Energy Flows, Donations Increase as Destin High School Moves Closer to Reality

By Thomas J. Monigan


Nearly 500 locals showed up recently to celebrate the campaign that would open the doors of the first Destin High School in August.


“I was absolutely thrilled, the turnout was fantastic,” said Prebble Ramswell, president of the proposed school’s governing board. “I think everybody came away from it with a better grasp of what Destin High School wants to be and more about community involvement.”


Destin United Methodist Church, located on 8.4 acres with a Beach Drive address, is slated to be the DHS campus. Music and cheers rocked the gymnasium there throughout the recent “pep rally” event.


Proposed as a tuition-free charter school, Destin High would open with 200 students in the ninth grade and 150 in the 10th grade. Deadline to apply is Feb. 15.


If there are more applications than that, a random lottery would choose who would be accepted.


Unveiled at the climax of the event was a “teaser” logo designed by eighth-grader Briar Ramswell, who was among the cheerleaders from Destin Middle School at the event. The official logo has yet to be finalized.


So were school colors and a mascot.


Colors are Cerulean blue, silver and black, as submitted by Emily Stephens. She teaches at Destin Elementary.


Shark is the mascot, which was a contest tie between Gloria Tucker and Brooke O’Keefe.


Tucker’s great, great grandfather was William T. Marler, one of Destin’s founders. O’Keefe grew up in Destin schools and is a senior at Fort Walton Beach High School.


Comments from the big event:


Grace Fountain, a ninth-grader at South Walton High School: “I think it’s very cool that my mom (Denise) is involved with this (on the governing board). It will be cool to be the first graduating class, because you always have that.”


Ella Stone, The Shark, daughter of board treasurer Sarah Stone: “It’s cool (being in the costume) but it’s definitely nerve-wracking just a little, because everyone’s going to be seeing it for the first time and no one knows what it is yet. It’s pretty exciting though.”


Drew Palmer. He and wife Jodi have daughters Reagan, a freshman at FWBHS, and Riley, a seventh-grader at Destin Middle: “It’s not just about my kids…not just about the next four to six years. Just think about the next 10 to 20 years and kids who have graduated from Destin High School. What an amazing opportunity it is to be here today and to be a part of the inception of such an important thing for our community. You can give money, you can give your time, you can give your talents. There’s so many ways to be involved.”


State Rep. Mel Ponder, former Mayor of Destin: “This is a new day in the city of Destin. This is where our own get to stay here in this hometown. This is our school, this is your school. This is a culture of honor and community and a hometown team. Our moment in history will be recorded by what we do with what’s been given to us. Our moment in history starts from tonight going forward. We can create it, we can breathe life into it and we can have fun doing it.”


Christy Noe, CEO of The Collaborative Educational Network, is the major consultant on this project. Her comments dealt with “Generation Z,” those born after 1997, and what curriculum would be offered at DHS:

“Your kids know more about technology than we ever did. They’re not thinking like we did. They don’t do the same things that we do. So guess what? Teaching kids today is not the same thing that we all are thinking high school is. So when I talked to this group about curriculum, it’s a little bit different. Yes, it’s a high school, but our vision is a little bit different.


“We want all students to be college and career ready. We want our students to know what it is they like and to understand something about themselves. We want something that is individualized about students. We want your kids to be engaged and how they are going to be engaged is because we’re going to make sure that what we’re doing is relevant and connected to who they are.”


Thomas J. Monigan’s career as a reporter and editor has seen him work at newspapers in New Jersey, New York City, Georgia, northern California and North Carolina. He has written newspaper and magazine stories that have taken him from Pensacola to Panama City, as well as coastal Alabama.


Want to Donate?


Contact Sarah Stone at 850-598-6888 or


From Kay Phelan: At the Town Hall Pep Rally, Destin residents Allen and Dee Dee Phillips donated $200,000, and others in attendance donated another $22,000.


From Thomas Monigan: Weeks before the event, Jackson White, owner and general manager of Mills Heating & Air in Fort Walton Beach, donated $50,000.


“I believe it’s going to be a huge asset for the community,” said White, the son of an auto mechanic who “found welding in high school.”


The Trades Classroom at DHS will be named in honor of Mills Heating & Air.


Donations toward the projected $2 million renovation of the campus were calculated at $423,707.63 following the recent event.


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