An Okaloosa County School District investigator has dismissed as unsubstantiated the large majority of complaints brought by a parent against Baker School Principal Mike Martello.
The charges stemmed from Martello’s handling of an investigation into claims made against Johnny C. Alexander, a Baker teacher.
Alexander resigned in January following allegations he played vulgar radio lyrics and spoke inappropriately about sexual issues with students traveling with him on a field trip to South Walton High School.
Investigator Matthew Pellegrino determined Martello did not lie, bully or intentionally fail to follow protocol in meeting with a witness who complained about Alexander’s behavior. Nor did he cover up Alexander’s wrongdoing, a report released Friday said.
Also dismissed were charges that delays caused by Martello’s slow reaction to the complaint against Alexander prevented parents and school administrators from knowing sooner than they did about the teacher’s activities.
Martello did not create an environment in which a student who complained about Alexander felt “she had to leave the school because her complaint was dismissed and not taken seriously,” Pellegrino said in his report.
The investigator did find that Martello failed to enforce a School District policy dictating that certain requirements must be met for out-of-county travel and travel in the personal vehicle of a teacher.
He also substantiated an allegation that Martello did not “obtain written witness statements” or “properly document his inquiry” in his initial investigation of the student’s complaint.
Martello will receive a letter of reprimand from the School District, according to Assistant Superintendent Steve Horton.
The report filed Friday states Martello had known prior to Alexander’s resignation that he had discussed living with depression with his students and that he’d played truth or dare in his classroom. He had counseled Alexander on both matters, the report said.
He also knew and had permitted Alexander to take students to South Walton High School, where they live-streamed a high school football game. He was unaware, the report said, that the students did not make it back to Baker before 1 a.m. the next morning.
Documents provided to the Daily News showed there were four passengers in the vehicle with Alexander and all four testified he let one of them “play music with inappropriate sexually explicit lyrics.”
Alexander also engaged the students in his car in conversation about the topics of rape, masturbation and anal sex, a report into his behavior found, and discussed “slang sexual terms.”
Cindy Straight, the mother of one of the passengers in the vehicle, said the children who Alexander addressed were eighth- and ninth-graders. She said the mother who brought the incident to her attention had a girl student who was not often exposed to Alexander.
Straight said her own son said such conversations with the teacher, whose communications class he’d been attending for two years, were not out of the ordinary.
Alexander denied the investigative findings when the Northwest Florida Daily News spoke to him following his resignation.
"What was alleged against me is all hearsay based on misinterpretations. I don't recall saying anything inappropriate because I did not say anything inappropriate,” he said.