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WHS hosted professional development opportunities on January 3, allowing teachers to collaborate and learn about a variety of topics related to instruction, technology, and student safety.   Staff members are geared up and ready for the second half of the school year!

Submitted by Christy English

The Voices of Democracy Competition, sponsored by the VFW Post 4437, recognized Walton County winners at the January 2, 2018, school board meeting.  Walton County Students in grades 9-12 were encouraged to submit a 3-5 minute essay on an audio CD expressing their views on the topic of "America History - Our Hope for the Future".  Walton County had two winners for this competition, 1st place went to Rileigh Council-Stalvey from Walton High School and 3rd place went to Joshua Permenter from Walton High School. Each of these students received a monetary award for their efforts.  Congratulations to these students! 

Also pictured are Wade Wilmoth, Commander of VFW Post 4437, Kim Kirby, School Board Chair and Superintendent Russell Hughes.

Submitted by Donna Honish.

The WCSD has enjoyed nearly 10 years of partnership now with the @biophiliacenter! More than 11,000 students to date have experienced hands-on outdoors learning, thanks to this beautiful science education center off Hwy. 20, just east of 331. Superintendent Hughes was excited to participate and speak at the groundbreaking ceremony this weekend for an expansion. Check out the web site for more: www.EOWilsoncenter.org! This is a local treasure, and an important collaboration for our STEM educators!
From right, Board Member Stella Davis; Director, Dr. Matt Aresco; and Board Members Pat and Lisa Davis Chisholm. 

Submitted by Keitha Bledsoe

McCaid Paul, a 14 year old 8th grader at Walton Middle School in Defuniak Springs, has just published his first novel, The Forgotten Headline (The Summersville Series) (Volume 1)currently available in paperback, hardcover, or ebook through Amazon.com.  This current novel, a thriller, is the first of a series of 5 which will take his main character, Mick Smith, and his best friend Billie, through some hair-raising experiences and unexpected discoveries! 

McCaid stated in an interview "My Dad used to inspire me by writing short stories, and I had lots of really good training and encouragement in my language arts classes in reading and writing." He began journaling in first grade, and developed a love of writing all through elementary and middle school. He indicated that he enjoys mystery novels, and was strongly influenced by the writings of Agatha Christie, famous author of mystery novels, and Key Watt, a local author from Point Clear, Alabama who writes novels for young people.  McCaid said that Watt's novels for youth are "honestly some of the best I've ever read. His books are like mine...easy, but really high interest!"

The writing and publishing process for McCaid has truly been an adventure, and with the help of his supportive parents, the encouragement of his teachers at West DeFuniak Elementary School and Walton Middle School, and many others in the writing/publishing business, his journey has finally taken all the right turns! 

McCaid attended a workshop sponsored by the DeFuniak Springs Public Library where he had the opportunity to meet and learn from Whitney Evans (pen name S. Usher Evans) from Pensacola. Evans is a self-published author who formerly worked with BBC, Discovery Channel, and IT at the Pentagon.  She gave up the fast-paced life of Washington to pursue her writing career.  McCaid indicated that she gave him direction on everything from getting an editor and formatter, to marketing.  He said she has become his mentor and "go to" person in this process.  McCaid and his family decided that self-publishing was the best way to have full control over the content of his work.  Some well-known self-published authors have had their books made into movies.  McCaid gave the example of Andy Weir, who wrote and self-published his first novel, The Martian, which was produced as a movie in 2015 starring Matt Damon. 

He ended up using two self-publishing companies, CreateSpace.com and IngramSpark.com, who he indicated were very helpful. With some very specific ideas in mind as to how he wanted the book to look on the outside, McCaid also did all his own research to find who he wanted to use to create his cover art.  He selected a company called Damonza, a group of retired writers for the New York Times who got together to create a company to help writers get published.  He was thrilled with the results!

One very important phase in any book publishing process is the Beta Readers.  These are individuals who review written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, plot development, and/or its setting, without changing the content.  Even well-known authors use Beta Readers to review their work because no matter how many times you proof-read, there will always be mistakes. The average novelist has about 10 Beta Readers to review their works.  McCaid also had 10 "amazing" readers, as well as the able and willing assistance of his parents.  He gives them ALL a big shout out in the Acknowledgments page of his book.  

McCaid indicated that he balanced his writing with his school studies by spending most weekdays doing homework, and most weekends and break times working on his writing.  Often he will get an idea from his current experiences, and immediately jot it down on the notes app on his cell phone.  He spends what free time has has enjoying nature, traveling, and hiking. He actually got the idea for the start of the first novel from a squirrel hunting trip with his Dad.  

When asked if he had advice for young writers, McCaid said, "Hang in there, and don't give up! Know that it takes a long time.  Do your research.  Believe in yourself!"  McCaid said he isn't quite sure what he might want to do with his future, but he knows one thing...it will involve writing!

McCaid stated that he couldn't have done any of this without the help of his wonderful parents. His father, Joel Paul, works with the Tri-County Community Council, and his mother, Darlene Paul, is the Principal at West DeFuniak Elementary School in DeFuniak Springs.  Mrs. Paul shared that when he received his very first copy of the book, he could barely contain himself with excitement.  He opened the book and began to read it, even though he already knew every word since he wrote it! McCaid responded, "I know, but it's just different! Every word comes alive!"

The Walton County School District can barely contain their excitement for McCaid and his family as well!  You can learn more about McCaid and his writing on his website www.mccaidpaulbooks.com, and on Twitter @MccaidP

Submitted by Keitha Bledsoe from an interview with McCaid Paul

Congratulations to Instructor, Leslie Harrison for being nominated as Teacher of the Year for ECTC. Congratulations to Stephanie Davis for being nominated as Educational Support Professional for ECTC. We are so proud of both of you! Submitted by Carol Rothgeb/FB.