It was a tough day Thursday for Okaloosa County schools.
First, Daily News reporter Tom McLaughlin reported that a former employee – and now again a current employee – who the School Board voted to terminate Dec. 11, 2017, for gross insubordination, misconduct and harassment, had to be rehired.
An administrative law judge ruled Nov. 9 that Stephen Hall had to be reinstated because the School District failed during an August appeals hearing to establish just cause for firing him.
See, Hall had been accused by four women of harassment, but the legal team that argued the case to uphold the firing called on only one of those women to testify at the appeals hearing.
So, Hall has his job back and all the pay he missed along with it. That’s right, Hall also has to be paid for all the time he missed while he was unemployed. It’s a mistake by the Okaloosa County School District that can’t happen.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the fallout from the district’s child abuse scandal continued to play out in another courtroom later in the day.
Three School District employees were sentenced, including former teacher Marlynn Stillions, who will serve seven years in prison for abusing Noah Perillo, a 4-year-old nonverbal autistic child in her care.
Stillions was convicted on three counts of child abuse in October.
McLaughlin also reported on this case.
Okaloosa County Circuit Judge Michael Flowers "said Stillions had attempted to convince him in correspondence sent after the conviction to place blame for her actions on fellow educators, or ‘someone from the top’ in the Okaloosa County School District,” McLaughlin wrote.
And while we can’t agree with Stillions that she shouldn’t shoulder the blame for her despicable actions, we can agree that something needs to be done at the top.
Two other School District employees also saw their sentences handed down Thursday. Stacie Smith, a former assistant superintendent of human resources, and Angelyn Vaughan, who was principal at Kenwood Elementary School when reports of Stillions’ child abuse began to surface, each agreed to plea deals.
Both accepted the deals to reduce their charges from felony failure to report child abuse to the misdemeanor charge of accessory after the fact for failure to report child abuse.
We previously used this space to ask Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson to remove herself from her position within the school system. And while that request still stands and the cases above again prove that she is unable to lead the district, we now call on Gov. Rick Scott or Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis to handle this situation and remove her.
In one day we saw the absolute mess that is the current state of the School District. Taxpayer money is being thrown away, a custodian is being rehired after being accused by four women of sexual harassment, a teacher is going to jail, and Jackson continues to somehow have a job.
There obviously is a lack of control in the school system, and it starts at the top.