Welcome Back to School - A Message from Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson

I am thrilled to welcome both our returning students and new families to the Okaloosa County School District for the 2014-2015 school year.  I trust that you have had a restful and enjoyable summer and that you are as anxious to begin the new school year as I am.

It gives me great pride to share the news with you that we are once again rated as an “A” district in the state of Florida! I recognize that the dedication, hard work, and constant attention to meeting our students’ needs demanded considerable skill on the part of our teachers, administrators, and support staff; and I applaud each individual for that effort. We can all be proud of what has been achieved in our district, and we can all look forward to even greater accomplishments in the coming year.

Our district has never been healthier as a collaborative unit.  This year, Okaloosa schools not only made the district an “A” again, but earned the ranking of 7th out of 67 districts across the board in all grade levels in all subjects. And, as you have no doubt seen and heard in the recent media coverage on the topic of school grades, we increased our number of “A” schools, and we have no “D” or “F” schools.  That’s a remarkable stance in the face of all the recent changes in standards and in testing, and it is a testament to the dedication of our school staffs and to our students and their families who all place great importance on doing well in school.

Students in our district continue to lead the state in college and career readiness as a record number of students earn industry certifications through our CHOICE Institutes. Okaloosa is 9th in industry certification funding earned by the districts.  Our students maintain some of the most consistent pass-rates on the nationally and internationally respected Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) exams. Additionally, in our AP, IB and AICE programs, enrollment continues to grow.

As a testament to our local communities, strong partnerships with businesses and the military make it possible for expanding technology in the classroom and exciting programs and events that give every child an opportunity to shine! What may be most impressive about all of these achievements is the fact that our schools are reflecting academic growth while continuing to maintain top-ranked programs in sports, music, art, and a variety of extracurricular offerings. Our district encourages students to perform at their best in every endeavor, in and out of the classroom; and they certainly do shine in both!

Over the past year, I have made it a priority to visit every school and sit down with teachers to discuss their triumphs and their trials. Many spend countless hours preparing for classes, grading papers, and communicating with parents – all to support their students’ growth. They want to meet the needs of all of their students, and they want to learn all they can professionally to close the achievement gap for their students who struggle, as well as to boost the skills of their students who excel.

Teachers and principals have been attending trainings throughout the summer to learn about the Florida Standards and about innovative ways to meet those standards.  Our faculties across the district will continue to apply the best strategies in their instruction. As we incorporate the Florida Standards, parents can expect to see more information about close reading and how text-based writing will translate into engaging classroom experiences for their children. Teachers will be focusing on specific Math Practices – instructional strategies taught from kindergarten through graduation. I am very proud of our STEM initiative for modeling the best science and math practices, and I look forward to seeing those practices being embedded into all levels of instruction.

There is no doubt that Okaloosa County Schools are successful because of our high expectations and commitment to meeting the needs of all students. Though we are a high achieving district, we will never be content. This year, as in the past, we must concentrate on the processes that spur continuing advancement: evaluating where we stand, determining what we can do to improve, and identifying means to make even greater improvements for your students.  

As a school district, we understand that effective communication is essential; and we want parents to be informed. Please be sure to visit the district website at www.okaloosaschools.com where you can find the new Florida Standards Web Page, the Parent Portal for Grades Online, and other important School District information. 

Have a great school year!


Mary Beth Jackson
Superintendent of Schools