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Tax Boost Brings Historic Improvements To Okaloosa Schools

Okaloosa County Schools are turning a vision of the future into reality.

By Livability on December 8, 2022

Okaloosa County schools in Florida
Courtesy of Okaloosa County School District

A penny doesn’t seem like much these days. 

A half-penny seems even more insignificant. But put enough of those half-pennies to work, and remarkable things begin to happen — just ask Marcus Chambers. 

As Superintendent of the Okaloosa County School District, Chambers is excited to tell people how the recently approved half-cent sales tax increase is making an excellent school system even better. A 2020 vote of confidence in local schools, this public money is earmarked for renovating, repairing and expanding schools in Okaloosa, Florida

“This is historic,” says Chambers of the work going on in all schools across the district. “We haven’t been able to do anything like this for more than 20 years.” 

With a focus on transparency, he says, each school has a list of “half-penny” projects, all overseen by community members. The range of projects is impressive, from installing school perimeter fences and secure school entrance doors to roofing, air-conditioning systems, kitchen renovations, paving, new floors, restrooms, chillers and boilers and drainage. And because of the half-cent sales tax, plans have begun for two new schools. 

Serving approximately 30,000 students, from pre-K to adult education, OCSD aims to prepare students for their futures, whether that be in college, the workforce or the military, which has long been an integral part of the community. 

Traditional academic excellence stands beside Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that include carpentry, nursing, welding, cyber security, as well as artificial intelligence/machine learning among many others. 

The district has earned its growing reputation. It is one of only three in the state that have earned an A rating every year since the baseline year for the Florida Standards Assessment in 2014-2015. And in 2022, OCSD was named a Worldwide School System of Distinction by Cognia, which accredits 36,000 schools in more than 90 countries. 

“We’re very proud of that, especially given that it came during one of the most challenging periods in American education,” Chambers says. “We have outstanding teachers and support staff who do a great job assisting students and teachers. We have outstanding administrators who go above and beyond. We have amazing students who work extremely hard. And we have a community that supports this school district.” 

The Okaloosa County School District has been named a High Performing School District, among several other honors. 

“This is historic. We haven’t been able to do anything like this for more than 20 years.” 

– Marcus Chambers, Superintendent of the Okaloosa County School District 

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