projects is Take Stock in Children (TSIC). The Board approved that May will be recognized as Take Stock in Children Month.
Read the latest on TSIC
Learn More About Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation
Okaloosa Students Put Classroom Skills to Work- Save Lives
Okaloosa County School District offers multiple Career and Technical Education courses in the medical field, including Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), Biomedical Science, and Practical Nursing. The students in these courses learn how to provide initial care to sick or injured persons and become certified in CPR. FOUR students have put their skills to work this year and helped save lives. We are proud that these students' instincts took over in a time of crisis, and we are pleased to recognize two of the most recent life-savers for their valiant efforts.
Olivia Keith, an EMR student at Crestview High School, was checked out of school early one day. While exiting the school, she passed a restroom and noticed two adults rushing in. She stepped in to see what she could do to help. A female student was locked in the restroom stall and unresponsive. Olivia crawled under the stall door to unlock it and assessed the student's state, realizing that the student did not have a pulse. She immediately began administering CPR and continued to do so until the School Resource Officer relieved her four minutes later. 
Bethany Touchton, an EMR student at Crestview High School, was working a check-out line at Winn Dixie when she noticed a customer who seemed confused. After speaking with her for a short period of time, the customer began seizing. Bethany ran around to the aisle to assist and called 911 while checking the customer's pulse and ensuring her safety until the paramedics arrived.

"One of the things that we take seriously in our school district is that we want to have strong Career and Technical Education programs in which students learn life-long skills. The Emergency Medical Responder program at Crestview High School is starting to have a history of saving lives. In this case, we have two students transferring skills to save a life, and there is nothing more impressive. It's one thing to get trained in this, it's another thing to have the courage to act, and I could not be more proud."

-Superintendent Chambers

Okaloosa Academic Team Earns State Championship

The Okaloosa County School District’s Academic Team (Team Okaloosa) won the 2022 Commissioner’s Academic Challenge, Division 2, State Championship!

One of the things that I think sets Okaloosa apart is talent, but really it’s the discipline and team spirit. They are representing our county, and they did a fantastic job!”

-Dr. Michael Mosley, Academic Team Coach

Team Members:

  • John "Jack" Cathell - Niceville High School
  • Sarah "CeCe" Cameron - Fort Walton Beach High School
  • Nicholas Ford- Niceville High School
  • Zackery Freeman - Collegiate High School
  • Vivian Price - Niceville High School
  • Kendall Small - Niceville High School
  • Christopher Seeling - Rocky Bayou Christian School
  • Scarlett Stevens - Rocky Bayou Christian School

Coaches: Lisa Nall, Dr. Michael Mosley, and Julie Mosley

Congratulations!

Change for Children:
County-Wide Fundraiser for Children In Crisis

 

Children in Crisis is a local charity that raises funds for The Children's Neighborhood, a residential-style foster care neighborhood composed of family-style homes to keep sibling groups together that would otherwise be separated into different foster homes. Members of the retired chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, a sorority of women educators, organize Change for Children, a fundraising initiative in which all schools in the Okaloosa County School District are invited to participate.

This year, the collective fundraising efforts of the entire district resulted in a total of over $22,000! Members Kitty Johnson, Mary Jane Ross, and Ann Cannon recognized the top fundraising schools for each grade level:

  • Choctaw, the leading High School for the last 11 years, raised $3044
  • Ruckel, the leading Middle School, has raised the most in the middle school category in 10 of the last 11 years, raising $4723.82
  • Destin, the leading Elementary School, has raised the most in the elementary school category in three of the last four years, raising $1634.32 
  • Southside Primary, the leading community school, raised the second most in the fundraiser's history, $5032

"I would like to thank the students who selflessly donated their own allowance to this cause without thinking twice. They walk by the container, drop in the change, and walk away knowing they are helping another student at their school or in their community."

-Dr. Lamar White, School Board Member

Kid's Tag Art Winners Recognized
At the most recent School Board Meeting, the School Board recognized the 2021-2022 Kids Tag Art Program winners. This program is a partnership with the Tax Collector’s Office and the Okaloosa County School District and is a county-wide art project and fundraiser for elementary school art programs. The program started in 2013 and has contributed $119,786.26 to participating schools. All profits generated from the sale of tags benefit each school’s art program and help in providing classroom art supplies. As an art project, this program gives students the chance to create their own specialty license plate. As a fundraiser, parents can purchase student-created plates, and the proceeds from school sales stay in that school. Combining in-school sales and local sponsorships, the Kids Tag Art program earned $16,591.06 this year.

