CRESTVIEW — New Laurel Hill School principal Lee Martello said she anticipates the K-12 environment and its potential, off-campus impact.

CRESTVIEW — New Laurel Hill School principal Lee Martello said she anticipates the K-12 environment and its potential, off-campus impact.

“Truly everyone in the community invests themselves in the school because that is the center of their lives,” she said. “... I want the school to be the hub of their being so that the family can grow along with the kids.”

Complementing teachers

The former Shoal River Middle School assistant principal — whom Okaloosa School District superintendent Mary Beth Jackson recruited last month for the position, with the school board’s approval — is on campus and assessing needs.

Specific curriculum changes, if any, are unknown, but the Crestview resident will implement initiatives as needed, she said.

“I'm not afraid to try new things,” Martello said. “At the end of the day, even if I'm frustrated and I have to look back and say 'OK, take a deep breath, ' I want to make sure the decisions we make are in the best interest of the child."

That also means working with Laurel Hill’s 25 teachers and support staff to complement their plans, she said.

Martello’s experience in elementary, middle school and high school levels, along with her people skills, should make that easy, Jackson has said.

The administrator was a counselor for six years at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota County; served at Bob Sikes Elementary School and Crestview High School each for a year; and was assistant principal at Richbourg Middle and Shoal River. In that time, she helped develop programs that boosted student enthusiasm for literature and separated boys and girls in gender-specific classes to aid language arts and math comprehension. She also helped establish Shoal River’s lauded Mustang Learning Community.

Eye on emotional health

Students’ academic performance raised concerns, Jackson has said. In December, the Florida Department of Education gave Laurel Hill School a C using the state accountability system.

However, the letter grade receives too much focus, Martello, formerly of the grade-A Shoal River Middle, said.

"My focus is that the kids have a great year of achieving and feeling success in whatever area it might be. That's my personal measure of success: if the kids are growing — even if they are growing incrementally. "

Emotional health also plays a role, she said.  

"Part of it is knowing where the target lies and then developing a prescriptive plan in terms of how can we target and strengthen the weakness,” Martello said. “Also ... it is so important that we meet the social and the emotional needs of the kids. In order for them to focus on academics, we have to have met those needs ... I can work with my teachers to target that and then we can focus on the academic as well to create a well-rounded, successful child. "

She plans to be in the classroom, often, to monitor the process, learn from it, and set an example.

“I want kids to see that every adult on campus is a lifelong learner and I want them to want that for themselves,” she said.

Thomas Boni is the Editor of the Crestview News Bulletin. Email him at, tweet him @cnbeditor, or call 682-6524.