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District Administrator
Okaloosa County School District
Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Cable System: Cox Communications

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Dr. Cheryl SealsBelieving in the value of a supportive educational climate for student success, Cheryl Seals began thinking about how parents, teachers, the school district and the community could communicate and work together to foster positive educational outcomes for all students. With that goal in mind, Seals, now an administrator with the Okaloosa County School District in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., created the "Academic Excellence Society" (AES), to help address the minority student achievement gap. Through AES, members of the school district, local churches, parents and civic leaders collaborate to foster a program for educational excellence in Okaloosa County.

Since its inception, AES has made a difference. It hosted an educational summit on narrowing the achievement gap that brought together community leaders, parents and the school district to collaborate on a strategic plan. This led to the creation of a local "Summer Bridge" program. Last year, this academic program, designed to prepare students for honors and advanced placement coursework, served 30 middle school students. AES also partnered with Cox Communications, Striving for Perfection Ministries and Okaloosa School District's Office of Community Affairs to launch a mentor telethon. Since the telethon, 323 mentors have been recruited to work with at-risk students.

Seals' program has helped strengthen professional development for teachers in the school district. Through AES, teachers have learned how to analyze and interpret minority student data in order to identify effective strategies to encourage academic achievement.

"AES recognizes the importance of the role of parents and the community in the life of our students. We strive to foster a positive relationship between the parent, school, student and community."