Tax Collector Ben Anderson says, “This is non-tax generated revenue and comes at a time when money for art curriculum is hard to find.” Sponsor dollars for the Kids Tag Art program are divided equally among participating schools through the Okaloosa Public Education Foundation. This year, those schools received checks for $1,200.00 each. Anderson said the program is so successful this year because of the parents and families who purchase their students’ tags and our sponsor, The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
Okaloosa Athletes can Handle the Weight
"We're very proud to be an A+ School District, and there are three prongs to that: Being strong academically, in the arts, and athletics. We are proud to honor some of our recent State Champions! Think about this- this year has been unprecedented. The amount of State Championships that we've had collectively from teams and individuals across multiple sports is a testament to our schools, coaches, and student-athletes. There is so much preparation that happens outside of the competition. It's what happens at practice; it's what happens when you go to bed early; it's when you're working when nobody sees you. These athletes have put in the hard work, they have put in the time, and we are proud that you represent the Okaloosa County School District."
-Superintendent Chambers
Kaleb Carter, Niceville High School
2022 FHSAA Class 3A State Champion
199-pound Boys Weightlifting Class, Bench/ Clean and Jerk
Caleb Krumnow, Crestview High School
2022 FHSAA Class 3A State Champion
219-pound Boys Weightlifting Class, Snatch Event
Carter Glenn, Baker School
2022 FHSAA Division 1A State Champion
139-pound Boys Weightlifting Class, Snatch Event
Allison Baggett, Baker School
2022 FHSAA Division 1A State Champion
110-pound Girls Weightlifting Class, Snatch Lift and Traditional Events
RaeDiah Lewis, Baker School
2022 FHSAA Division 1A State Champion
139-pound Girls Unlimited Weight Weightlifting Class, Snatch Lift Event

Administrative Appointments

Congratulations to Ms. Yvonne Michna on being named Principal of the Ballet Academie.  Ms. Michna has served as Principal of Longwood Elementary for the last eight years!
Mr. Gary Taylor was named Assistant Principal at Baker School. Mr. Taylor has been the Assistant Principal at Bruner Middle School for the last six years! Congratulations Mr. Taylor.
Mr. Joe Jannazo was named Principal at Ruckel Middle School. Mr. Jannazo has been the Principal at Destin Elementary School for the last four years! Congratulations Mr. Jannazo.
Mr. Joey Chancellor was named Principal at Longwood Elementary School. Mr. Chancellor has been the Assistant Principal at Meigs Middle School for the last year! Congratulations Mr. Chancellor.
Ms. Rosia Cahn is a new Assistant Principal of Bruner Middle School. She has most recently served as the Assistant Principal at Wright Elementary School.
Ms. Susan Geering was named Assistant Principal of Antioch Elementary School. She has most recently served as the Assistant Principal of Shoal River Middle School.

Construction Program Update

  • All Single Point of Entry Upgrades are on track to be completed before school begins in August 2022.
  • Repairs to Jack Foster Stadium at Crestview High School are complete. The stadium is ready for football season!
  • All five multipurpose buildings have been bid out. Cafetoriums will be bid out next. So far, they are all local contractors!
  • The Consolidation process of District Services at the Central Administration Complex has begun. We have received the design and development drawings from Dags, and an asbestos survey will take place this summer.
  • The Fort Walton Beach High School Boy's Field House Roof Project is complete, and the HVAC system is installed.
  • A contractor is in place to replace the gym floors at Davidson Middle, Crestview High, and Lewis School. Lewis School will be first on the list.
  • We are waiting on the drawings of the front entrance of Choctawhatchee High and Lewis School.
  • Richbourg School Building 12 Renovations were approved at this School Board Meeting.
  • We have several roofing projects that are complete, underway, or waiting for materials.

