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Former Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson is enjoying a lucrative retirement package.

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Quick timeframe set for Okaloosa superintendent’s appeal of suspension

There are “not sufficient grounds for a senator to vote to remove her.”

The lawyer for suspended Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson on Monday told a hearing officer he needs more information of “specific wrongdoing” she’s alleged to have committed.

Goodlette

“We’re struggling to identify what we’re defending against,” George Levesque told Dudley Goodlette, a former lawmaker serving as special master for the Florida Senate. That’s where Jackson is appealing her executive suspension by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Goodlette held a case-management conference with Levesque and Nicholas Primrose, a deputy general counsel for DeSantis. Primrose agreed to come up with a “statement of particulars,” a detailed document of charges or claims, by next Friday, Feb. 15.

The goal, after an exchange of information known as “discovery” and a final hearing, is for Goodlette to have his recommendation to Senate President Bill Galvano by the end of March. This year’s Legislative Session is March 5-May 3.

In an executive order last month, DeSantis said he was suspending Jackson on the recommendation of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. The Governor pointed, in part, to child-abuse allegations against an Okaloosa County teacher and grand jury findings that were critical of Jackson.

The executive order said Jackson failed to “provide adequate, necessary and frequent training, a lack of supervision of school district personnel and a failure to implement adequate safeguards, policies and reporting requirements to protect the safety and well-being of the students.”

Under state law, suspended officials can go to the Senate to seek to be reinstated under the chamber’s rules.

Levesque

After the hearing, Levesque — a former general counsel for the Senate — reminded reporters Jackson hadn’t been indicted.

“The grand jury decided there was no criminal wrongdoing; they just didn’t like the job that she did and thought they might do it differently,” he said.

“I believe, personally, that is not sufficient grounds for a senator to vote to remove her,” he added. “It’s kind of hard to argue that one of the best performing school districts, by every measurement, … that it’s an incompetently run system is just not supported.”

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Background provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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