CRESTVIEW — During the summer, Kelli Sanders had been serving as Antioch Elementary School’s interim principal.
Now, it's official: she is the school's new leader.
She replaces Wanda Avery, who's now principal at the Okaloosa STEMM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medical — Academy in Valparaiso.
Sanders has more than 20 years' experience in the Okaloosa School District, serving as an educator and administrator. The Laurel Hill School alumna recently served three years as Riverside Elementary School's assistant principal.
In addition to teaching at Walker Elementary School for 18 years, Sanders served one year as a teacher on special assignment for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice in Okaloosa County.
Sanders, now a first-year school principal, said she has found her ideal school.
“It’s a tough job, but it has been a dream for me and it’s come true,” she said.
Sanders said she's focused on the first week of school for now, but she anticipates expanding the school’s music program with additional instruments. In addition, she'd like to boost tablet use among students.
While still getting to know many of the educators and staff, Sanders said she is already aware of the teacher’s dedication to student’s education.
“(The teachers) are awesome … they have been very supportive and very welcoming to Antioch, which is what makes it great,” she said.
Serving as principal will have its challenges, namely the school’s increasing student population.
Although all teaching positions are currently full, Sanders said the school could need additional teachers, due to the expected student enrollment.
“We are over the class size in some areas, and the (Okaloosa School) District is watching it real close,” she said.
An estimated 889 students are expected to attend Antioch this year. Sanders said the enrollment number could decrease by Monday’s first day back for students.
“Sometimes (families) will leave the area and forget to say (their children) are not coming,” she said. “We want to see if we are truly over the class size limit, before (the district) commits to hiring a teacher.”