Engaging Students in Science and Math- STEM

Our Science and Math Curriculum Specialists, Tami Ellis and Stephanie Thetford, are applying for the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Grant. This grant will purchase specialized equipment like 3D printers, wind tunnels, levitation devices, and robots that teachers can check out to support classroom activities and the science fair to engage students in science and math. The equipment purchased with the grant funds will be based on needs assessment feedback provided by teachers this past school year. The grant will help supplement Title 4 classes that don't qualify for our military-connected grants like DoDEA.

Summer Feeding Program

 

Okaloosa County Schools are participating in the Summer Food Service Program during June and July. Breakfast and lunch will be provided to kids 18 and under at specific school sites for free.

Find sites and meal service times here!

Superintendent Chambers Updates the Board

CTE Partnerships

Our CTE program is partnering with Okaloosa Technical College and their Maintenance, HVAC, and Electrical programs to provide on-the-job training for their students, working alongside the Okaloosa County School District Maintenance Department members. This scenario is a win-win as the students get experience, and Maintenance gets an extra set of trained hands. A student from Choctawhatchee High School who is completing their internship has already accepted a position with our Maintenance Department for the upcoming school year!

Our Career and Technical Education programs are growing! We have entered a partnership with HCA Florida Healthcare- Fort Walton Destin Hospital (formerly Fort Walton Beach Medical Center), benefitting our Nursing students. HCA is donating classroom space that will become a Fort Walton Beach Campus for students from all over the district to convene for classes. They then can take a short trip to the hospital to get hands-on experience alongside doctors and nurses. This partnership also provides the opportunity for students to secure a job immediately after graduation, including a chance to further their education, paid for by HCA. Another incentive is that HCA is a national company, so students are not required to stay here in Fort Walton Beach. They can apply to any HCA Hospital in the country.

TeCMEN Conference

Last month, the fifth annual TeCMEN Conference hosted by One Okaloosa Economic Development Council took place at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention center. 26 Student Ambassadors and their teachers/administrators were able to attend thanks to the HSU Education Foundation's generous donation. These students had the opportunity to speak with industry professionals working in their field of study. Dr. Hsu conducted a Zoom meeting beforehand to discuss interview techniques and best practices with the students, so they were prepared for the event. Students can use this opportunity to network for internship or mentorship opportunities, or even a job!

FOCUS: Student Information System

The Okaloosa County School District is in the process of training employees by department in our new Student Information System, and parents are in the process of registering their children for the Fall through the FOCUS Parent Portal. This new program will allow parents to see real-time attendance, academic, and discipline information for all of their children in one secure location beginning in September. We have a few glitches with home addresses not working, but that is a quick fix through the MIS Department. With the launch of this new software, we are re-inventing the Gradebook Manager program, which will allow a certain number of employees at each school, determined by enrollment, to receive a supplement to participate in intensive training to help train the faculty on their campus.

Strengthening our Relationship

The Okaloosa County School District values the relationships we have built and continue to strengthen with our military partners. Superintendent Chambers and Deputy Superintendent Horton regularly meet with our military leaders to discuss ways that the partnership can continue to grow. The District strives to make transitions for military families in and out of our schools as seamless as possible.

OCSD shows its full support of our troops through the Month of the Military Child activities in April and other projects throughout the school year. In addition, our military community has a wealth of knowledge and experience that makes it an invaluable resource for our students and teachers in the form of volunteers, mentors, and program development.  
 
We would specifically like to thank General Cain and his team at Eglin, as well as Colonel Schermerhorn and her team at Hurlburt, for working so closely with our district these past three years through the COVID pandemic. We wish them both luck as they transition to new assignments.

2022 Graduation

Graduation for Okaloosa County School District Schools is complete. The rain held off for all of our ceremonies, and our students were great examples of the Next Generation of Okaloosa Schools in their academic accomplishments and their etiquette. Thank you to all teachers, administrators, educational support staff, parents, and community members who helped these students accomplish their goals and prepare them for their next endeavors.

I sat down with two groups of seniors and discussed their experience in the Okaloosa County School District and their plans post-graduation! 

 

You can view them by clicking the links below:

Student Interviews, Episode 1

Student Interviews, Episode 2

 

Our Graduation live streams had over 9,000 viewers! If you missed Graduation, you can click the school you wish to view below:

Baker School

Laurel Hill School

Niceville High School

Fort Walton Beach High School

Crestview High School

Choctawhatchee High School

Please get in touch with the Principal of Richbourg or Silver Sands to view their Graduation.

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