Friday, February 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Hillsborough student transport needs an overhaul

The resignation Wednesday of school bus chief John Franklin marks a fresh and necessary start in cleaning up the Hillsborough County School District's troubled transportation department. The problems of the past few years have been too many and varied to blame on a single person, but his departure clears the way for a fresh look at the operation. With several internal reviews coming to a close next month, officials should provide a candid picture of the problems and a meaningful plan for correcting them.

Franklin's resignation comes as the district prepares to act on several investigations that followed the 2012 death of Isabella Herrera, a 7-year-old disabled student who died a day after experiencing respiratory failure on a school bus. While the district improved training for aides and drivers in caring for special-needs children, the tragedy gave rise to broader complaints about the procedures for reacting in an emergency and the quality of school buses and mechanics.

The findings of those reviews are expected in early May, and superintendent MaryEllen Elia said Wednesday that Franklin's resignation followed a meeting Friday with the consultant hired to prepare the report. Still, she said the consultant's review had turned up no surprises. Most of the complaints made public by department employees point to fundamental problems with management, hiring and training. Some drivers complain the buses are in poor shape and that mechanics are not skilled or conscientious about their work. They contend that rather than address concerns, managers have dissuaded employees from speaking out — contributing to a cycle of denial that threatens student safety.

Transporting 94,000 students a day is challenging, but this department seems plagued with recurring problems. The Hillsborough district botched its last round of bus purchases last year, and now it fields the 59th oldest fleet of Florida's 67 school districts, with buses averaging 14 years old, compared with 10 years in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando Counties. Certainly new buses would help over time in cutting down on repairs to worn-out vehicles. But the larger problem is a lack of attention to detail and urgency in getting this operation up to speed.

Elia said she will respond to the reviews in a comprehensive way that addresses safety and operational concerns. That is essential if the district hopes to fix these problems and attract a quality candidate to take over the transportation department. No quality candidates will respond to a national search to preside over more of the same. The district should use this discussion not as a public relations exercise but as a demonstration that it is committed to adopting reforms, and backing them up with the right people and money.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18