TALLAHASSEE — Okaloosa County School District Superintendent Marcus Chambers testified for almost two hours about policies and procedures surrounding neglect and abuse of students in the district.
He said later that he knew he would have to take center stage in the two-day hearing to determine whether previous Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson should return to her post.
Gov. Ron DeSantis dismissed Jackson on Jan. 11 because she failed in her duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of the School District’s exceptional students.
“We’re at a point in our School District that we are simply moving forward,” Chambers said after his testimony. “Today is part of that process. We’ve had a couple years of difficulty in our School District. We want to move forward from this situation and what happened.”
Questioned about whether Jackson should be reinstated or removed, Chambers kept his opinion to himself.
“I’ll leave that answer to the magistrate and Florida Senate,” he said.
Jackson’s attorneys, George Levesque and Ty Jackson, tried to pin the blame for the district's problems on Chambers. As an assistant superintendent, the ESE program fell under his title in the 2015-16 school year. That’s when two cases of child abuse came up that eventually led to Jackson being replaced.
“I didn’t have any ESE experts in my department,” Chambers testified. “I didn’t have any responsibility for evaluation. I didn’t have any responsibility for that budget.”
He claimed he was not aware of the report released June 16, 2016, by School District investigator Arden Farley. It detailed student abuse allegations by Roy Frazier, who taught at Silver Sands School, which serves ESE students, and Marlynn Stillions, who oversaw Pre-K exceptional students at Kenwood Elementary School.
“I wish it had been brought to my attention,” Chambers said. “Fact is, was not.”
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