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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. 

Governor Ron DeSantis announced the June 1 launch of the Florida Hometown Heroes Housing Program to help Floridians in over 50 critical professions purchase their first home.  Professions include law enforcement officers, firefighters, educators, healthcare professionals, childcare employees and active military or veterans.  The program will aid essential community workers in eligible professions with down payment and closing cost assistance to help first-time, income-qualified homebuyers purchase a primary residence in the communities they serve.

Funds will be available to reserve starting June 1, which coincides with National Homeownership Month.

For more information, please visit

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].

The EPIC Van, an interactive learning tool for students of all ages will begin next week, June 15, 2022 and run through July 14, 2022.  The EPIC Van visits different areas of our District bringing fun activities, summer enrichment snacks and prizes.  Don’t miss the van when it comes to your neighborhood! Click the links below for schedules in your area.  Tours will be suspended the week of July 4th – 8th, 2022. We hope to see YOU at The EPIC Van soon!  

Mondays - Paxton Area

Tuesdays - Defuniak Area

Wednesdays - Freeport Area

Thursdays - South Walton Area

Epic Van Image

West DeFuniak Elementary’s Kiwanis Kids Club continues to support the community by donating their time to help with the award’s day ceremonies. WDE Club members are eager to engage with others to better the school and the community!

Over 50 students at West DeFuniak Elementary put forth extra effort this year to surpass their classroom Accelerated Reading goals by DOUBLING the number of points suggested! Students celebrated with a field trip to the Wee Care Park to play on the splash pad!  

Facilities and Maintenance wrapped up the school year with a fish fry/lunch Friday, May 27th. Members of the staff were recognized for years of employment and presented with dedicated service pins.