Plenty has been made of the Mary Beth Jackson administration of the Okaloosa School District in this election cycle.
Jackson, the former superintendent of Okaloosa County Schools was ultimately suspended by Governor Ron DeSantis in relation to the abuse of a child with Autism at Kenwood Elementary school in 2017.
The governor ultimately allowed Jackson to be reinstated. She retired immediately after she was reinstated and is retired with a pension from the State of Florida as a public employee.
Although Jackson herself has been out of the public eye since her final court case wrapped up in 2020, her name and the abuse investigation which caused a firestorm over Okaloosa County Schools’ management lives on in the 2022 school board election.
Which brings us to August 1st’s meeting of the Niceville Republican Women Federated meeting.
A total of 12 employees at Kenwood Elementary School were referred to the Florida Department of Education’s Professional Practices unit. That’s the regulatory body that can revoke teacher’s certificates, along with other punishments. According to the DOE’s website, Professional Practices “plays an integral part in ensuring that appropriate disciplinary actions are taken against the certificate of an educator certified to teach in Florida. The Office of Professional Practices Services (PPS) investigates alleged misconduct by educators in Florida who hold an educator’s certificate and pursues disciplinary actions against the certificates of educators found to have committed acts of misconduct.”
The one teacher in the batch of 12 employees was investigated by Professional Practices, but they took no action against the teacher, according to Chambers.
Additionally, Chambers said, the Okaloosa County Administrative Staff talked to all 12 of the staff members about the incident and placed a formal letter or guidance in their personnel files.
Finally, all Okaloosa County School District employees now are required to undergo mandatory reporter training every year.
At the meeting of the republican women’s organization, superintendent chambers was asked two questions about the investigation and its fallout; which he answered with the help of notes due to “federal litigation” he referenced before he responded.
The moderator of the forum asked the superintendent, “During the Kenwood Elementary investigation, over a dozen Kenwood Elementary Employees were identified by the sheriff’s department as not properly reporting child abuse. Was this ignored, or was there any follow up?”
Chambers told the group that he and his staff, along with the school board, worked to revamp the policy which is implemented when abuse is alleged.
He said if there is an allegation of child abuse, there are four steps that must take place.
“Was all of that happening before?,” Chambers asked rhetorically, “I don’t think so. And now, absolutely.” He added that the policy is “aboslutely” being followed by teachers, administrators and other employees of the district.
“When you have large organizations, you’re going to have things happen from time to time,” Chambers added, “But when you do have things happen, we are absolutely going to hold folks accountable.”
Chambers returned to the past. He said in 2019, after winning his first full term as superintendent, his office and the board implemented mandatory instruction in mandatory reporting policies for all teacher in the district, on a yearly basis.
After answering questions about the child abuse investigation at Kenwood Elementary, the moderator asked him whether or not he would go any further than other law enforcement and political entities had against Jackson.
“As far as the school district reopening something that the governor has already made a stance on, that the sheriff’s office has already made a stance on and the state attorney’s office has already made a stance on – there would be no point for me to go further than what they’ve already done,” Chambers said.
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