Destin resident addresses School Board on Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson’s lack of response to complaint concerning ‘harassing messages’
By Heather Osbourne | 315-4440 | @heatheronwfdn | firstname.lastname@example.org
NICEVILLE — A Destin resident spoke at an Okaloosa County School Board meeting again Monday to demand answers linked to harassment accusations against School District spokesman Henry Kelley.
Steve Menchel, a retired federal special agent, asked Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson for the fourth time whether he was the only victim to receive “harassing messages” sent by Kelley on Oct. 20.
The School Board was first informed of the issue on Oct. 23 after Kelley engaged Menchel with a slew of text messages regarding his personal Facebook account. The messages stated Kelley’s aggravation for Menchel sharing Northwest Florida Daily News articles about the district.
“You keep posting stories, and making it appear The Daily News is telling the truth,” Kelley said in one of the messages. “I’m not standing for it anymore. Citizens like you either set the record straight or you perpetuate lies.”
The exchange with Kelley, which spilled over onto Facebook, was bothersome on several levels, Menchel said, particularly the mean-spirited tone of the remarks and the appearance that Kelley had sought him out during the course of a taxpayer-funded work day.
The scandal that apparently sparked the animosity Kelley has expressed toward the Daily News started with allegations of alleged child abuse at Kenwood Elementary School.
A report filed by a School District investigator in 2016 confirmed special education teacher Marlynn Stillions had violated school policies with interactions and procedures that might have caused harm to pre-K special needs students.
The School District dismissed the report’s findings and withheld the document from public scrutiny for almost a year. When a victim’s father placed the report in the hands of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office in May, then provided a copy to the Daily News in August, an investigation ensued that resulted in three felony arrests, including Stillions on Sept. 13 for four counts of child abuse without great bodily harm. Also arrested that day for failing to report suspected child abuse were former Kenwood principal Angelyn Vaughan and School District investigator Arden Farley.
The investigation into the Stillions case remains open, with the First Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office now in the lead role.
Dissatisfied with Jackson’s failure to address his questions raised Oct. 23, Menchel filed a formal complaint against Kelley just days later. Kelley is now under investigation.
Still, Menchel wants answers.
The former investigator said Monday that he has sent two emails to Jackson asking about Kelley’s text exchanges and other questions regarding how recent district investigations were handled. Menchel said he has yet to receive a response. Neither Jackson nor the School Board addressed Menchel’s questions Monday.
Menchel told the Daily News on Tuesday that he is going to keep fighting to receive answers.
“It’s not about me. It’s about the kids,” Menchel said. “I’m just doing this in response to Kelley’s text messages.”