"Okeechobee” (pronounced slowly, with long vowel sounds throughout) is a Seminole word meaning “Big Water”. An appropriate name for the second largest fresh water lake in the United States. The lake covers an area of nearly half a million acres. The lake is part of the Okeechobee Waterway. which runs from Ft. Myers on Florida's west coast, up through Caloosahatchee, past Moore Haven through the Lake, and via the St. Lucie canal, to Stuart on the east coast of Florida.
The lake is approximately 37 miles long and 30 miles wide. It's approximately 750 square miles in area, 45 miles is the average diameter. The lake is 22 feet deep at its deepest point and averages 12 feet in depth. At present this is the state's only cross state waterway and accommodates commercial vessels as well as pleasure boats.
This mural was created in 1996 on the centennial anniversary of the first permanent settlers in what is now Okeechobee, Florida. It depicts the arrival in 1896 of the Peter and Louisiana Chandler Raulerson family from the Basinger area to a spot less than one half mile south of this location. The center cameo of the mural shows their log house built three years later. Also depicted is a typical Seminole village of the time including pictures of the eight Seminole clan symbols. They are toad, snake, otter, bear, deer, panther, bird, and wind. The Okeechobee Historical Society recognizes those who joined them as major contributors and made this mural possible: Barnett Bank of Lake Okeechobee, Big Lake National Bank, Florida Power and Light Corporation, Okeechobee County School Board, Seminole Tribe of Florida, SunTrust Bank of Okeechobee. It is located on the North side of the gym located on our Freshman Campus. It was painted by John Gutcher.
Okeechobee is the name of our county, our only city, our lake, and our school district. We are located in south central Florida, about 90 miles south of Orlando and 40 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. As you can imagine, we have year-round sunshine. We also have year-round fishing! With no state income tax and a cost of living that is 96% of the Florida statewide average, many seniors have decided to make Okeechobee their permanent home.
The City of Okeechobee is the only incorporated area within Okeechobee County. The city has approximately 6,000 residents and an additional 34,000 people live in the county. The Okeechobee County School District, like all other Florida school districts, serves the entire county. In addition, we serve several hundred students, including Seminole Indians, who live in adjoining counties.
Economically, the school district is the largest employer in the county, with almost 900 regular employees. Agriculture, including dairy farming and beef cattle ranching, is our leading private sector. Tourism is the second major private economic sector. A state prison and several residential juvenile justice facilities located outside of town have provided jobs in the past few years. We have several shopping plazas, including a renovated downtown shopping district. We also have a Walmart Supercenter. We have several great local restaurants.
Okeechobee is just 60 miles from West Palm Beach (SE), Vero Beach (NE) and Sebring (NW). There are 5 large malls within an hour’s drive of downtown Okeechobee. For music lovers, the Kravis Center and Mars Music Amphitheater in West Palm Beach bring in all of the acts that play large cities across the country.
Upon graduation, many of our students attend Indian River State College, which has a branch campus in Okeechobee. The main campus of IRSC is in Fort Pierce, just 40 miles away. Many school district employees take advantage of a unique fee waiver system that reduces tuition charges for courses at IRSC. Florida Atlantic University, based in Boca Raton, has branch campuses in the region and occasionally provides courses in Okeechobee.
The School District
With an enrollment of over 6,000 students, the district has experienced slow, steady growth throughout the modern era. We have not experienced reductions in force, other than temporary summer lay-offs, in half a century.
We currently have 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, 1 freshman campus, 1 regular high school, and 1 alternative high school. All of these schools are in modernfacilities or in completely renovated historical buildings. The district office is in the first brick school building (1916) and the Okeechobee Freshman Campus is housed in the original brick high school (1925). Most of our portable classrooms have been eliminated.
We serve practically everyone, since there are only 4 small, religiously affiliated, private elementary schools and no private secondary schools in the county. More of our students come from low and middle income families. About 8% of our students are limited in their ability to speak English.