The Walton County School District held a virtual EPIC3   V.2. (version two) virtual training on Monday, August 3, 2020 as teachers returned for the first day of school year 2020-2021!  This third EPIC event included all administrators and teacher in the District coming together to celebrate the starting of an EPIC3 V.2 school year. V.2. signifies the continuation of academic strategies and goals which were adjusted when a mandatory school closure was ordered by the Governor due to the statewide pandemic, COVID-19. COVID-19 meant we would re-open under new safety guidelines and procedures. As expected, each school met the challenge in EPIC3 style.  Excitement was in the air as each school held morning trainings focused on using new platforms of instruction, instructional presentation and communication. Sessions emphasizing safety, precautionary protocols and CDC guidelines provided teachers technical assistance for providing safe classroom environments. At noon, Superintendent A. Russell Hughes virtually welcomed new and returning teachers, administrators and district support staff via Microsoft TEAMS, inspiring them to “Hang on, gain on!”  Superintendent Hughes encouraged educators reminding them of their tenacity and grit of Walton students, evident in the overall District grade ranking of 7th and FSA ranking of 8th !  Even though each person returning to their district assignments may find themselves in unchartered waters, Superintendent Hughes impressed upon them although things will be different “we can do it!”  Adding, “It’s strange how we have to do, what we have to do, the way we have to do it right now”, referencing added measures of safety precautions, new virtual platforms for instruction and communication and needing to become flexible and innovative.

As part of the kick-off event, Superintendent Hughes invited guest speaker Gerry Brooks, an elementary school principal in Lexington, Kentucky whose focus is on encouraging and supporting teachers in improving instructional abilities through personal climate and culture strategies. Mr. Brooks shared several reflective principles which are practical for everyone; seeking excellence instead of mediocrity, building collegial relationships, self-rumination, sympathy, empathy, and understanding. His unique brand of humor interlaced with wisdom is currently followed on social media sites by over 500,000 people.  Teachers gained problem solving tools and strategies from Mr. Brook’s presentation which will allow them to view common educational situations through different lenses. Walton School District’s incumbent teacher of the year Meredith Ness reflected on the work of educating students and the importance of providing quality instruction, while the 2020-21 Teacher of the Year, Jeannine Abadie looked forward to the collaboration and continuing the work with expectation.

All presenters provided informative and inspiring professional development sessions designed to support the Superintendent’s vision for Walton County School District.  The day closed with laser focused content area break-out sessions challenging all to work together to help make Walton County School District #1 in the State!

Superintendent Hughes sends special thanks to the many people in the district, as well as community members and business partners who came together as an EPIC team to turn his concept for the event into reality.