Okaloosa County Schools First Semester Highlights


Superintendent Marcus Chambers and kidsFrom Superintendent Marcus Chambers

As Superintendent, it fills my heart to see the successes of our students excelling in academics, the arts and athletics. I also see our teachers and administrative staff giving their all to build a positive school culture and prepare our students for college, military and workforce.

Okaloosa County Receives A-Rating from The Florida Department of Education: As you may know, the Okaloosa County School District (OCSD) earned an A-rating for the 2023 school year by the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE)! Okaloosa is one of three districts in Florida to earn an A each year the state has assigned grades since 2014. I could not be more proud of our students, teachers, staff, and administrators for this recognition! In December, FLDOE released the 2023 Baseline School Grades, and the results are highly encouraging in the first year of a more rigorous statewide assessment. The district’s percentage of points earned increased from 63% last year to 68% this year.

Student Accomplishments in The Arts and Athletics: Arts and Athletics are the fabric of school districts. Students learn perseverance, teamwork, dedication, grit, success, hard work and even failure. These characteristics culminate a student’s journey by giving them the confidence to accomplish their dreams, helping them academically, and developing their mental mindset. Our students have achieved district and state championships on the football field, the volleyball court, cross country, swimming and golf. We have talented student artists who participated in a statewide visual arts competition called “Art in the Capital,” and several students were recognized for their impressive work.

Our middle and high school choral programs showcase the exceptional vocal talent of our students who have received straight superiors and participated in Okaloosa’s All-County Honor Choir. We have fantastic band programs where our students are earning straight superior ratings at District Music Performance Assessments (MPA) and have opportunities, like the 2024 Rose Bowl Parade, to represent Okaloosa County and show our nation and the world how awesome our music programs are. These programs, teachers and students make us all very proud!

Capital Projects: Due to the Half-Cent Sales Tax Program that Okaloosa County Voters approved in 2020 for our schools, we are making many critical updates to our buildings throughout the entire District. Although not all these completed projects are visible, such as new roofs and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) replacements, they are all critically important. Last fall, we began highlighting the success of the Half-Cent Sales Tax projects by hosting ribbon cuttings at several Okaloosa County schools.

We’ve also been working to reduce the number of portables. Classroom addition projects do just that. When we build a much needed Cafetorium (enlarged cafeteria along with other additional space) such as what is under construction at Bob Sikes Elementary School, Edwins Elementary, Plew Elementary, Shalimar Elementary, Wright Elementary and Ruckel Middle School, we are able to convert the old cafeterias into new classrooms, thus eliminating portables on campus. For information on the Sales Tax program, visit the District’s Half-Cent Sales Tax Capital Program website.

New School Construction: We have also put the wheels in motion for the first new school construction since 2007— a new K-8 school in Crestview to serve 1,200 children in the Fall of 2026. A 32-classroom addition is in the plan-and-design phase to open in 2026 and serve grades 3 through 5 at Destin Elementary School. Additionally, the District is considering expansion possibilities and/or new school construction in the Niceville area.

School Buses: Okaloosa County is refreshing its school bus fleet at the rate of 15 buses per year. In 2021, the District started our Bus Replacement Program with the arrival of 40 new school buses. We now have 76 new buses and 15 more on the way in 2024, totaling 91 new buses with today’s latest safety features in three years’ time.

Career Technical Education: The OCSD Career and Technical Education (CTE) program offers 19 courses at the middle and high school level with rigorous career pathways for all facets of the workforce: Building Trades & Construction Design Technology, Digital Design, Digital Video Technology, Engineering Pathways, Applied Robotics, Biomedical Sciences, Emergency Medical Responder, Practical Nursing, Culinary Arts, Cosmetology, Applied Cybersecurity, Data Science and Machine Learning, Web Application Development and Programming, Criminal Justice Operations, Dispatcher: Police, Fire, Ambulance, Welding Technology Fundamentals, Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Automotive Maintenance and Light Repair.

From 2007 through 2022, the District has received over 10 million dollars for CTE education funding. During this timeframe, Okaloosa students have earned 20,426 certifications. Recently, CTE received a grant for $307, 200 for our Building Trades program. We are grateful to Senator Jay Trumbull and Representative Patt Maney for their support on the legislative funding. Funding is necessary to ensure the longevity of CTE programs to provide hands-on, work-based learning that is relevant to student interests and responsive to the needs of employers and the economy. To learn more about OCSD’s CTE program, visit https://www.mycteworks.com.

Okaloosa Technical College – Triumph Grant: We are very excited about the $7.85 million in funding through a grant by Triumph Gulf Coast to purchase and renovate seven acres in the Okaloosa Industrial Air Park near Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview. The funding will allow the District to establish a north campus of Okaloosa Technical College (OTC) to serve residents and allow access to our programs, such as automotive, manufacturing, cyber security, electronics, and plumbing, in rapidly growing northern Okaloosa County.

Currently, Okaloosa Technical College offers dual enrollment programs for high school students. Upon project completion, the north campus will provide dual enrollment opportunities, and our students will have access to new technical college programs. The location of this campus is near the epicenter of future economic growth for the Shoal River Ranch mega site and proximity to Bob Sikes Airport and the Okaloosa Industrial Air Park.

Community Engagement: Last semester, the District staff successfully kicked off two initiatives to provide Thanksgiving meals to families and launch our very first Angel Tree. It was heartwarming to see members of our community, such as Jacob’s Titan, Florida Power and Light and Publix, who partnered with us to provide Thanksgiving meals to 119 families. In addition, our District staff and local families sponsored 73 students for our Angel Tree.

We look forward to continuing these programs and supporting even more of our families.
Together, we will finish this school year strong!