TAMPA — A somber Hillsborough County schools superintendant MaryEllen Elia began Tuesday's School Board meeting by recounting the death Monday of Rodgers Middle School student Jennifer Caballero.
She spoke of the girl's disappearance in the afternoon, the search for her, and the realization that she had died. An 11-year-old with Down syndrome, Jenny became separated from her classmates and instructors during P.E. class. Her body was recovered in a large retention pond behind the school.
Elia thanked the Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies and school staffers who searched for the girl for hours.
"Many of them have children of their own, and I know they were heartbroken at that outcome," she said.
She commended members of the community for extending their moral support to the school principal and staff.
She described her conversation Monday night with Jenny's family.
"I expressed my condolences and told them that they were in our hearts and our prayers," she said.
"I also told them that we would do everything we can to find out exactly what happened and that we would do everything we can to make sure this never happens again."
As for how Jenny could have disappeared unnoticed, she said, "at this time I can't answer all the questions about what happened. Those are important questions and they need to be answered as soon as possible. But it's important that we not rush to judgment.
"The Sheriff's Office has been tirelessly working to gather all the facts. We have been assisting them in their investigation and when the facts are in, we will take any and all action necessary, because, as I told Jenny's family, we want to know what happened and this should never happen again."