Education News March 2023

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Okaloosa County

Okaloosa County School District parents can set up their FOCUS parent accounts at and link their students to it if necessary. The OCSD Focus App can be found in the Apple App and Google Play Stores for download. Find it by searching for OCSD Focus Educational Portal. After download, sign in through the orange log-in button, and you will have access to your student’s schedule, grades and attendance. Students can download the same OCSD Focus app to access their grades and attendance without creating an account. They must click on the box marked “Sign in with SSO” and enter their school district email and network password.

In November, the district launched a second app to receive school and district updates. Download the OCSD Apptegy App through Apple App or Google Play to access documents, events, news updates and emergency notifications.

Okaloosa County School District Teacher of the Year
The Okaloosa County School District Teacher of the Year is Royal Preston, construction teacher at Okaloosa Technical College teaching carpentry and building trades. “I always love celebrating our teachers who spend day in and day out going above and beyond to educate our students. They stay after and arrive early to tutor, sponsor clubs, coach sports, and mentor kids. Each teacher recognized this year represents the best of the best at each of our 38 schools, and I am proud to have Mr. Preston represent us at the state level,” said Superintendent Marcus Chambers.

STEMM Academy Nominated for National Blue Ribbon Program
The Okaloosa STEMM Academy has been selected to participate in the 2022-2023 National Blue Ribbon Program, which honors public elementary and secondary schools whose students achieve at very high levels. The Florida Department of Education nominated STEMM Academy to the U.S. Department of Education due to exemplary high performance based on the 2021-2022 performance data.

District Launches Student Anti-Vape Campaign
In a partnership with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers, middle and high school students are competing to produce video Public Service Announcements to decrease and end teen vaping. The district is purchasing vape detection devices that will be placed on campuses to help deter students from bringing vapes to school. A letter will be sent home to all parents explaining what the devices do so they can help our cause at home. “Vaping is something that can really impact our students in a negative way and we want to take a proactive step in having an anti-vape campaign to encourage our students to make healthy choices,” said Superintendent Marcus Chambers.

Education Staff Professional Employee of the Year
The Okaloosa County School District’s Education Staff Professional of the Year is Shawna Crist, Media Assistant at Plew Elementary School. Crist spent 13 years in the classroom before becoming a mom and choosing to become a full-time volunteer at Plew Elementary, where she received the 2012 Senior Adult Volunteer of the year award. Now, in her 11th year as Media Assistant, she shares ideas with others throughout our District and is known to staff and parents as a “cheerleader for readers who strives to keep students from falling through the cracks.” Crist created the school news show, sponsors Violin Club and Shop and is Plew Planters Team lead and Plew Parent Leadership co-president.

Incoming kindergarteners and students new to the Okaloosa County School District for the 2023-2024 School Year can now register. Parents must create a Focus Parent Portal Account to start the process.

Parents will use their Focus Parent Portal Account to: View their student(s) class schedule and grades; view attendance and discipline and communicate with teachers.
To register, parents must use their child’s legal name and a valid address in Okaloosa County. Parents can also use the registration kiosk in the enrolling school’s front office to complete this step. Watch the video below for an overview of the Parent Portal registration process.

CHS Robotics Team Wins Local FIRST Tech Challenge Tournament
The Radical Raiders robotics team at the Collegiate High School (CHS) at Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) placed first in the FIRST Tech Challenge’s FL AeroCoast League Tournament. They competed against eight teams from the panhandle at Northwood Elementary School for a spot in the statewide competition. After spending hundreds of hours on creating and programming its robot, crafting its engineering notebook, and participating in community outreach events, the team’s efforts culminated in its successful showing Jan. 28.

The team also earned the Inspire Award for best embodying the challenge of the program.
The Radical Raiders will advance to the Florida Championship March 3 and 4 in Winter Haven, competing against 55 other teams for a chance to compete at the FIRST World Championship in Houston in April.

For more information on the CHS Robotics team, contact Mary Beth Mizell, the CHS faculty sponsor, at or( 850) 729-6429.

Superintendent Marcus Chambers Launches Reelection Campaign
Okaloosa Schools Superintendent Marcus Chambers (R-Niceville) filed for reelection for 2024. During his first term, Chambers led the school district through the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining the district’s top “A” rating.

“Nothing is more important to me than our students’ safety and academic success. For nearly 25 years, I have worked every day to provide Okaloosa students with an outstanding education,” Chambers said. “My priorities will be maintaining Okaloosa Schools’ top “A” rating for academic excellence, providing robust extracurricular opportunities, expanding workforce and technical education offerings, investing in our teachers and staff, completing critical school safety and maintenance improvements, and planning for new school construction. I stand with Governor DeSantis and his efforts to keep inappropriate political agendas out of the classroom.”

Walton County

Walton County School District Shows Excellence in Graduation Rate
The Walton County School District’s graduation rate is at an all-time high of 96.7 percent – a 5 percent increase over the 2020-2021 school year.

This increase means Walton County has the third-highest number of students walking across the stage to receive their diplomas – 10 percent above the state average.

Green Thumb Garden Club Offers Scholarships to Students in Walton County
For more than four decades, Green Thumb Garden Club has awarded Mercer Scholarships to college students from Walton County. Students must be currently enrolled or must have been accepted by a college, university, or technical school with a major in agriculture, biology, botany, ecology, environmental studies, forestry, horticulture, landscape design or an acceptable related course.

The scholarship is funded through donations from generous GTGC members, fundraising events and the Walton County community. A total of $3,000. is available for award. The amount of each scholarship will be based upon applicants’ qualifications. Detailed application requirements and forms are available on the GTGC website,

Club member Debbie Michel is GTGC Scholarship Committee Chair, and her contact information is on the application form which must be submitted no later than April 30. Contact Debbie Michel with any questions or email

Walton School District celebrated excellent teachers and teacher support personnel at the annual Educational Support Personnel and Teacher of the Year Recognition Event this month. Each school’s staff submitted the name of a teacher and support personnel they believed embodied the spirit of E.P.I.C. Shelly Hinojosa was chosen as Teacher of the Year and Roslyn Chatman was chosen as Education Support Personnel of the Year. Both will represent Walton County School District in State Competition later in the year.

New Freeport Middle School
Tuesday, Jan. 24, was an epic day of growth for the Walton County School District. Superintendent Hughes and the Walton County School Board donned hardhats and broke ground for the new Freeport Middle School. Later that morning, they attended the ribbon cutting for the new addition to Freeport Elementary School.

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