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The Hawks’ Nest is still a safe haven for strong and challenging curriculum like all other schools in the WCSD.  Superintendent Hughes stopped into AP Art and English to check on our continue focus on preparing students for a life of success; it’s happening in full throttle.  It is days like these we say to the world and all who want to go to great places with us:

Get On-Go On!!!!!!  EPIC is The Way!

Walton County School District Recognized Nationally

Cognia Accreditation Awards for Excellence in Education


Cognia, the global school improvement organization that helps grow learners, teachers, and leaders, has announced its list of Schools of Distinction among Cognia accredited schools and districts. The Schools of Distinction earn this recognition based on the results of Cognia’s rigorous Accreditation Engagement Review process. The 2022 Schools of Distinction are listed on the Cognia website.

During the 2021-2022 school year, Cognia conducted approximately 1,500 school engagement reviews for accreditation. This year, 96 schools and 38 systems in 34 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and nine countries are recognized. The number of institutions reviewed and those that earn this designation vary from year to year. Winners carry the designation for one year.

Five school districts in Florida were among 38 systems that received recognition.  Walton, Okaloosa, Collier, Pasco, and Volusia County School Districts were all among those named.  Upon hearing the news, Superintendent A. Russell Hughes was again honored and humbled to receive yet another award, recognition, or designation that affirms our hard work and dedication in education for our students and families.  “We experienced the Cognia Accreditation process last year, and the organization shared that we were a top tier visit.  We know we are ranked third in the state of Florida with academics, but to know that we are in the top 38 of systems in the world according to this national accreditation organization – that is truly EPIC!”  Superintendent Hughes continued by thanking all stakeholders who were involved during the Cognia visit – students, parents, staff, teachers, administrators, and school board. 

“Congratulations to the 2022 Schools and Systems of Distinction for demonstrating excellence in education in meeting the Cognia Performance Standards,” said Cognia President and CEO Dr. Mark A. Elgart. “Based on the results of their 2021–2022 accreditation reviews, each of these schools and systems demonstrated evidence of growth in learning, a healthy culture for learning, engaging and high-quality instructional environments, and effective leadership for learning.”

Cognia is a global, nonprofit improvement organization dedicated to helping institutions and other education providers grow learners, teachers, and leaders. Cognia offers accreditation and certification, assessment, and professional services within a framework of continuous improvement. Serving 36,000 public and private institutions from early learning through high school in more than 90 countries, Cognia brings a global perspective to advancing teaching and learning. Find out more at

Congratulations again to all stakeholders in the Walton County School District for being a part of the success we are experiencing; you are EPIC, and EPIC remains the way!

God bless you all!!!


A. Russell Hughes

Superintendent of Schools



STEM Investigation Lab at WDE

September 20, 2022

First Grade students at West Defuniak Elementary School participated in a STEM Investigation Lab called "How do nests protect eggs?"

According to research published on AttendanceWorks, students who are chronically absent in 6th grade have lower achievement than their peers. Also, a student who is chronically absent in high school is 7.4X more likely to dropout. #SchoolEveryDay  Families are essential partners in addressing chronic absences.  See the handouts below for additional information.

Rosemary Beach Foundation Presents Music in Pictures Workshop

Walton County art teachers had the opportunity to participate in a professional development workshop as part of the Rosemary Beach Foundation’s 12th Annual Music in Pictures art initiative. Dr. Benjamin Sung, Associate Professor of Violin at Florida State University, presented a violin mini-concert and a session on the music selected as the inspiration for the Music in Pictures artistic renderings. Malayne DeMars, Executive Director of the Rosemary Beach Foundation, and Winky Dowdle, Chair of the Music in Pictures Program, were the gracious hosts and organizers of the workshop. We are grateful for our collaboration with the Rosemary Beach Foundation.  

Stopped by The Dog House to check on the FHS Bulldogs.  Mrs. Donna Simmons and Team remain committed to providing a magnificent place for students to attend school, be a family, and lead the way in Academics.  Smiles like these make it easy to know why they are one of the highest state assessment performing public schools in the state of Florida!



Please join Superintendent Hughes and all WCSD Staff in our commitment to promote Attendance. Absenteeism is a lost opportunity to learn.  We cannot afford to think of absenteeism as merely a lack of compliance with school rules.  Addressing chronic absence is a key component of improving graduation rates, increasing academic achievement, and giving young people a good chance for success in their adult life.  If you need assistance with attendance, please contact your school or AttendanceWorks at

Farm Bureau Speech Contest

September 6, 2022

The annual Walton County Farm Bureau Speech Contest was held September 1, 2022 at the Freeport High Media Center. We are proud of all of the students that gave speeches on the positive impacts that agriculture has on a community. The winner from Thursday's contest advances to the next round of speeches taking place in Chipley.