Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough School Board takes on safety of special-needs students

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School Board got down to the business Tuesday of responding to safety concerns raised in its exceptional student education department.

In a meeting that showed clear divisions in attitudes toward the administration, the board agreed to hold a three-hour workshop on the ESE program in January.

The agreement came amid talk on the board about the degree of oversight members should exert over the district's administration. April Griffin, in her first meeting as chairwoman, stopped short of trying to hire an outside auditor.

"Right now there is a great need for restoring the confidence that the public has in the school district," Griffin said afterward.

She said she had intended to put the auditor idea to a vote. But after discussing it earlier with superintendent MaryEllen Elia, she decided to wait until January.

Griffin did introduce two other motions intended to clarify board instructions to the staff and to track their responses. Both motions passed.

While the board undergoes a shift in power — the result of Griffin's chairmanship and the arrival of Cindy Stuart — the administration is responding to two student deaths this year, both in ESE.

In January, Sessums Elementary student Isabella Herrera stopped breathing aboard a school bus and later died.

In October, Rodgers Middle student Jennifer Caballero drowned in a pond by the school.

A work group, commissioned by Elia and assisted by the Council of the Great City Schools, produced an 88-page report this week that recommended numerous changes in training, verification of training, staffing and communication.

Already, Elia said, bus drivers are getting added training. Work on the other issues — which, in some cases, would require costly technological upgrades — is expected to continue at least through May.

"As thorough as the work group report is, it is not a completed task," Elia told the board. "It's a work in progress and it's an ongoing process to meet the needs of our students."

But while no one disagreed with the steps she has taken, some board members are troubled that they did not know until recently about the death of Isabella earlier this year.

"I am very disappointed in staff," member Stacy White said.

He applauded the work group report as a step in the right direction. But, he said, "we need this administration to work with this board. Keep this board in the loop. Take this board seriously."

Issues of accountability resurfaced as the board discussed how often Elia should report to them on the ESE reforms.

"Are we going to now micromanage the superintendent and the staff on every committee that they have?" member Carol Kurdell asked. "I'm having trouble with this."

Members White and Susan Valdes responded that, under the circumstances, they thought close scrutiny was appropriate.

Member Candy Olson urged the board not to lose sight of successes in ESE as the district proceeds with the needed reforms.

"Let's remember that we have strengths and build on our strengths," she said.

. facts

New principals

The School Board approved these principal appointments Tuesday:

Shields Middle: Tibor Kovacs

Jennings Middle: Richard Scionti

Citrus Park Elementary: Paulette English

Kenly Elementary: Mary Lauria

Armwood High: Joseph West

Cleveland Elementary: Susan Brill

Ippolito Elementary: Donna Marra

Kingswood Elementary: Annette Gaddy

Gibsonton Elementary: Amber Statham

Hillsborough School Board takes on safety of special-needs students 12/11/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Editorial: Tampa Electric customers should not pay for utility's fatal misjudgments

    Editorials

    There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers. Monetary considerations will not begin to …

    LUIS SANTANA   |   Times
There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers.
  2. Superior Uniform acquires Los Angeles-based PublicIdentity

    Corporate

    SEMINOLE — A subsidiary of Seminole-based Superior Uniform Group has acquired Los Angeles-based branded merchandise company PublicIdentity Inc.

    Superior Uniform Group CEO Michael Benstock
[Courtesy of Superior Uniform Group]
  3. Money is the issue as Hillsborough strains to fix school air conditioners

    K12

    TAMPA — With more than 200 repair requests tumbling in every day, school officials in Hillsborough County are broadening their circle of air conditioning mechanics as they struggle to control a debilitating cycle of breakdowns and sweltering classrooms.

    Hillsborough school officials want to expand the number of contractors who work on broken school air conditioning systems. But it all gets rolled into a workload that has increased by 40 percent since 2011. "With no increase in budget, no increase in equipment and no increase in manpower, and as the equipment gets older and needs more maintenance, this is going to continue to grow," said Robert Weggman, general manager of maintenance." [iStockphoto.com
]
  4. At Bayonet Point Middle School, solar eclipse becomes a lesson

    K12

    NEW PORT RICHEY — At 2:30 Monday afternoon, students and faculty members streamed out of their classrooms and onto the athletic fields at Bayonet Point Middle School. The attraction: the solar eclipse.

    Isiah Echevarria, 10, left, and Andy Shaw, 11, right, take in the solar eclipse during a schoolwide viewing Monday afternoon at Bayonet Point Middle School in New Port Richey. "It's pretty cool," said Andy, 11. "This is actually my first eclipse. The next eclipse won't be for at least 30 years."
  5. Estimated 5,000 people marvel at MOSI over solar eclipse

    Human Interest

    Packing pinhole cereal box viewers, cardboard glasses and curiosity, solar gawkers gathered outside Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry on Monday for a show that required no ticket.

    At center, Sophia Butter, 8, and Kristina Butera, both of Valrico, watch the sun through eclipse viewing glasses during a solar eclipse party Monday at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. MOSI will reopen after renovations on November 18. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]