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‘I get to’: Superintendent Chambers rallies educators at annual Okaloosa Schools leadership summit

Okaloosa County School District admin gathered for their annual Leadership Summit, where Superintendent Marcus Chambers emphasized fearless leadership, adapting to educational changes, and maintaining a positive mindset to address challenges in modern education and connect with students effectively.

School administrators, board members, and district leadership convened Thursday for the Okaloosa County School District’s annual Leadership Summit, focusing on motivation, reflection, collaboration, and the district’s vision.

  • Amid morning thunderstorms, attendees packed into the main auditorium at Beachside Community Church for the event led by Superintendent Marcus Chambers.
  • The summit served as an opportunity for administrators to align their efforts, develop a shared vision, and enhance the district’s overall school culture.

The morning began with a lighthearted video featuring Chambers, Assistant Superintendents Dr. Lee Hale, John Spolski, and Sheila Lightbourne, along with CFO Julie Perry performing their own rendition of “carpool karaoke” as they prepared for the annual event.

Throughout the day, administrators engaged in various activities to foster collaboration, share ideas, and establish new relationships, especially among new principals.

In his opening speech, Chambers emphasized the critical role of school leadership and the importance of a clear, shared focus. He addressed the challenges facing public education and called on administrators to change the narrative.

  • “Public education has changed,” Chambers said. “And we have an opportunity to take back public education, and I mean this wholeheartedly.”

Chambers urged the assembled leaders to believe in their ability to make a difference. “You have to be an administrator, you have to be a leader that absolutely believes that,” he said. “We can be the ones who are going to say that we’re going to change the narrative.”

The superintendent highlighted three main themes for the summit: “I get to,” the state of Okaloosa schools, and fearless leadership. He encouraged attendees to shift their mindset from “I have to” to “I get to” when approaching their work.

  • “You are in what I believe is the most profound profession and it takes every single one of us to get this done,” Chambers said. “It’s not just about the school administrators, it’s about maintenance folks. It’s about transportation. It’s about the MIS. It’s about finance. It’s about curriculum, student services. It’s everybody coming together to make this operation run.”

Chambers acknowledged the many challenges facing educators, but stressed that there “has never been a more important time for leadership in Okaloosa.”

The superintendent also addressed the evolving landscape of education, touching on historical changes from the introduction of hands-on learning to the impacts of segregation, the space race, special education laws, standardized testing, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

  • “Education today is different,” Chambers said, quoting a statement displayed during his presentation. “So we must realize it for our own sake. And in the midst of today’s educational challenges, there has never been a greater need for consistent and courageous leadership.”

Chambers emphasized that current educational leadership requires fearlessness, toughness, and perseverance. “Today’s leadership is not for the faint of heart,” he said. “It takes people who are fearless. It takes people who are tough. People who can persevere, who can do the things necessary to still keep what’s most important, which is those students.”

The superintendent encouraged administrators to focus on students, take care of teachers and staff, and also look after themselves. He stressed the importance of maintaining a positive mindset in the face of challenges.

  • “We get to be a part of history,” Chambers said, urging leaders to embrace the opportunity to shape the future of education. He highlighted key leadership qualities, including vision, relationships, and effective communication, as crucial elements in navigating the evolving educational landscape.

He also touched on the importance of connecting with students on their level. 

“Today, we get to have the opportunity to meet students in a different place,” he said. The superintendent highlighted how technology has changed student communication, noting, “Kids today, they have their own language.” 

  • To illustrate this point, he shared lighthearted examples of current middle school slang, such as “Skibidi Ohio Rizz” vs. “Rizzly Bear,” terms unfamiliar to many adults. 

And while Chambers was not suggesting that teachers attempt to use these phrases, he stressed that understanding and adapting to students’ evolving communication styles is crucial for effective education. “Those interactions,” he noted, “have the ability to change the trajectory of the student.”

As the summit progressed, administrators were set to continue engaging in collaborative activities and discussions aimed at strengthening leadership and improving educational outcomes across the Okaloosa County School District.

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