New Principal Tasked With Leading School Back to "A" Rating

Niceville native Melissa Kearley will serve as the next principal of Edge Elementary in the 2022-2023 school year after a unanimous vote by the Okaloosa County School Board. 

Mrs. Kearley, currently the principal at Riverside Elementary School, will take over Edge at a critical time. Edge lost its A rating on the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) after two decades of consistent top marks. The now-B-rated school joins 15 other Okaloosa County Schools which dropped a letter grade on the latest FSA testing cycle. 

“I’m very excited,” Kearley said, “Edge is a school of tradition. I’m excited to come home to Niceville.” Kearley matriculated through Bluewater Elementary, Ruckel Middle and Niceville High Schools before heading to the University of West Florida for her undergraduate and graduate schooling. 

Kearley requested the transfer in June after it was announced to district staff that the current principal, Dr. Samantha Dawson, would be ending her teaching career. The school has ‘double-filled’ the position of Edge Elementary School Principal for a short period of time to allow Dr. Dawson to go on terminal leave, while ensuring Edge Elementary has a principal in the driver’s seat on the first day of school, Wednesday, August 10th. 

When any Principal position becomes available, currently sitting principals have the opportunity to request a transfer into the position based upon district guidelines,” Assistant Superintendent Steve Horton said via email, “The Superintendent may recommend that the School Board approve a transfer, or the position could be opened up to additional interviews. In this case, Ms. Kearley is energetic, driven, and looks to be a great fit at Edge. Superintendent Chambers was pleased to make the recommendation.”

Newly-minted Edge Elementary principal Melissa Kearley poses with Edge Tiger Teachers, School Board Member Diane Kelley and Superintendent Marcus Chambers.
Edge Elementary School Logo
Edge Elementary School serves western Niceville
Edge Elementary School on a summer day before a storm blows in. The school was built in 1950.

School Rankings, FSA and FAST

Kearley comes from Riverside Elementary in Crestview, a school that dropped two letter grades from 2019 (the last year students were tested at the school, due to the pandemic) – from an A to a C on their FSA testing schedule. English and math learning gains among the bottom 25% of pupils at the school brought down the scores of Riverside Elementary School. Along with the school’s science grade, the gains scores were in the mid 40s – causing the school’s final grade to suffer.

Kearley served as the assistant principal of Riverside for five years before serving the last three as principal. Previous to 2019, Riverside spent four years as a “B” graded school. 

Assistant Superintendent Horton says comparing two schools based on their grades or performance isn’t a great way to determine performance for teachers or administrators. That’s why the district’s leadership was happy to see the Governor switch from the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) to the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST) methodology. FAST is a progress monitoring system that assesses students three times per year, instead of at the end of the year. “Progress monitoring provides teachers and parents with feedback about how students are performing on statewide assessments three times a year rather than once at the end of the year,” Deputy Superintendent Horton said, “We’ve been using progress monitoring within the District for some time, but for the state to convert to a progress monitoring system is innovative.” 

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