Superintendent seeks second full term in office

Okaloosa County’s Superintendent of Schools Marcus Chambers won’t be on the ballot until at least August of 2024 (and only then if he faces another Republican in the primary). As of Tuesday, April, 18th 2023 – he is the only candidate pre-filed for the superintendent’s race. Additionally, he’s raised more than $125,000 for his campaign. To give you a frame of reference, Chambers raised about the same amount during the entire length of his campaign in 2020, and his opponent in 2020 raised about $20,000 more. 

Chambers proved in the last election campaign – it’s not about how much money you raise – You have to convince people to come out and vote for you, too. 

 

"But one of the things I share all the time when I go around is a healthy school system is a healthy community. And you think about many of you in here, you have your own businesses, you’re builders in here, military folks in here, the military makes assignments based on what happens in a school district businesses that want to come to this county because of what happens in a school district. So it's something that doesn't fall down on me. And it's something that we talk to our principals about all the time. I share with folks, you know, there's accolades that our school system has received. But I say all the time, we're not a perfect school district in any way, shape, or form. But we are a school district who wants to get better."
Formal Portrait of a Man
Marcus Chambers
Okaloosa Superintendent of Schools

RELATED: These three candidates want your vote to replace outgoing commissioner Nathan Boyles on the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners. 

He’s hit the campaign trail at full force so far this campaign cycle, though, and has touted the successes of his administration.

“And as we’ve gotten around, and we’ve talked with folks, we’ve been at these events, and the support of a community is huge. And obviously, you want to have the support of your school district as well,” Chambers told the crowd over beers at 3rd Planet Brewing in Niceville, “But one of the things I share all the time when I go around is a healthy school system is a healthy community. And you think about many of you in here, you have your own businesses, you’re builders in here, military folks in here, the military makes assignments based on what happens in a school district businesses that want to come to this county because of what happens in a school district. So it’s something that doesn’t fall down on me. And it’s something that we talk to our principals about all the time. I share with folks, you know, there’s accolades that our school system has received. But I say all the time, we’re not a perfect school district in any way, shape, or form. But we are a school district who wants to get better.”

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New Schools in Niceville

According to Chambers, the school district is currently looking at plans to either expand current elementary schools in the Niceville area or build a K-8 school to counter overcrowding concerns in the Niceville-Valparaiso area of the district. 

While the schools in Niceville and Valparaiso are full up – the increase in new students has leveled out some – leading to eased concerns in the short term. “So we’re still going through [the analysis] process,” Chambers told the crowd, “We will either go to a K-8 school, or we’ll look at adding on to facilities such as Bluewater or Lewis. At Plew right now, we are building a new caféteria, which means their current caféteria will be vacant. So, their current caféteria, we will reconfigure into classrooms. Those are some of the decisions we will have to make.”

 

 

Fixing the Teacher Shortage

Another crowd member asked Chambers what his biggest challenge was at the moment. He told the questioner it was the retention of teachers and the training of people who come to the field of education nontraditionally. “I could not be more passionate about public education,” Chambers told the crowd before adding, “There’s a lot that’s on teachers today. Right now, the climate can be different at times in education. So, it’s just supporting our teachers through this, giving them the support they need, and also supporting our principals and administrators. There is a feeling of [educators] loving what they do. But there’s also a feeling of overwhelming at times.”

He noted he had talked to the Okaloosa County Legislative delegation to the Florida House and Senate about increasing new educators’ time to get their various certifications from three to five years. He noted that a vast majority of new teachers did not get their undergraduate degrees in education – and, therefore, where behind on getting some of those certifications, even though they brought a wealth of knowledge to the classroom. Chambers added that the district hired 160 new teachers last year. Of that cohort, 147 had college degrees in a discipline other than education. This means changing the district’s educational development plans to cater to teachers with a non-traditional path to education. “You’ve got to tailor the professional development to them, so that they’re not overwhelmed. Just like the military, we have so many acronyms in education,” Chambers said with a laugh from the audience, “So simply learning those acronyms is a big deal.”

 

 

It keeps getting more difficult to find teachers and retain them over the course of their career nationwide.

Removing Books From Libraries and Classrooms in Okaloosa County

Another crowd member asked Chambers about book removals from libraries and classrooms for inspection, which took place at the order of Governor Ron DeSantis at the beginning of the school year in August of 2022. “Do you think that recent legislation that causes teachers to take every single book off their silvers to ensure that it is ‘whitelisted’ Do you think that contributes to teachers [quitting]?” she asked. 

“I’ll say, from my standpoint, to our teachers, I absolutely trust our teachers in the decisions that they may make. You will always have folks in our industry where someone might make a decision that doesn’t go with the values of the organization, when it comes to the legislation that deals with classroom libraries or deals with textbooks or novels. One of the things I say is that, ‘if it’s state law, it’s state law.’ and as a constitutional officer, am I going to support the law? Absolutely. Do I think think that certain materials should be in school, [or] certain materials should not be in schools? I think there are certain topics that should be discussed with families. I think that’s important. But as it pertains to banning books, I’m not about banning books, but I am about ‘if it’s the law, and we have to review something, we’ll take the time to review it and then make the best decision,” Chambers responded.

 

 

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