The Walton County School District held an EPIC event on August 3rd at Freeport High School as teachers came back to the first day of school year 2017-2018!  Paxton High School band set the mood outside as the crowd was entering the building with pep tunes, and the new district Van was on display showing all the amazing features that will be invaluable tools for reaching out in the community.  Inside, the excitement in the air was electric as Superintendent A. Russell Hughes welcomed new and returning teachers, administrators and district support staff to the event that exemplifies his vision for the Future of the Walton County School District!

Superintendent Hughes first thanked our many community partners for their assistance and participation in the event, and during a highly motivational speech he explained to the enthusiastic crowd of educators and administrators how he came to the new motto for the district.  "Teaching is the most highly complex profession in the world, but you chose to do've been chosen to be a part of this EPIC Team, and we are wanting to make sure that everyone who comes to Walton County understands that The Walton County Way is EPIC:  Excellence, Professionalism, Innovation and Collaboration!" 

Mr. Hughes shared the Mission Statement of the Walton County School District: "Preparing the Whole Child for a Lifetime of Success" and encouraged the audience to remember that "we are teaching our students to be lifelong learners" and challenged them to see themselves "as a conduit through which students can realize their full potential and pursue their dreams, goals and ambitions." 

As part of the kick-off event, Superintendent Hughes invited guest speaker Michael Bonner, recently featured on the Ellen Degeneres Show, to share his story in hopes that he might inspire teachers to be creative, innovative, and engaging as they go above and beyond to help students succeed.  Mr. Bonner teaches 2nd grade at North Carolina's South Greenville Elementary, where the majority of students have difficult family dynamics and many are homeless. The school is 100% FRL (free and reduced lunch), and is located in an impoverished neighborhood in Eastern North Carolina. 

"With only four years in K-12 education, Mr. Bonner is consistently seen as a visionary leader who strives to create a positive mindset among all of his students.  He understands that his students come to class each day with diverse backgrounds, strengths, needs, and challenges, and seeks to identify strategies to ensure the growth of their social, emotional, academic, and psychological needs. Because of his approach to education, students leave feeling a little more hopeful, challenged, inspired, and forever a part of Bonnerville!"  (from his website:

Over 70 presenters in content and choice sessions provided informative and inspiring professional development sessions, a delicious lunch was provided by a host of our community partners, and the day ended with a rousing closing pep rally that included inspiring comments from the Walton County Teacher of the Year, Kathleen Redfern.  

Superintendent Hughes sends special thanks to the many people who came together as an EPIC team to turn his concept for the event into reality.  

submitted by Keitha Bledsoe