Saturday, January 20, 2018
Education

Expanded Hillsborough study group will spend more time on special ed safety issues

TAMPA — The Hillsborough School District's special education safety work group, formed in the wake of two student deaths, has been expanded and given more time to report its findings.

The panel, which now includes three teachers, has met four times and hopes to meet with a team later this month from the Council of the Great City Schools to review its initial results, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

The Superintendent's Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Advisory Council, which includes parents, also is expected to offer input.

In early December, Cobbe said, members of the work group will discuss their findings with transportation staff, teachers, school administrators, and teacher's aides.

The goal is to have a report ready by the next School Board meeting on Dec. 11.

Critics had said the original group, consisting almost entirely of top administrators, might not be objective enough to identify shortcomings in the system. ESE parent Craig Collette called it "the fox guarding the henhouse."

But Collette was encouraged when he learned Friday that the three added teachers include one from Maniscalco Elementary School, which his son used to attend.

"Adding Kourtney Barnum is a move in the right direction," Collette said. "She is devoted to children and not a district person. She will defend children to the end."

Cobbe said the changes did not come in response to criticism, but reflected a logical evolution of the project. "This has been a work in progress," she said.

ESE, which serves 29,000 students including 4,000 in special classes, is under intense scrutiny since news last month of two student deaths.

Jennifer Caballero, an 11-year-old with Down syndrome, drowned in a pond behind Rodgers Middle School after wandering away from gym class. Isabella Herrera, a 7-year-old with a neuromuscular disorder, went into respiratory distress on a school bus in January and neither the driver nor the aide called 911. The public and some School Board members did not know about Isabella's death until her parents filed a federal lawsuit in October.

The two situations have led to spirited discussions on the School Board and strong reactions among advocates for special-needs children. One group is organizing a protest at the Hillsborough Children's Board building at 2 p.m. on Nov. 29.

Coinciding with the work group study, the district's Office of Professional Standards is investigating Jennifer's disappearance and death. Five teachers' aides at Rodgers are on paid leave pending the outcome.

Earlier this week, incoming School Board chairwoman April Griffin said she wants to look beyond the five aides and hold others accountable if necessary.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

Comments
USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

ST. PETERSBURG — Holding a piece of computer paper and a microphone, the leader of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg began a Friday afternoon forum by repeating the USF administration’s new mantra.He reassured the crowd before him that t...
Published: 01/19/18

Crews Lake thespians overcome the odds

SPRING HILL — It’s 8:30 a.m. — "homeroom" period in school speak — when kids in the Crews Lake Middle School drama club file into an empty chorus room to begin rehearsing under the direction of language arts teacher Kristen Sykora. There’s only 25 m...
Published: 01/19/18
Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Friday announced the first in a series of belt-tightening moves that include the elimination of three six-figure positions.Jobs now held by Wynne Tye and Larry Sykes will no longer exis...
Published: 01/19/18
Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

The Florida Department of Health has reported a sharp increase in flu activity in the last several weeks, prompting area schools to send out letters warning parents about the virus. At least two districts, however, say that flu activity in their scho...
Published: 01/19/18

More than 400 apply to Pasco technical high school

School choice for 2018-19 is in full swing, and district officials said they’ve been pleased with the interest they’ve seen so far.The window for applying to the district’s magnet schools closed Jan. 12, except for applications for the new Wendell Kr...
Published: 01/18/18
Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

"On Nov. 3, 2017, the Tallahassee Police Department responded to 1012 Buena Vista Drive … in reference to a death investigation."So begins a charging document in the case of Andrew Coffey, the 20-year-old Florida State University student who was foun...
Published: 01/18/18
In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In the state capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers breezed through the bullet points of a higher education bill. They skimmed past a hot-button proposal to consolidate the University of South Florida System into a single university without a peep of pushba...
Published: 01/18/18
Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

TAMPA — They were hoping to receive between $15 million and $17 million in scheduled pay raises. But the Hillsborough County school district says it can’t afford to give its teachers anywhere near that much, while the teachers say they deserve nothin...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

NEW PORT RICHEY — At age 28, things were really shaping up for Joel Santos-Gonzalez. Fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, he had just completed his third year at Gulf Middle School."I always liked to talk to people on an intellectual ...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
In Pinellas and beyond, deadlines for school choice are closing in

In Pinellas and beyond, deadlines for school choice are closing in

It’s decision time in Pinellas County and other local school districts as several school choice deadlines are upon us.For Pinellas families who want to apply for a magnet, fundamental or high school career program for the 2018-19 school year, the dea...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18