In 1997, South Walton had one middle school that served the area, and that was the old Bay School in Point Washington.
Locals wanted another option, but the county's school board, which was based in DeFuniak Springs, did not think another school was needed, as south of the Bay was mainly a tourist area.
However, locals did not agree and sought support from Seaside Town Founder Robert Davis as his town plan called for a neighborhood school.
Seagrove resident and attorney Billy Buzzett was asked to become the proposed school's first president and lead in securing the charter. Buzzett applied and received a three-year charter. The school was one of the first three schools in the state to receive a charter.
However, it was mandated new schools be on the same schedule as the county's other schools, which were about to start.
"We met on Tuesday night and had to start school the next day to be on the same schedule," remembers Buzzett. "We signed contracts on the hood of my car."
One of the three teachers who signed her contract on the hood of Buzzett's car was Kim Mixson, who reported for school the next morning in a portable building in
Thirty-six students showed up that first morning and enrolled as the first students at the newly-chartered
Mixson had read ads about the school that was being planned to open at
The tactic worked and Mixson got her interview. Mixson laughs today as she recalls changing clothes at
"We really started with nothing. Seriously, nothing but the building. That first year was a lot like summer camp. I had a contract to work but it could be cancelled in 30 days. We were all there and extremely hopeful but nothing was certain. Every day we would come to work and we would find donations at the front door. Tables and chairs were donated by the TDC. Parents donated supplies. We really started with nothing. One parent wrote a check for $10,000 and others gave what they could. Rosemary said we were building the plane as we're flying it," Mixson says today with a laugh.
Buzzett concurred. "We begged, borrowed and stole that first year. We drove to
"It was fun and hopeful, new and an adventure," said Mixson. "We were all in it together on a leap of faith, something parents had to have to say I am going to send my kids to this new school that had not been tested. If we decided we wanted to do something, we just did it."
Grading of schools started about the same time that
"What makes it special is the ability to react to change," said Buzzett. "Staff and administration reacts positively to change. Such as when one of the Marsalis brothers came to
Robert Davis donated all proceeds from the town being used for the set in making "The Truman Show" to
The school now has three buildings and has added a grade. It has exceeded expectations year after year and has been named a Blue Ribbon School.
Williams served as principal for three years with no pay.
Mixson is now the school's principal.
The student body is now close to 120 students and those are chosen by lottery due to the school's size restrictions.
Mixson says the key to the school's success is partly the mentoring program, supportive parents, the students, and fabulous teachers.
"We have done things differently. Having the same teachers for two or three years helps build relationships without the kids having to start over. We ask a lot from our students and have a good time together. It's hard work and fun. A neat place. I can't believe how it's changed and how it has stayed the same," said Mixson.
"Today, people look at the school and idyllic setting and say, sure, you can be an 'A' school. But we had two portables when we started and it is as high quality then as now," said Buzzett. "There were so many people that supported this school. Robert Davis came in and taught a class on opera, Tom Christ taught a class on architecture, various artists have taught art lessons ... it's that kind of enthusiasm that makes it what it is. I am glad that 20 years ago I got involved."
Buzzett served as president of the school for eight years. Both of his sons attended the school. He believes that the other two schools that received their charters at the same time, no longer have them and that