Mayor Thomas M. Menino credited Boston’s school superintendent for acting quickly to place a high school headmaster on leave after learning he was the subject of a federal investigation into a multi-state credit fraud ring.
Queon Jackson, acting headmaster at Madison Park Vocational Technical High in Roxbury, is suspected of fraudulently obtaining credit, then failing to pay the bills. Superintendent Carol R. Johnson placed Jackson on administrative leave Thursday as soon as she became aware of the investigation by the US Secret Service, school officials said.
Jackson has had previous run-ins with the law, a Globe review found.
In 2000, before he was hired by the school system, Jackson admitted to sufficient facts for a finding of guilty in a drug case and a domestic abuse case that required him to take an anger management class. This type of plea is commonly used by defendants to avoid a criminal record.
“It’s unfortunate, but he did have a record that was not identified early on in the process,” Menino said. “The superintendent found out there was a problem and immediately moved forward.”
Jackson, 39, of Milton is the second Boston school headmaster to spark controversy about alleged criminal activities in less than a year. Last summer, Johnson came under fire for taking no disciplinary action against the co-headmaster of the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science after learning he was briefly jailed for punching and choking his wife.
On Thursday morning, as word spread that the School Department had placed Jackson on leave, more than 100 students at Madison Park staged a brief but passionate walk-out, hoisting hastily written signs that read “Bring Back Jackson.”
“He’s the reason some of us are still here,” said Kemauree Williams, a 17-year-old junior. “Some kids have nothing to look forward to. He motivates them.”
Students had taken to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #bringbackjackson, to announce the walk-out. By 9:45 a.m., more than 100 students streamed out into the football field, then marched to the front of the school on Malcolm X Boulevard. They were soon joined by dozens more, who came out after someone pulled a fire alarm.
“We want Jackson! We want Jackson!” they yelled, many of them shivering in the 27 degree temperatures. Some had rushed out without their coats. One student donned a white shirt with the words “MP for Jackson” scrawled in red marker in the front and “Bring Back Jackson” in black marker on the back.
Several students said they did not believe the report detailed Thursday in the Globe that their 39-year-old headmaster, known for his conservative bow ties and high-water slacks, could be part of a credit-fixing scheme.
“He’s a great person,” said Brandon John, a 17-year-old junior. “He kept me out of trouble.”
Another junior, 17-year-old Paris Thomas, and her friend, senior Brianna Odom, were circulating a petition calling on the school to bring Jackson back.
By 10 a.m., they had gathered nearly 1,000 signatures, Odom said.
“Nobody believes it,” she said of the investigation.
“He hasn’t done anything except improve the school,” Thomas said.
She said she had talked to students who saw Jackson on Thursday. The headmaster had wept as he broke the news that he would be placed on leave, Thomas said.
She later called him on his cellphone to tell him she would be circulating a petition to bring him back.
“We’ve got a bond,” Thomas said. “He’s always there.”
School officials and Boston police waited patiently as students continued chanting, convinced that the cold eventually would draw them back inside the building.
“We’re not going back in until Mr. Jackson comes back,” Williams vowed.
Eventually, the cold won out and after about 30 minutes, school officials were able to usher the students back inside.