When Seacoast Collegiate High School opened its doors for a new school year last week, students saw a new principal at the helm. His name is Scott O'Prey.
O'Prey grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York, and graduated from the State University of New York at Cortland.
He began his teaching career in Houston and earned a master's degree at Sam Houston State University. O'Prey finished his doctorate in educational administration and supervision at the University of Houston.
Seacoast Collegiate High School will be his seventh principal position leading kindergarten through 12th grade. The past four years he led a K-8 charter school in Georgia where he served as principal and superintendent of the local education agency.
While living in the Atlanta area, and hailing back to the time he lived in Texas, O'Prey discovered South Walton's beaches and began vacationing here.
"When I saw this job come up, I said if I don't at least apply I will kick myself later," he said.
O'Prey has been hired not only as principal of Seacoast Collegiate High School, but to also wear the hat of Head of Schools for Seaside Schools Inc. This means he is also over Seaside Neighborhood School, although Principal Kim Mixson remains. Head of Schools is a newly created title.
"I am principal of the high school and two campuses," explained O'Prey. "The board wanted someone to be responsible for both."
Half of the students at Seacoast attend Northwest Florida State College, earning their AA degree while in high school.
Challenges that O'Prey sees are balancing the different locations, which he said is not like most schools where all are under one roof.
"And students who go up to the NWFSC campus don't come back to this campus except for school activities. I need to figure out how to spend quality time with them so students know who their principal is," he said.
In the near future an elementary K-4th grade school will be built that O'Prey will also have responsibility for.
Meanwhile, O'Prey, who has lived in South Walton for only one month, is getting used to the community, and he has had a good start.
The day he moved in kids from the school came out and helped the family unload.
"That friendliness and willingness to help is incredible," he said. "When we lived in Texas we lived in a small town an hour outside Houston that had one high school. Everybody knew everybody. That is one thing I have noticed here. It's generational. That's the part where it will take time to develop relationships. I just have to get used to a slower pace. Funny that there are less people here now than there were a month ago."
O'Prey is also looking to familiarize himself with the business community and will be looking at connecting through the Walton County Chamber and Economic Development Alliance to build relationships.
"I am looking for mentorships for students so they know what the real world is like," he said.
A goal O'Prey would like to accomplish is to have a K-12 system of schools where students enroll in kindergarten and know there is a place for them through the 12th grade.
O'Prey lives with his wife and daughter, both of whom are job hunting, at their new home in Freeport. He has another daughter who is a teacher in Augusta.
His office is located at the Seacoast campus, 109 Greenway Trail.