Law firm concludes investigation into incident involving Jackson Superintendent Beal

Fatima Fokina

JACKSON, Mich. (WILX) – The Superintendent of Jackson Public Schools will not face punishment from an incident following a Jan. 18 meeting of the Board of Education where he argued publicly with a Trustee.

During the January meeting, Trustee Kesha Hamilton questioned the raises that Superintendent Jeff Beal had been receiving for the last five years. She also voted against the motion to approve Beal’s goals as presented, though the motion passed with a 5-2 vote.

Background: Jackson Public Schools Superintendent expected to get raise after layoffs

Immediately after the January meeting, Superintendent Beal left his seat at the end of his table and approached Trustee Hamilton, who was packing up to leave.

According to Hamilton, Beal aggressively approached her with his hand on his hip and a finger extended. He reportedly encroached on her personal space and, while looming over the table, “lost control of his emotions.”

Trustee Hamilton alleges that she firmly directed him to walk away, but he ignored the order and continued to argue with her over the table.

Board policies 1439 (Administrator Discipline) and 1662 (Anti-Harassment) were being considered by the board and the law firm they hired to investigate the incident. Policy 1662 defines harassment as any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, use of technology, or written, verbal or physical conduct directed against a student or school employee. It must also place a student or school employee in reasonable fear of harm to their person or their property, interfere with educational/work performance or substantially disrupt the order and operation of a school.

Hamilton then sent a letter intended to be entered into Superintendent Beal’s record and recommend the Board mandate anger management classes for Beal. The board instead voted to hire a law firm, Thrun, to investigate the incident.

During the Thrun investigation, the law firm said accounts of Beal and the 10 witnesses present in the room varied.

  • Superintendent Beal said, “I did raise my voice. I did not yell. I did not lean over the table. I stopped at the general area between Trustee Brown and Trustee Hamilton.”
  • President Mitchell said Beal appeared to be frustrated, but made no physical contact.
  • Vice-President Fitzgerald said the superintendent was, “loud, but the whole place was loud as everyone was packing up.” She did said she did not hear Trustee Hamilton.
  • Treasurer White said Beal was never in front of Trustee Hamilton. He said Beal’s demeanor was upset, but not as Hamilton described.
  • Secretary Simonetti said Superintendent Beal and Trustee Hamilton were about four feet apart. He said Beal did not yell, but that he noted Beal does not have a “soft voice.”
  • Trustee Brown said Beal did not lean over the table, but that was leaning in toward Hamilton. Brown sail Beal was red-faced, pointing his finger and yelling.
  • Trustee Hunt said Superintendent Beal walked to the end of the table in the vicinity of Trustee Hamilton. She said she didn’t hear the conversation, but noted that Beal was “fully engaged” for a short time.
  • Assistant Superintendent Patterson said Beal remained one board member away.
  • Assistant Superintendent Baker acknowledged that Trustee Hamilton said something to Superintendent Beal, but did not hear what it was. Baker said Beal kept his mask on during the incident.
  • Assistant Superintendent Giannettii said Hamilton seemed angry as she was packing up, and that Superintendent Beal seemed nervous and had a “shaky voice.”
  • Executive Assistant Oxley said she only saw Superintendent Beal get up and walk, but nothing else.

The law firm hired to run the investigation, Thrun, presented the evidence they collected Tuesday to the Jackson Board of Education.

Thrun attorney Lisa Swem wrote, “Based on the witness descriptions of the January 18, 2022, post-meeting encounter, a preponderance of the evidence does not establish that Superintendent Beal acted inappropriately towards Trustee Hamilton and did not refuse to comply with her directive to ‘walk away.’”

As a result of the investigation, the Board of Education voted Tuesday night not to issue a punishment.

Superintendent Beal has been accused of bullying behavior in the past, including at the last two Board of Education meetings, where multiple teachers gave accounts of what they allege was unacceptable behavior.

Read: Jackson Public Schools Superintendent protested at Board meeting

News 10 spoke with Trustee Kesha Hamilton, who said she has had did not agree with the outcome.

“I think a lot of it has to do with their value system. They value slogans,” she said. “They value bonds and buildings. Not education. Not people.”

News 10 reached out to Superintendent Beal for comment on the matter, but did not receive a response.

In an email quoted by the Thrun investigation, Beal wrote, “She implied publicly that I was not honest in my presentation of my contract to the Board of Education. I take issue with any suggestion that there is any level of fiscal malfeasance from my office, or that I have been less than transparent and honest with the Board of Education as it relates to contracts that have been bargained in good faith and approved during a public meeting.”

A copy of the full report is included below.

Copyright 2022 WILX. All rights reserved.

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https://www.wilx.com/2022/04/20/law-firm-concludes-investigation-into-incident-involving-jackson-superintendent-beal/

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