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Investigation finds Jackson Public Schools superintendent did not bully a school board trustee

Jackson Public Schools

A third-party investigation into an incident between Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Beal and a Board of Education trustee has found Beal did not act inappropriately.

The investigator, hired by the school district, found there was no basis to substantiate allegations that Superintendent Beal harassed Trustee Kesha Hamilton.

About a month ago, Hamilton filed a complaint against Beal alleging he made her feel unsafe following a discussion the two had after a school board meeting in January.

Hamilton says she thinks it all stems from her refusal to approve a raise in his salary last year after she discovered a discrepancy in Beal’s contracts.

“The significance of the difference was not the issue that I had, but simply that there was a difference, you know, I expect our superintendent to be competent enough to put the correct numbers in,” she said. “If giving him this 2% increase was smart for the district, then I needed to kind of get some clarity on what had been occurring in his contracts.”

According to Hamilton, the discrepancy in the numbers turned out to be a typo. But a month later, she says she raised questions to the board about the way Beal was measuring learning for students in the district.

“The superintendent brought goals in January that were not measurable,” Hamilton added. “And so I spent considerable, considerable time in January talking about those as well. Again, that didn't go over well, either. And so it blew up in January, he blew up in January.”

It was following that Jan. 18 meeting that Hamilton says Beal made threatening and harassing remarks. According to a copy of the complaint, she alleges that Beal aggressively approached her while threatening to bring a lawsuit against her based on defamation of character. However, interviews of witnesses describe the post-meeting encounter differently.

Jackson Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Kriss Giannetti said neither Beal nor district staff would be commenting on the situation.

According to a copy of the investigation conducted by attorney Lisa Swem from Thrun Law Firm, there was no basis to conclude that Beal meant to intentionally harm Hamilton during the encounter the two had.

Hamilton says she was not surprised by the results.

I really expected the results to come back like they were,” she said. “The idea of a third neutral party was not realized in the beginning of this investigation. Our school lawyer chose the lawyer.”

Hamilton says she was not given the option to choose who would investigate her complaint.

“I wasn't given an option to choose my own lawyer, which would have been a third neutral party, someone that would have been neutral to this whole situation,” she said.

Hamilton says she hopes this process encourages the rest of the board to be more empathetic.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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