NICEVLLE — James Lee Hale and Sheila Lightbourne will join the staff of Okaloosa County School District Superintendent Marcus Chambers as assistant superintendents after being appointed to new positions earlier this week.

Hale was promoted from principal of Choctawhatchee High School to assistant superintendent of human resources. Lightbourne will transition from her position as secondary curriculum director to assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

Chambers had held both positions before Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him superintendent to replace Mary Beth Jackson, who DeSantis suspended in January.  

"I just want to thank the board for this opportunity,” Lightbourne told the School Board after her appointment. “I am very proud to take this position.”

Hale's appointment was met with a stipulation by two School Board members. Diane Kelley and Linda Evanchyk suggested that Hale take more human resource training before assuming his new role.

“I know that No. 5 in our job description for that position requires certification in HR and our personnel oversights,” Kelley said. “I’m looking for the superintendent to send Dr. Hale to any training he needs so he can be up to speed.”

Evanchyk said one reason she supported Hale for his new post was that he would join a strong team of leaders that could help guide him as he learns the job.

“This is probably one of the most important appointments you’ve done to date, superintendent,” Evanchyk told Chambers. “I know that with the training that will be good, but also he is joining a department that is very strong. Truthfully, that helped me sway my decision on this appointment.”

Former Assistant Superintendent of HR Stacie Smith was arrested on three felony charges of failure to report child abuse in January 2018. Her arrest stemmed from a child abuse investigation that led to seven other employees being arrested.

“I am looking forward to the challenge,” Hale said. “I am looking forward to getting up to speed. I am very excited for challenge, but I also know that there is a lot of work in front of me, but I am up to the task.”

The selection process for senior staff positions such as assistant superintendents is conducted by Chambers, who then recommends people to the School Board for approval.

Chambers received 15 applications for the human resources job and interviewed five applicants before he chose Hale.

Chambers received two applications assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. Lightbourne was the only one who met all the minimum requirements.

Salaries for assistant superintendents range from $85,9560 to $127,417, depending on experience.