Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough school district prepares to roll out mandatory training for ESE aides

TAMPA — Mandatory training for special education aides soon will be a reality in Hillsborough County Public Schools, an effort prompted by the deaths last year of two students.

"We are moving," said Jeff Eakins, who heads a school district task force on exceptional student education safety. "Everyone is engaged to make sure that this is done correctly."

Under a plan Eakins described Friday, no employee will be cleared for hire without first viewing a safety video that is now under production.

That includes anyone who drives a bus, serves lunch or works with children at the district's after-school childcare program. A version of the video will be made available to parents as well.

In addition, every ESE aide and every teacher who works with ESE aides will be required to attend a three-hour annual training session. The employees will be paid for their time. The courses will be offered in multiple locations, on Saturdays or evenings and even online, to avoid having to pull staff out of the classrooms.

Beyond that first course, the district will offer optional courses in topics such as behavior management, inclusion, medical issues and autism.

The new training regimen is scheduled to begin in August.

Eakins, the district's general director for federal programs, outlined the program to the Superintendent's Advisory Council for the Education of Students with Disabilities. The council was formed in the aftermath of a lawsuit filed 19 years ago concerning speech therapy for a child with Down syndrome.

The group also has been consulted to help with reforms that have followed two student deaths last year. One, the drowning of middle school student Jennifer Caballero, revealed that ESE aides have opportunities to attend training, but much of it is voluntary.

Pay for ESE aides has been another issue. An online survey by the district showed many parents and teachers are concerned about the low pay rate for aides, who care for children who might be medically fragile, unable to speak, or both.

While the school district contends its pay range of $8.42 to $15.55 an hour is about average for the state, a Tampa Bay Times analysis showed most aides are at the lower end of that range, and on average they are among the lowest paid in the state. Many are classified as temporary employees who work without benefits.

Eakins said the district cannot raise pay without first going through the collective bargaining process. But the task force favors measures that would increase earnings, including higher pay for aides who receive more training.

He said he hopes that, through that process, the district can identify aides who have the potential to become teachers. That way, "we are also starting to solve another issue," he said, referring to the shortage of qualified ESE teachers.

The ESE project, which was under way when the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings happened in December, has been expanded to include schoolwide safety issues.

In addition to the specialized ESE training, the district is exploring the use of short, situational videos to initiate safety discussions at staff meetings.

As another form of ongoing training, a supervisor might show up at a teacher's classroom, ask what the teacher would do in a particular emergency, and then discuss his or her answer — without naming the teacher — at a future meeting.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or sokol@tampabay.com.

Hillsborough school district prepares to roll out mandatory training for ESE aides 02/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 11:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. What you need to know for Wednesday, July 26

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    A heart-shaped box containing Katie Golden's ashes sits next to her picture at her family's South Tampa home. Katie died from a drug overdose in April 2017. She was only 17-years-old. Read about her parents' journey at tampabay.com. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times]
  2. Cuban diplomat reflects on U.S. relationship: 'Cuba was treated horribly'

    Perspective

    Few topics are more controversial in Florida than Cuba, a nation that has held fast to Communism despite lying 90 miles from the shores of a capitalist superpower. It's a place where startling poverty results from either a longtime U.S. trade embargo or a half-century of Communism, depending on one's point of view. …

    Carlos Alzugaray spent a half century as a scholar and diplomat for the Cuban government, including a stint as ambassador to the European Union.
  3. Clearwater residents avoid tax rate increase for ninth year in row

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Residents will avoid a rate hike on their property taxes for the ninth year in a row as taxable values continue to recover from recession levels, padding city coffers.

    Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said the city must be prepared for unexpected expenses. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  4. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  5. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries

    Blogs

    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.