Mary Beth Jackson

Governor Ron DeSantis has suspended Okaloosa County School Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson.

The governor made the announcement during a short news briefing this Friday morning in Tallahassee.

“As you remember there have been several grand jury reports that have been very scathing about her conduct and her dereliction of duty,” said DeSantis in reference to the investigation into Jackson’s handling of a 2016 report of alleged child abuse involving a six-year-old autistic boy at Kenwood Elementary School.

Classes resume this week and next in public schools across Florida’s western Panhandle, with the usual challenges that a new school year brings the districts. In the first of our three-part series “Back to School,” Dave Dunwoody spoke with Okaloosa County Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson.

It’s a busy start to the new term. The biggest challenges, says Jackson, are getting rid of 160 portable classrooms on campuses; and 770 more students than in 2016-17 and growing at the rate of 100 per day. That brings the district’s total student population to more than 31,000.  

  The race for School Superintendent in Okaloosa County will be decided on primary day this year. Earlier this year, the Okaloosa County School District was one of only three districts in the state with an “A” grade. There are two candidates vying to lead the district for the next four years. One is current Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson, who is seeking a second term after defeating Alexis Tibbits in 2012. She says voters should judge her on her actions not her words. "In the last four years we've moved academically from number 11 to number 2 in the state.

Photo via Flickr//Allison Meier / https://flic.kr/p/5KRnrx

  First, the good news: statewide, the number of failing schools was cut in half. When it comes to school districts, the results were mixed. Not a single district in the state improved its grade and half of them went down.