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Destiny Worship desired to make an impact on the lives of students in some way.  Members chose to make beginning of the year school supply packs for children.  Ms. Sherry Whitlock and Ms. Nicole Thompson delivered 126 individual school packs to be shared with our elementary and middle schools.  Destiny Worship provides this community service in four counties at 6 different locations.   Thank you, Destiny Worship for your generosity and partnership! 

School leadership teams participated in our Solution Tree PLC at Work training during the week of July 11th. The PLC at Work professional development is designed to prepare district, school, and teacher leaders to build  professional learning communities that provide life-changing learning for all students. We look forward to implementing the strategies learned through PLC's inside our classrooms this school year.

WCSD educators, administrators, and Superintendent Hughes spent an EPIC week at the AVID Summer Institute in Orlando, Florida this Summer! Teachers, student leaders and administrators from across the nation came together for collaborative training sessions, team building, and brainstorming innovative new ideas for engaging students in academics! We are Advancing Via Individual Determination!

Always in Our Hearts

July 12, 2022

Our hearts are aching due to the tragic loss of these two precious West DeFuniak Elementary students this summer.  Each of our students become a part of our story.  Whether we learned with them in the classroom,  played with them on the playground or gave them hugs and high fives in the hallway,  the precious memories of McKenzie and Cristian will always be in our hearts.  They will be greatly missed.  Please continue to remember their families in your thoughts and prayers.

District Grade Remains an “A”

Walton County School District Remains an “A” – Improves Grade Ranking 

July 11, 2022

The Florida Department of Education released the 2021-2022 data that calculates school grades, district grades, and school improvement ratings.  Florida has issued school grades to its schools since 1999.  School grades are calculated based on proficiency and learning gains in core subject areas, such as reading and math, as well as additional components, including graduation rate and college and career acceleration.

Walton County, as a district, once again scored an “A” rating, which it has now been since 2018. This is the first time since grading began that this has occurred in four (4) consecutive grading periods. According to the state’s data release, Walton ranks #3 of 67 districts in district school grade calculation. The district improved by two (2) rankings from the 2020-2021 school year.

Superintendent A. Russell Hughes was elated upon hearing about the results and improvements in the district grades.  He stated, “After receiving assessment scores just one week ago, I am in awe once again by the work of our schools’ performances that in turn brought about this A+ designation. The work we have done has been intentional, supported by our School Board and implemented in leadership throughout. Every component within the Walton County School District family – administrators who led with fervor, teachers who taught with fidelity, students who responded with tenacity, and community members who supported with compassion – helped bring about these unprecedented, astonishing results. I am just so proud to work alongside these EPIC people. How wonderful it is to present our community with world-class results, right here in Walton County.”  For the first time ever since grading began, all Walton County schools are graded “A” or “B”.  Superintendent Hughes continued, “This proves that your Walton County School District was whole-heartedly invested in moving ‘4wRd’ regardless of the challenges faced, to include an unforeseen international pandemic!”

Most notable of improvements were Maude Saunders Elementary and Paxton School. Last year, Maude Saunders Elementary was a “C” school. This year, they earned the grade of “B”. This is a huge accomplishment for the school, which had scored a “D” during the last decade. Maude Saunders Principal of three years, Mrs. Cindy Neale responded to the results with a quote from Vince Lombardi, “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual”, then continued on to say, “Goals are achieved by having a positive mindset, creating a climate and culture built on respect, trust, high expectations, goal setting, intentional planning with the belief we can achieve our goals TOGETHER.” Paxton School also increased a letter grade from a “B” to an “A”. When Principal Brent Jones heard the news, he said, “I am so proud of all the faculty, staff, students, and parents for all of their hard work. I am so grateful to be a part of the Paxton Family!” Additional schools maintained their school grade, but increased their points, such as Freeport High School, which moved from 663 to 718 points, remaining an “A” - one of the highest public-school numeric results in the state of Florida.

The following are 2021-2022 school grade results for Walton County. Eight (8) schools were designated as an “A”:  Mossy Head School, West DeFuniak Elementary, Dune Lakes Elementary, Van R. Butler Elementary, Emerald Coast Middle, Freeport High, South Walton High, and Paxton School.  Five (5) schools are designated as a “B”:  Freeport Elementary, Maude Saunders Elementary, Freeport Middle, Walton Middle, and Walton High School. Walton Initiative for Success in Education (WISE) received a school rating of “Maintaining”. 

Accolades such as this could not be achieved without the strategic and intentional work done by our administrators, teachers, staff, and students.

It is exciting and worth celebrating to know that Walton County School District is becoming recognizable across the state and nation. As always, we will continue to strive towards being the number one school district in the state of Florida – we are well on our way!


Congratulations to all!


For more information on the Walton County School District, please visit  The reports and guides to school grade calculations can be found at

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.

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.

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!