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Walton County School District

Increases Student Achievement As Measured By State Testing,

Now Ranks 3rd in the State 

June 30, 2022

On Thursday, the Florida Department of Education released results from all state testing for the   2021-2022 school year. These results are based on Florida Standards Assessments (FSA), Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests (FCAT), and End of Course exams (EOC). FSA tests are the subjects of English/Language Arts (grades 3-10) and Math (grades 3-8). FCAT tests are the subjects of Science (grade 5 and 8), and EOC tests are in the subjects of Algebra I, Geometry, Biology, Civics, and US History.

During the 2020-2021 school year, Walton County ranked 6th of 67 Florida counties in overall proficiency levels on state tests. With test results released today, Walton County now ranks 3rd of 67 counties in overall proficiency levels for the 2021-2022 school year. The only two counties scoring higher than Walton are St. Johns and Nassau, which are located on the east coast of Florida. 

In an unprecedented year, Walton scored in the top 10 in 20 of the 21 tested items.  The results are as follows:

  • 10th in 3rd and 6th grade ELA
  • 9th in Civics and 7th and 8th grade ELA
  • 8th in 8th grade Science
  • 7th in 3rd grade Math and 5th grade Science
  • 6th in 5th grade ELA and 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th grade Math
  • 5th in 4th and 9th grade ELA
  • 3rd in Geometry, US History, and 10th grade ELA
  • 2nd in Algebra I and Biology

The one component below the top 10 in ranking was 7th grade Math, however in that specific area, Walton showed the greatest improvement from a 24th ranking in 2020-2021 to a 14th ranking in   2021-2022.

Walton County Schools scored above the state average in all areas of testing. The state average in ELA is 52% proficient; Walton is 60%, 8% higher. The state average in Math is 55%, with Algebra I and Geometry at 49%. Walton is at 64% proficient in Math, 9% higher; 73% in Algebra I, 24% higher; and 69% in Geometry, 20% higher. The state average in 5th and 8th grade Science is 48%; Walton is 58% (10% higher) in 5th grade and 57% (9% higher) in 8th grade. In Biology, the state average is 61%; Walton is 78%, 17% higher. In Civics, the state average is 69%; Walton is 76%, 7% higher. In US History, the state average is 65%; Walton is 78%, 13% higher.

Superintendent A. Russell Hughes was left speechless by the test results. With his voice full of emotion, he finally states, “We have a vision to be #1 – to be the best school district in the state of Florida, and I’m sure some thought we were crazy or would never get to that goal. But every year, we continue moving forward. It really is awe inspiring! I am amazed over and over again by our faculty and staff and their love of students and the value they have for education.” Superintendent Hughes continued, “But, in that same voice, let me also say this – results don’t just happen by chance! In Walton County, we are intentional, we are purposeful, and we never give up – not on students, not on ourselves, and not on our goals – no matter the circumstances. We are EPIC, and we are moving 4wRd; I am overjoyed!”

Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Hawthorne echoed the Superintendent’s sentiments and provided additional data. “When the Superintendent shared his vision in 2016, #1 sounded daunting.  But everyone went to work – moving our students from 8th to 6th and now 3rd!  It truly is what vision is all about. Everyone in Walton County is behind the Superintendent’s vision, and as you can see, the vision is becoming reality for our students – the most important part of our work.” 

Over the course of the next few days, the Walton County School District will enter state test scores into their district data system, FOCUS. Once that is complete, parents will be able to see student scores by logging into their child’s FOCUS account. Schools will be receiving the scores as well, as well as school grades in the coming months. 

For more information on the Walton County School District, please visit




Even after a morning walk and bike ride, Superintendent Hughes took time to visit with a parent and student of the WCSD who were excited to see him during the summer in “normal clothes”, their words.  He spent time helping Mrs. Jenn get connected with our Parent Portal.  Ana, WHS incoming 9th grader assisted with the set up over a Nutritional Healthy Drink.  Always time for a Selfie; EPIC is never out for the summer!  #itsthewaltonway

Tampa, FL- Over 360 school board members, superintendents, and education leaders attended the FSBA/FADSS Annual Summer Conference for three days of leadership development, networking, and training.  These representatives included Walton’s own Superintendent of Schools, A. Russell Hughes, as well as Walton County Board Members, Mrs. Jeri Michie and Mrs. Tammy Smith.

