Monday, December 11, 2017
Education

Carlton: Good and bad news in school bus mess

The latest news from Hillsborough County's troubled school bus system is both positive and disappointingly familiar.

The eighth-largest school district in America is still dealing with the 2012 tragedy involving a disabled 7-year-old student who died a day after a medical emergency on her bus ride home. Just this month, Isabella Herrera's mother tearfully told the School Board that not enough had been done since then to protect children like Isabella.

There's more: A litany of complaints from school transportation employees range from an aging bus fleet — the ninth oldest in Florida's 67 school districts — to safety, management and rock-bottom morale.

Given that these are the people responsible for getting more than 90,000 kids safely to and from school daily, what we have here is a listing ship in need of a steady hand.

So there is good news in movement, in transportation focus groups, town hall meetings and investigations expected to be ready next month, and even in talk of buying badly needed buses. After the death last month of a Middleton High student killed crossing busy Hillsborough Avenue from home to get to school — the second student killed there since 2011 — school officials did the right thing by sending a daily shuttle bus for the kids who live in those apartments.

And this week, the resignation of the school bus chief running that troubled department had definite potential for a fresh start.

But has no one in this mix learned we can do without the drama? The long-standing — and distracting — power struggle between the superintendent and certain School Board members reared its head yet again this week.

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia sent a recorded phone message to transportation employees announcing the resignation of their boss. Included in it was this cryptic aside: "Unfortunately, there are forces at play inside and outside of our district that are intent on causing dissension and pressures, and making our jobs more difficult."

She didn't say "dark" forces loomed, but it seemed implied.

Later Elia said this was not a specific elbow thrown to her perennial detractors, board members April Griffin and Susan Valdes, but a general call to stay focused. But it sounded like an unnecessary parry — and a surprising one, given that Elia is usually more savvy at staying out of the fray.

Griffin fired back on Facebook, and here we are again, in the midst of drama going on so long it's hard to remember when it wasn't.

But one thing is clear: Even with strong personalities and warring priorities, it does not have to work this way. Remember when you could count on the Hillsborough County Commission to be the most dysfunctional bunch in town, our Official Bickersons? Elected officials at county center have since struck a note that, if not cohesive, at least gives the impression county business trumps power plays.

School officials could also take a note from Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden, who moved the office from a nightmarish bureaucracy a citizen dreaded to visit to one noted for efficiency and customer service. Hey, it can happen.

Personalities and grudges aside, children's safety is at stake here. It's time to focus on the fixes and not on the forces, real or imagined, that brought these problems to light.

Comments
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot i...
Updated: 4 hours ago

University of Central Florida Greeks won’t hold social events, serve alcohol for 6 weeks this spring

ORLANDO — University of Central Florida fraternities and sororities won’t host social activities or any events with drinking for at least the first six weeks of the spring semester, up from the two-week ban on alcohol that has been in place in the pa...
Published: 12/08/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17
Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Hillsborough County’s public school teachers are horn-honking, voice-raising, sign-waving, foot-stomping mad, and I can’t blame them. They are paying for a problem they didn’t create. About one-third of the workforce was expecting to receive a $4,000...
Published: 12/07/17
In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

SPRING HILL — On a small wooden dock at the Cross Bar Ranch, Cynthia Brinker gingerly pokes through the trappings in her fishing net, plucking out a tiny creature to examine close up. "What the heck is this?" the Weightman Middle School studen...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

BROOKSVILLE — For just a year and a half, Steve Crognale has been the principal at the Endeavor and Discovery Academies. But now, he’s been named the Hernando School District Principal of the Year for 2018. Endeavor serves students, most of them hig...
Published: 12/06/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey is skilled at calming first-day-of-school jitters. But this school year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every weekday with a knot in her stomach.It’s been there ever since th...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Why do universities handle sexual assault cases, anyway?

Why do universities handle sexual assault cases, anyway?

News stories about campus sexual assault often get the question, "Why do schools handle these cases, anyway?"Readers often wonder how universities got tasked with handling these convoluted cases in the first place. Where, they ask, do the police come...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

TAMPA — The second Hillsborough County School Board meeting in less than a month took place Tuesday against a backdrop of honking car horns, cheering teachers and audience members moving through the room in shifts.Dressed in blue union-issued T-shirt...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
Hillsborough school district names Teacher of the Year finalists

Hillsborough school district names Teacher of the Year finalists

Finalists were announced Tuesday for Hillsborough County Teacher of the year and other honors.Winners will be announced at a banquet on Jan. 16.The finalists for teacher of the year are: Jennifer Jackson, seventh grade science, Stewart Middle; Alexa ...
Published: 12/05/17