School Board Approves New Administrators

The Okaloosa County School Board approved the following new administrators at the June 10, 2019, School Board Meeting: Melissa Kearley as the Principal of Riverside Elementary School; JulieAnn Smith as the Assistant Principal at Mary Esther Elementary School; Jordan Berry as the Assistant Principal at Lewis School; and Nick Kootsouradis as the Assistant Principal at Lewis School.

Melissa Kearley, Principal of Riverside Elementary

Melissa Kearley, Principal of Riverside Elementary

Melissa Kearley grew up in Niceville, Florida, and is a product of the Okaloosa County School District. She attended Bluewater Elementary School, Ruckel Middle School and finished at Niceville High School, where her picture still hangs on the “Wall of Fame”. Melissa attended the University of West Florida where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education K-6 with her ESOL and Reading Endorsement. Her career began as a second-grade teacher at Northwood Elementary School in Crestview, Florida.

Looking forward and knowing that administration was her passion, she enrolled in the Educational Leadership Master’s Program through the University of West Florida. After completing her degree, she had the opportunity to serve as Northwood’s guidance counselor as a “Teacher on Special Assignment”. Moving closer to her life goal of being a principal, she decided to apply for the Assistant Principal position at Riverside Elementary where she has spent the past 4 years working and training under her mentor, Tammy Matz. While learning and growing alongside the Riverside staff, she had the opportunity to work with the Contract Negotiations Team, the Pupil Progression Plan committee, and became a Trauma-Informed Trainer. She has since trained several of Okaloosa County’s current employees and several newcomers during their orientations.

Kearley believes every student should end each school year with at least a year’s worth of growth. She believes everyone should have this shared vision for all students and plans to lead with positivity, encouragement, motivation, and praise. It is important to her that students and teachers have a growth mindset about themselves and their academic success. She believes partnerships with parents and the greater community are essential to enriching the experience at Riverside Elementary.

Melissa is over the moon excited to have reached this goal in life and can’t wait to see what the future holds! During her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, shopping, and going to the beach. She is the proud wife of Michael and mother of three precious children Maylin, Kendall, and Maddax.

JulieAnn Smith, Assistant Principal at Mary Esther School

JulieAnn Smith, Assistant Principal at Mary Esther School

JulieAnn Smith says that she was introduced to the real meaning of servant leadership when she first met with Mary Esther Elementary School Principal Jason McClelland two summers ago to discuss her internship for Okaloosa County School District leadership. McClelland was sweeping his school cafeteria with a push broom before his students came in for breakfast. He saw something that needed to be done for his students and he jumped in to do it.

Smith has had a heart for students since she first began her career in education 21 years ago, after completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Education at a former New England Teacher’s College. She earned her Master’s Degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT and her Educational Leadership from George Washington University in D. C. JulieAnn taught in the classroom for 16 years, and has since been serving the teachers of Okaloosa County as an Instructional Coach and then delivering professional development to English Language Arts and social studies teachers.

Grateful to her husband Mark, JulieAnn wishes to thank him in advance for all of the ways he will also be assisting as she settles in at Mary Esther Elementary School. She would also like to thank Marcus Chamber, Superintendent of Schools; Shelia Lightbourne, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum; Cindy Gates, Director l, Principals and Special Projects; and Jeff Palmer, Director Secondary Education for their continued and ongoing support. She also wishes to thank the staff, students, and faculty at Mary Esther, who two summers ago reminded her of some very important life lessons:

  • when your life gets messy (and it will), you roll up your sleeves and grab a broom;
  • if you don’t have enough, there’s always the Thunderbird share bucket;
  • if you have too much, there’s always the Thunderbird share bucket;
  • if you look to the left and right- those people sitting with you on the lunch bench are your friends- even if they look and speak differently than you;
  • if you don’t know the answer, it is okay to take a deep breath and count out the answer on your fingers;
  • and every school cafeteria really does smell like macaroni and cheese- and smells like Home.

Jordan Berry, Assistant Principal at Lewis School

Jordan Berry, Assistant Principal at Lewis School

Jordan Berry was born and raised in Bradenton, Florida, where he graduated from Manatee High School in 2003. After lettering in baseball, he was recruited by Central Florida Community College (CFCC) to play for two years. While at CFCC, he received his AA degree and was named to the all-conference team both years. Jordan continued his baseball career at the University of West Florida, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in History.

In 2008, Berry began his teaching career at Escambia High School in Pensacola, Florida. During his time at Escambia, he taught intensive reading, world, and U.S. history classes while coaching cross country, girls’ soccer, and baseball.

Berry met his amazing wife, Liz, in 2008 and they married in 2010. They have two beautiful children, Nataleigh and Jack. He and his family moved to Niceville, Florida in 2014 and he began teaching social studies at Lewis School where he continued his coaching career. Jordan earned his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership in 2018 from the University of West Florida and was hired the following year to serve as the Dean of Students at Lewis School.

Nick Kootsouradis, Assistant Principal at Lewis School

Nick Kootsouradis is a 25-year Educator with the Okaloosa County School District. He has served as a Social Studies teacher, Dropout Prevention teacher, and Coach at Baker School and Crestview High School as well as an Assistant Principal for Baker before serving as an Assistant Superintendent for the District. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from California University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of West Florida.