The theme of the conference, Centered on Students, featured AJ Crabill as the keynote speaker. Mr. Crabill’s presentation was guided by the idea that student outcomes do not change until adult behaviors change. Drawing in his intimate familiarity with the triumphs and terrors of America’s safety nets for children, Mr. Crabill has devoted much of his life to advocating for the well-being of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. AJ currently serves as Conservator at DeSoto, Texas Independent School District; Education Faculty at the Leadership Institute of Nevada; Director of the Council for the Great City Schools in Washington, DC; and has served as Board Chair for the Kansas City Public schools and Deputy Commissioner of Education for the State of Texas.

The conference also featured a legislative session review and legislator Q&A which included: Representative Chris Latvala, Representative Rene Plasencia, and Representative Fentrice Driskell. The panel conversation intent behind the legislation and how the addition of progress monitoring will benefit Florida’s students, while ensuring districts continue to meet students’ needs.

In addition to the keynote presentation, legislative session review, and breakout sessions, the associations also conducted annual business meetings. The new Florida Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education, and former State Senator, Manny Diaz Jr., briefly spoke to the Florida School Boards Association to introduce himself. Commissioner Diaz is looking forward to working together for students, staff, and schools.  Walton representatives were able to speak with Commissioner Diaz and also Senior Chancellor Jacob Oliva as well.

“It is critical for school board members to obtain professional development so they can better serve their districts and committees,” commented FSBA Chief Executive Officer Andrea Messina. “This event also provides valuable collaboration between and among school board members that results in the sharing of ideas, programs, and processes. Board members took seriously this year’s theme, Centered on Students, and spent time seeking ways to ensure all students learn at high levels.”

Superintendent Hughes also echoed the importance of collaboration.  “I appreciate time to discuss pressing issues and new legislation with other Superintendents, and there is added joy to do so alongside board members, Mrs. Michie and Mrs. Smith.  Your Walton County School Board is one of the best in the state.  The board is master board trained, but more importantly, these individuals put students first.  I was proud to attend the conference as a collaborative team.”

The mission of the Florida School Boards Association is to increase student achievement through the development of effective school board leadership and advocacy for public education.


For Photo Caption:

From L to R: Mrs. Tammy Smith, Superintendent A. Russell Hughes, and Mrs. Jeri Michie represent Walton County at the FSBA/FADSS conference in Tampa, Florida.

WCSD leaders attended the Florida Department of Education’s Summer Literacy Institute, Launch into Literacy. This training supports districts and schools with effectively implementing PreK through 12 literacy instruction, aligned to the new K-12 B.E.S.T ELA standards. We look forward to continuing to build a community of literacy learners. The WCSD is soaring to new heights with Florida’s B.E.S.T ELA Standards! 

Dune Lakes Elementary School needs your vote.  The message below is from AIA Florida.  It contains voting information.

Hello and congratulations,

Either your school or one in your district was chosen by AIA Florida architects as a notable contribution to Florida K-12 architecture and is now a contestant in the association’s People’s Choice Competition.

The schools chosen are:

Dune Lakes Elementary School, Santa Rosa Beach

We are very excited to feature these great schools and fantastic communities and look forward to working with you to promote your school and our contest. The People’s Choice Competition, brought to you by AIA Florida and the Florida Foundation for Architecture, aims to raise public awareness of the power of architecture. This is a fun contest, meaning you can vote as many times as you like. Over the years, we’ve logged millions of votes from around the world.

Voting will start at noon, Tuesday, June 7, and will end at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, Friday, July 29, via our website at The winner will be announced at the AIA Florida Design & Honor Awards, held Saturday, July 30, at The Breakers in Palm Beach.

Students still love seeing Superintendent Hughes during the summer.  This is Karleigh and Margarita who were eating lunch in a Freeport Restaurant and stated how excited they were to see Mr. Hughes out eating.  They also wanted to share how they were enjoying their much-needed summer.  Of course, Superintendent Hughes was likewise elated to see and talk to these students as usual.  EPIC includes livening to see our students in their communities!

Walton County School District Receives $1 Million in State Appropriation Funds

June 16, 2022

On June 2, 2022, with the signing of Florida’s state budget, Governor Ron DeSantis provided approval for two appropriations that were applied for by the Walton County School District (WCSD). The applications, which totaled $1 million, will allow WCSD to continue to strengthen college and career pathways for students.

Freeport High School in Freeport, Florida will be the recipient of a $500,000 appropriations for an Aquaculture Marine Academy. The Academy will equip Freeport High School with a new Aquaculture Career Pathway. Aquaculture is the rearing of aquatic animals or the cultivation of aquatic plants for food. Students will begin an exciting program to help revitalize oyster beds and promote clean water. The program will provide hands-on, rigorous career and technical education (CTE) where students earn industry certifications and prepare for the growing workforce.

