Saturday, February 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Mapping out a better school bus system

The plan for improving the Hillsborough County School District's busing operation has all the necessary components: new buses; better pay and working conditions for drivers and mechanics; smarter use of training and technology. The only thing that remains to be seen is how committed the district is to quickly following through with reforms that will take years and require tens of millions of dollars. The School Board should send a reassuring signal next month by supporting a hefty down payment on this critical safety effort.

As ambitious as the plan seeks to be, the approach outlined Wednesday by superintendent MaryEllen Elia came as no big surprise. The School District has shortchanged its transportation department for years, with predictable results. In recent months, that neglect boiled over as employees complained about a rash of problems, from dealing with unreliable buses, broken radios and incompetent mechanics to pay, staffing and management failures that sapped morale and threatened the safety of a system that transports 94,000 students a day.

The plan Elia unveiled addresses problems across this wide front, and she shores it up by promising to bring a serious and long-range spending plan to the table by this summer. Next month, she will propose spending $11 million on 100 new buses this year. In July, Elia intends to roll out a five-year plan that details how the district will replace aging buses on an ongoing basis. The superintendent also plans to conduct a pay and step study for mechanics and drivers, a move aimed at recruiting and retaining talent. The plan features other smaller but equally vital components. The district wants to place smaller and more mobile repair operations closer to the field. To help boost employee morale, Elia wants to have food trucks visit repair centers while drivers wait to have their buses serviced. And she envisions more paid training opportunities for staff. Already, the district has spent $250,000 to construct a bus wash that will be open by August. And it is addressing problems with bus radios, in part by stopping pirating of the district's radio frequency.

The district appears to be on the right track. But Elia's plan, which board members embraced Wednesday, will require real money and a sustained commitment. In a blistering report released earlier this month, School Bus Consultants said it would take $11 million to $16 million a year for 14 years for Hillsborough to get its fleet up to speed. More than 25 percent of Hillsborough's buses are at least 15 years old.

Only a sustained investment in pay, better working conditions and new buses will turn Hillsborough's situation around. Elia should set a strong, clear path forward in the coming months, setting expectations for spending and committing the district to the plans she has set. The School Board should remain committed to this priority for years to come. With a road map for change in hand, the challenge for Elia and board members is to follow through.

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Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18
Editorial: TIA expansion a reminder to aim high

Editorial: TIA expansion a reminder to aim high

Thereís nothing particularly exciting about a tram, much less a rental car facility. But the new projects at Tampa International Airport set to open Wednesday are a sign of confidence in the bay area ó and a challenge to improve regional transportati...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/09/18