CRESTVIEW — Laurel Hill School's state-given D letter grade for the 2012-13 academic year came as no shock, Okaloosa Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson said.
"We were expecting a rough year at Laurel Hill, with all of the staff changes that took place over the past year," she said.
One significant change was installing a new principal, Lee Martello, who previously was Shoal River Middle School's assistant principal.
Though the Florida Department of Education's preliminary rankings suggest Laurel Hill is the county's lowest rated school, Martello said there is only room for improvement.
"I think this is a positive; this gives us the opportunity to see where we need to focus," she said.
The formulated grading system is based on points each school accumulates in reading, math, science and writing. One area that needs particular focus is the latter, Jackson said.
"We are concerned about the writing scores; we are not happy about that at all," she said.
Laurel Hill School's writing scores dropped from 70 to 38 percent, but it wasn't the lone school that saw a significant drop. Baker School's writing score dropped from 84 to 43 percent.
Baker School's seven-year run as an A school ended by earning a B for 2012-2013 year.
Crestview High School maintained its A grade.
School district officials plan to bring Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate writing courses to both schools, Jackson said.
Jackson offered additional teaching positions at Laurel Hill following last year's drop from a B to a C.
"We have put in professional development in mathematics and reading, which should be reflective in next year's grade," she said.
Jackson, a Laurel Hill School alumna, said she believes the school will rebound with a higher grade next year.
"I believe in the students and that school," she said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.