STORY OF THE SEASIDE SCHOOL, INC.
Founded in 1996, The Seaside School, Inc. was one of the first and is now one of the oldest surviving public charter schools in the state of Florida. Its original goal was simple – create a school to address the need for better middle school education in Walton County – and we haven’t stopped since. Seaside School now has over 330 students across two campuses serving grades 5th through 12th. Seaside Neighborhood School serves 5th through 8th grades and is located in the iconic beach town of Seaside, Florida. Located on the campus of nearby Northwest Florida State College, Seacoast Collegiate High School serves 9th through 12th grades offering students the ability to graduate high school with an associate college degree.
A SCHOOL TWO DECADES IN THE MAKING
The history of Seaside School cannot be told without a short history of the town of Seaside, Florida. It began in 1979 when Robert Davis inherited 80 acres of land from his grandfather near Seagrove located in Walton County, Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. Robert and his wife Daryl began making plans for the land drawing on the memories of the happy, idyllic family vacations spent on the Florida coast.
Robert and Daryl created a town on a neighborhood scale designed to foster a sense of community, where the streets were interconnected, walking and biking were encouraged with a discernable center that would be a common gathering place for 475 cottage families and all the necessities — shops, eateries, green space, a post office, and … a school. In the process, they launched an entirely new path of planned development called New Urbanism. Its design has been studied and imitated ever since.
If Seaside had not become famous enough through its design and architecture, it became known to everyone when it was the setting for the hit 1998 movie “The Truman Show.” The producers chose the idyllic coastal town filled with pastel colored beach cottages laced with white picket fences because it was a perfect fit for the movie - a fictional story about a man unknowingly starring in a reality television show in an idyllic beach town.
Improbably, the movie had an instrumental role in the history of Seaside School. Robert Davis donated the land on which the school currently sits and the homeowners of Seaside donated the location fees from the making of the movie to build the school’s first building.
THE CHARTER SCHOOL OPENS
Just like Robert and Daryl forged a new path in community design by creating Seaside, diligent parents and community members forged a new path in education by creating The Seaside School, Inc., one of Florida’s first public charter schools.
Dr. Rosemary Williams spear-headed the movement to open a small tuition-free neighborhood school in the town of Seaside for middle school students. The school was built from the vision of individuals who recognize that each student can succeed both academically and socially, even when the middle school years are notoriously seen as a time of self-doubt and low self-esteem. It opened its doors as Seaside Neighborhood School to thirty-six students, two faculty members, and one administrator. The first year, the school was housed in two portables on the grounds of Seaside’s Lyceum lawn. Initially, the school served 6th through 8th grades.
Over the years, Seaside Neighborhood School continued to expand and its students excelled. Ninth grade and then 5th grade were eventually added. The school grew to occupy 3 buildings all in Seaside and housed over 170 students. Inevitably, parents expressed a strong desire to add additional high school grade levels so their children could continue their education in the Seaside tradition.
SEACOAST COLLEGIATE HIGH SCHOOL TAKES SHAPE
In 2013, Seacoast Collegiate High School was founded to expand the scope and service of the original charter. The ninth grade class from Seaside Neighborhood School became the inaugural freshman class of Seacoast and a grade was added each year until the high school served 9th through 12th grades.
A decision had to be made as to whether this new high school’s educational model would be traditional or go in a different direction. Not surprisingly, a different direction was chosen to meet the academic needs of current and future students and prepare them for an ever-increasing competitive market place for college entrance and professional careers. Through research and community input, an educational partnership was formed between Northwest Florida State College and The Seaside School, Inc. to create a collegiate model high school where students could earn college credits in 11th and 12th grades and have the opportunity to graduate with an associate college degree in addition to a high school diploma.
The next decision to be made was to select a name for the new high school. This task was given to the students of Seaside Neighborhood School (the future students of the high school). The winning name was Seacoast Collegiate High School. Wanting to tie the two campuses together, the first three letters remained the same - SEA. Together, both campuses, promote and recognize that each student can succeed both academically and socially.
In 2016, Seacoast graduated its first class of seniors – each receiving a high school diploma and an associate degree from Northwest Florida State College. The graduating class of 2016 achieved a 100% college acceptance rate.
TWENTY+ YEARS OF EXCELLENCE
As the result of dedicated staff, involved parents, and the support of local businesses and community members, Seaside School is one of the top performing schools in the state of Florida, recognized at the national and state levels for academic achievements.
Seaside Neighborhood School received the National 2007 No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools award by U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings. Seaside Neighborhood School was selected for this prestigious award because it models excellence in leadership, instruction, curriculum, student achievement, and parental involvement. Seaside Neighborhood School was among 237 public and 50 private schools in the nation, one of 16 schools in Florida, and one of eight charter schools in the United States to receive this national award.
In 2011, Seaside Neighborhood School was recognized again for its excellence in education by earning a high performing charter school status from the Florida Department of Education. Along with its high performing status, Seaside Neighborhood School established the ranking of third among 583 middle schools in the state of Florida. Since 2011, Seaside School continues to be recognized as one of the highest performing middle schools in the state of Florida.
In 2016, Seaside School was honored by the Florida Department of Education as a “pioneer charter school.” In the state of Florida, Seaside Neighborhood School is ranked in the top 2% of 3,328 middle schools; and Seacoast Collegiate High School ranks in the top 6% of public high schools.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR EDUCATION & INNOVATION
The Seaside Schools, Inc. plans to move forward with a renewed case for support. The Campaign for Education & Innovation will be driven not only by short-term needs, but also by a plan of what the future will hold for our Schools. This project includes building new classrooms and renovating our current building to accommodate an increased number of 5th through 8th grade students, adding program space that will be utilized by both the schools and community in the Seaside neighborhood and securing a permanent home for our Seacoast High School Students will continue to be a priority
Further expanding and improving our buildings allows us to provide a life-changing experience for students across the region. We are truly Charting the Future for all of our children.