Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran visited Riverside Elementary for a book giveaway. During his visit, he gave his thoughts on Governor Ron DeSantis' handling of former Okaloosa Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson.

CRESTVIEW — Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran made a special appearance at Riverside Elementary on Thursday morning.

 

Corcoran visited the school for a special book giveaway to Ms. Osborn’s second-grade class. Corcoran and Dr. Dakeyan Chá Dré Graham, Florida’s teacher of the year, read Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” to the class and gave each student a copy of another Dr. Seuss classic: “Hop on Pop.”

After completing the classroom visit, Corcoran spent some time talking with media about changes in the school district, including the recent resignation of former Okaloosa Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suspended Jackson in January amid allegations of wrongdoing.

“One of the governor’s first actions, and I applaud him, I think it was a great action, was removing the existing superintendent,” Corcoran said. “When you’re dealing with 5-year-old children with disabilities and they’re not being protected, it is one of the most egregious, disgusting accounts I’ve seen in my short term.”

The now former superintendent was allowed a brief reinstatement in order to give her letter of resignation from the position. Prior to her resignation, Jackson had been fighting the suspension. Resigning from the position allows Jackson the opportunity to receive pay she missed while suspended.

“His point was ‘I find you unfit under the constitution. I find you incompetent. I find malfeasance, I find misfeasance, all of the constitutional provisions unfit to hold that particular position. I will allow you to go out with your head held high, but you will not hold this position.’” Corcoran said. “I think it was a great resolution all the way around, and I think the governor got exactly what he said needed to happen and the Okaloosa people are far better off because of it.”

Jackson has since requested that the School District cover the roughly $282,000 she paid attorneys to fight the suspension. Corcoran said he was unsure if the state would be involved in the possible collection of attorney fees, but a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Education said it was very unlikely.

“The settlement moves the county forward and saves them years of haggling and litigation. We had full confidence in the governor and his staff from the beginning to handle this matter, keeping the best interests of our students as priority. The events are over, we know what happened, the county and schools are moving forward in a positive way,” Taryn Fenske, Director of Communications Florida Department of Education said in an emailed statement.

Corcoran would not comment on if he thought the decision to allow Jackson to be reinstated and to receive pay and possible legal fees was fair, but said the most important thing to come from the events was her official removal from office.

“Children are protected and changes are made,” Corcoran said. “A new person, Superintendent (Marcus) Chambers, has been put in place that can guarantee to every single parent in this district that, yes, your child is safe and, yes, your child will get a world-class education.”