It's Official: Destin High- the Dream Becomes Reality
Back in 2014, when I began my first campaign for Destin City Council, I was on a mission to learn the needs and wants of the community. The feedback I received was both exciting and surprising. A common refrain among the hot button topics was the need for a high school in Destin. I had never really thought about local high schools since I was still relatively new to the area and my own daughter was in her first years at Destin Elementary—a hundred years away from high school it seemed at the time. However, the more I sunk my teeth into the subject, the more I could see that a high school on this side of the bridges wasn’t just a wish-list item, it had become a significant need.
When I first floated the idea of starting a Destin High School, I received one of three responses: 1) Why hasn’t anyone done this before? 2) There aren’t enough students to warrant having a high school. 3) We need a high school, but it will never happen.
Subsequent research led to the discovery that a high school had been attempted before. In fact, one of our board members, Jim Luttrell, was part of the effort back in the 1990s! He was told his daughter, now in her 40s, would be part of the first graduating class. Not enough students? Destin Elementary is the 2nd largest elementary school in Okaloosa County with about 940 students, yet it only has K-4th grade! It is over capacity, as are Destin Middle School, Niceville, and Fort Walton Beach High Schools. In fact, only four of the 14 middle and high schools in Okaloosa County are not over capacity. As for not being able to make it happen: I love a challenge, so such sentiment served as a motivator rather than a roadblock.
Armed with data and determination, in June of 2016, I asked the City Council for authority to create the Destin High School Advisory Committee. Our goal was determining whether a high school in Destin was feasible and viable. We crunched numbers, brainstormed with people around the state who had opened schools, and came to a very obvious conclusion: opening a high school in Destin was no longer about just being desired, feasible and viable, it had become a necessity. We developed a project plan and enlisted experts to assist; we hired a firm to write our charter; we applied for, and won, one of the largest charter school program grants ever offered by the Florida DOE.
As a board, we have been blessed with a dedicated group of community members who have contributed their talents in a variety of valuable ways. Our new principal, Christine Cruickshank, has made an immediate impact. The school board and Superintendent Marcus Chambers have been extremely helpful guiding us through the process of approving our charter. However, none of this would be possible without the support of the community. I thank you all.
Destin High School is now the official owners of 4325 Commons Dr W in Destin. When we open our doors in August, it will be almost five years to the day since the board’s first meeting. It is going to be a momentous occasion for us but more importantly for the entire community. We are honored to have our vision become a reality. As for Jim, who began this journey nearly 25 years ago, he now looks forward to having his granddaughter attend the school.
Destin High School is now accepting applications for incoming 9th, 10th and 11th graders. Visit www.destinhighschool.org for more information.
Prebble Ramswell President, Destin High School