Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough school officials to discuss safety plan

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school officials are paying close attention to wheelchair lifts on buses and fence heights around ponds.

They're developing emergency checklists and hiring workers to keep track of medically fragile students who ride the bus.

And they're taking a hard look at the jobs of exceptional student education aides and attendants.

A detailed timeline lists dozens of steps the district is taking to improve safety in ESE. It was made public on Tuesday in preparation for a School Board workshop at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

"I am looking forward to having a conversation about our own children's safety," board chairwoman April Griffin said on Monday.

Referring to MaryEllen Elia's efforts to beef up school security after the Sandy Hook shootings, she said, "Our superintendent said our world changed on Dec. 14. I don't disagree, but I would say our world changed on Jan. 26, with Isabella's death, and on Oct. 22, with Jenny Caballero's death."

Isabella Herrera, who had a neuromuscular disorder, died a day after she suffered respiratory distress while on a school bus. Neither the driver, nor the aide, called 911. Her parents have sued in federal court.

Jenny, who had Down syndrome, drowned in a pond behind Rodgers Middle School after wandering away from a physical education class.

While the two deaths occurred nine months apart, the public learned of both within a two-week period in late October.

Soon after, Elia convened a work group to study ESE safety and come up with a plan of improvement. The group, which sought input from employees, a parent advisory council and the Council of the Great City Schools, has been at work ever since.

The report included detailed timetables for input, planning, hiring, training and implementation.

Some of the recommended improvements — including mandatory training for all ESE aides — will not be fully implemented until August.

Others will require weeks or months of input before they can begin. Among them: Coming up with incentives, such as bonuses, for aides who work with high-need students.

Preliminary estimates of what it would cost to train the district's ESE teachers, aides and bus personnel are $221,000 in paid time and as much as $250,000 to purchase the videos. Some emergency training already has been given to bus drivers and bus aides.

Speaking earlier this week, board members said they have high expectations for Thursday's session and the work that will follow.

"I think the most important thing that MaryEllen Elia and the board can do is to hire a new director of ESE who has academic credentials in ESE and lots of professional experience in ESE, and the compassion for families and students from day one," said member Stacy White.

The last general manager was not an ESE specialist, and took a lateral transfer in December. "This person will need to work with these families, keep everyone in the loop, and we will need to do what we can do to make this ESE department a model," White said. "We are talking about a new culture."

One of the group's early recommendations was to implement a standard system of reporting medical incidents, such as Isabella's. The district had no such report on file about Isabella, and some board members reacted angrily to the fact that they were not informed.

Already, that situation has changed.

Board members received numerous emails and phone calls on Jan. 23, when Cypress Creek Elementary School student Jose Pinto-Rosa got sick at lunchtime and was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Hillsborough Medical Examiner is trying to determine the cause of Jose's illness.

"I would hope that there will be an investigation and that we will see a comprehensive report from the superintendent, considering the severity of the issue," Griffin said.

While glad she is being kept informed, Griffin said the district is sending out a lot of information, and some of the reports are duplicates. "We need to get a handle on how this is going to work," she said.

White said he doesn't mind receiving a lot of information, even though some incidents are as simple as a child bumping his head or a parent climbing a fence at dismissal time.

"The more, the better, and then it's really up to each individual board member to decide how deeply we want to dig into that information," he said.

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

>>if you go

Workshop planned

The Hillsborough County School Board will hold a workshop at 4 p.m. Thursday in the board auditorium at 901 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, to discuss safety in exceptional student education. The board cannot vote, and there will be no public comment.

See Gradebook at tampabay.com for full reports on the school district's ESE project.

Hillsborough school officials to discuss safety plan 01/29/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 11:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Mulberry teens, 15 and 18, killed when cars collide at Plant City intersection

    Accidents

    MULBERRY — The local high school has an enrollment of 1,000 but to some it feels like a tight-knit family. Many of Mulberry High School's students have spent all of their school days within the city limits, said principal Michael Young.

    Pepe Salgado, 18, was killed Friday along with his sister Frinzi Salgado-Diaz, 15, in a car crash in Plant City. They were passengers in a car driven by their cousin Edilberto Nava-Marcos, 18, who was transported to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center and was listed in critical condition. All three lived in Mulberry and attended Mulberry High School. [Polk County School District]
  2. Assisted living facility owner accused of sexually assaulting employee in Pinellas

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — An assisted living facility owner was arrested Thursday on charges that he sexually assaulted an employee, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

  3. Find serenity at Grand Cayman Island's Cemetery Beach

    Travel

    GRAND CAYMAN ISLAND

    Hey, cruisers, if you've been to Hell and back, snuggled with the stingrays and taken photos with the turtles at the Cayman Turtle Centre, you might be looking for something different on your next trip. (Guilty!)

    Good snorkeling can be found off shore at Cemetery Beach in Grand Cayman.
  4. Editorial: Honoring a solemn sacrifice

    Editorials

    For a nation still slogging away in Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones across the globe, this Memorial Day holiday marks the latest commemoration of sacrifice abroad, of uncertainty over America's role in securing the globe and of the country's great debt to its military families. The peace of yesterday is almost …

  5. Four Brandon middle school students face child porn charges related to sex video

    Crime

    BRANDON — Four Burns Middle School students, ages 12 to 14, have been arrested on child pornography charges after one secretly recorded a girl in a sex act and the others posted it online, authorities said Friday.