“While we have found that the evidence presented to us is insufficient to allow us to indict Mary Beth Jackson on any criminal charges, we continue to lack confidence in her abilities to serve as Superintendent of Schools for Okaloosa County. As stated in our previous report, we are most concerned about her behavior, lack of leadership, and failure to fulfill her obligations as superintendent.”
SHALIMAR — In a scathing report released Friday afternoon, a grand jury called for the Florida Department of Education to review Okaloosa County School District Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson, citing concerns over her leadership abilities and behavior.
The report, which was filed June 13 and unsealed Friday, is a follow-up to the first grand jury report released March 18, in which jurors called for the State Attorney’s Office to continue investigating the superintendent.
READ a compilation of stories about the School District abuse investigation.
Like the first report, the grand jurors again found no sufficient evidence to support criminal charges, but did issue a blistering assessment of Jackson in her role as superintendent of schools.
“While we have found that the evidence presented to us is insufficient to allow us to indict Mary Beth Jackson on any criminal charges, we continue to lack confidence in her abilities to serve as Superintendent of Schools for Okaloosa County,” the report read. “As stated in our previous report, we are most concerned about her behavior, lack of leadership, and failure to fulfill her obligations as superintendent.”
The jurors went on to request that the Florida Department of Education review the matter and “take appropriate action against Ms. Jackson.”
In a statement to the Daily News on Friday, Jackson said she “appreciates all the hard work by the State Attorney and the grand jury.
“I am hoping that we can move forward now and be a better school district in the future,” she said.
The Florida Department of Education could review the report and make a determination about Jackson’s teaching certificate and salary. Gov. Rick Scott is the only person with the authority to remove Jackson from office, according to Bill Bishop, chief assistant state attorney for Okaloosa County.
Her four-year term ends in 2020.
Jurors originally were called upon to look at flawed school district operations, policies and procedures that included evidence of child abuse, sexual misconduct and cheating. They also saw evidence that faculty, staff and administrators had turned a blind eye to all of it.
The grand jury was provided testimony concerning the suspicious closing of an investigation documenting physical abuse on the part of a special education teacher.
Jurors were made aware of the arrests of four school officials, including one teacher charged with child abuse and three others, including and district’s former assistant superintendent of human resources, for failing to report child abuse.
In February the grand jury issued a harshly worded report placing much of the blame for the district’s dysfunction on Jackson.
Jackson, the grand jury said, had failed to fulfill her obligations as both a superintendent and an elected official.
It said it was Jackson’s duty to see that employees were properly trained and supervised, and made aware of their obligation to report child abuse. It called upon her to revise and enforce district policies and procedures.
Most seriously, it questioned “inconsistent statements” Jackson made in denying any knowledge in the disappearance of the investigative report.
It called upon the State Attorney’s Office to look specifically at Jackson to see if evidence existed of criminal behavior, and State Attorney Bill Eddins vowed to do so.
On Friday, Bishop said the most recent report would conclude the investigation.
“This has been a very thorough investigation by the office of the state attorney,” he said. “We have reviewed thousands of pages of documents, we spoke to numerous witnesses, we reviewed and considered all complaints that had been made by numerous individuals, and those have been reviewed, investigated and presented to the grand jury.
“They made the determination that there should be no criminal charges, as indicated by the report,” Bishop continued. “This will bring an end to the investigation unless some new information comes to light.”