Hillsborough board discussion is on
9:02: Board member April Griffin moved to add the issue of ESE student safety to the morning's workshop agenda. The board is discussing her motion. All seven members are here.
9:10: Member Doretha Edgecomb was concerned that the discussion might have an affect on litigation that will be discussed in a closed-door session this afternoon. Attorney Tom Gonzalez said the closed-door meeting will deal strictly with a specific lawsuit or lawsuits about which he will ask the board's advice. It does not prevent members from discussing the broader topic that concerns Griffin, which is whether bus drivers and aides should be instructed to call 911 in an emergency. They are calling it for a vote.
9:15: It's unanimous. The board voted 7-0 to add the special-needs issue to the end of the morning's agenda.
While the board discusses Head Start (which is at the top of the agenda), here's the back-story on ESE:
In January, a 7-year-old student with a neuromuscular disorder died after going into respiratory distress on a school bus. Neither the driver nor aide called 911, according to the Hillsborough Sheriff's report. Instead, they followed a procedure that some consider antequated, of issuing a distress call by radio and placing a cell phone call to a transportation supervisor, instructing them to call 911. The employees also used their phones to call the child's mother twice. Emergency assistance arrived too late and Bella Herrera was pronounced dead the following day at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital. More recently, an 11-year-old student with Down syndrome drowned in a retention pond behind her school after walking away from a physical education class. The sheriff's office is investigating.
9:35: The board is on its second agenda item, a presentation from the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.
9:54: They're going to talk about lacrosse now.
11:20 a.m. In case you've been hitting your refresh button on the other page: They are still talking about lacrosse. And they said they want to break by noon.
11:54: They're still talking about lacrosse. This discussion is going on two hours, and they had hoped to wrap it all up by noon. Chairwoman Candy Olson keeps trying to move the discussion along. But they are discussing costs, Title 9 compliance, disparities between schools, etc.
Friday morning: Never did update this, so for those still reading, here's how it ended:
At 11:55, Olson put the lacrosse discussion to rest and moved on to ESE. Superintendent MaryEllen Elia started off by distributing a memo that clarifies the 911 issue: Drivers CAN call 911 if the situation warrants it, as long as they have stopped the bus first. They are to use their common sense and discretion. Everybody liked the memo. Elia also announced she has appointed a work group that is studying a long list of ESE-related safety issues. Details are in the story http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/hillsborough-school-district-group-is-examining-special-ed-safety/1260568, along with reactions from Susan Valdes and Stacy White before Olson banged the gavel at 12:10. Briefly: Valdes said the whole issues goes back to the disconnect between policies and procedures, and White wants to see close scrutiny of the ESE department -- including funding.
As for Jennifer Caballero's drowning, we are all awaiting the Sheriff's Office report. After that the district will begin is inquiry.