The appropriations will provide for aquaculture equipment, such as tanks, greenhouse materials, pools, aerators, aquatic vegetation, species for tanks, lights, pumps, computers, and lab equipment. Partners involved include the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, Walton County Commissioners, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Paxton School in Paxton, Florida will be the recipient of a $500,000 appropriations for an Agritechnology Academy. The Academy will equip Paxton School with an enhanced Agritechnology Academy. Agritechnology is the use of technology in agriculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency, and profitability. Students will continue their study of agriculture and begin to combine technology, such as drones and computers, to develop innovative job skills. This Agritechnology Pathway will provide hands-on, rigorous career and technical education (CTE) where students earn industry certifications and prepare for the growing, everchanging workforce.

The appropriations will provide for agritechnology equipment, such as drones, farm machinery, plants, animals, and lab equipment. Numerous partners will be involved such as the city of Paxton, Farm Bureau, and Embry Riddle.

Superintendent A. Russell Hughes was elated upon hearing about the approved funding for these innovative programs. “I am beyond excited for our students, especially as this will build real world skills connected to the future of our community. I want to personally thank our state leaders who helped make these two projects a reality, including Representative Brad Drake, Senator George Gainer, and Representative Jay Trumball and of course, I want to thank Governor Ron DeSantis.” Superintendent Hughes also thanked WCSD staff whom he described as EPIC, which is the Superintendent’s district-wide theme. “Staff embodied the “C” of EPIC (collaboration). I appreciate the teachers, administrators, and district staff who continue to make our vision a reality. I am so proud of the innovative opportunities that we are able to provide to students, schools, and communities.”

This is the second consecutive year the WCSD has received state appropriation funds. Last year, the district received funds for South Walton High School to continue renovations of the Magnet Innovation Center at St. Joe Watersound. The WCSD is a high performing school district and has earned a district rating of “A” for the past three years, which is a first since the Florida grading system began.

For more information on the Walton County School District, please visit



PANAMA CITY BEACH, FL— The St. Joe Community Foundation (“Foundation”) grants $46,290 to Food For Thought Outreach through the “Read to Feed” initiative.  Earlier this year, the Foundation and the Walton County School District created “Read to Feed” to benefit Food For Thought Outreach, a local non-profit organization that provides access to food to children in need.  With this program, reading achievements by students in all of Walton County’s elementary schools resulted in a grant from the Foundation to Food For Thought Outreach.

Students at the county’s elementary schools were encouraged to read independently and test their retention by taking accelerated reader tests in the classroom.  For each test they completed with a score of 80% and above they accumulated points throughout the year.  For each successfully completed accelerated reader test accumulated by all Walton County elementary students between January 24, 2022 and May 6, 2022, the Foundation agreed to grant 25 cents to the Walton County based non-profit organization.  In total, Walton County students successfully completed more than 185,000 accelerated reader tests in that timeframe leading to the contribution by the Foundation to Food For Thought Outreach during a check presentation on June 7, 2022.

“As education is one of the pillars of The St. Joe Community Foundation, we are always looking for ways to enhance educational opportunities for local children,” said April Wilkes, Executive Director of the St. Joe Community Foundation.  “We are elated by the success of this program with the Walton County School District to encourage reading and provide a platform for students to give back to their communities.”

“Our mission is to remove the negative impacts of hunger and empower a child to get the most out of their education and development by providing them weekly access to healthy, easy to prepare meals,” said Tiffany Nelson, Founder and CEO of Food For Thought Outreach.  The Read to Feed program brings together our passion for education and our commitment to fighting childhood hunger.  Working with the St Joe Community Foundation and the Walton County School District empowers us to continue to deliver on our mission to serve the children 
WCSD leaders attended the B.E.S.T. math professional development in Tallahassee, FL on June 7-9, 2022. This FDOE training provided insight into the new math benchmarks and best practices regarding implementation for the 22-23 School Year. 

Walton County School District is now hiring for the 2022-23 School Year!  Walton County is a great place to live, work, teach and play. Come join our EPIC Team!  We have openings across the district in all job classifications.  Starting Teacher Salary: $47,500, Starting pay for Bus Drivers with CDL P&S Endorsement: $18.90 per hour.  WCSD will host a Job Fair on Monday, June 20, 2022 from 5 – 7 p.m. in the CHAT Room at the WISE Center located at 555 Walton Road, DeFuniak Springs, FL 32433.  Visit the WCSD website at to view open positions and apply online.  For assistance, call (850) 892-1100, ext. 1312 or email [email protected].