TAMPA — A federal lawsuit that alleges discrimination led to the death of a special-needs schoolchild is headed for settlement in Hillsborough County.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. ordered all action stayed in the case that parents Lisa and Dennis Herrera brought against the Hillsborough County School Board. The two sides are to submit a joint status report within 30 days....
"The transportation program at the Hillsborough County Schools is not in crisis, but is under significant pressure."
How about this?
"While costs are reasonable relative to industry norms, they are increasing while the quality of service is rapidly deteriorating. Left unchecked, this trend will inevitably lead to major service disruptions and a concurrent loss of confidence in the system."...
03/12/14 BlogA legislative bill that encourages military installations to work with the state to open charter schools is vaguely worded, Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia said Wednesday. “It isn’t a real clear bill,” she said.But Elia and other district leaders will watch for more precise language as the session continues.Elia, who opposed plans for a K-8 charter school at MacDill Air Force Base run by the for-profit Charter Schools USA, was responding to amendments that have appeared in two different pieces of legislation so far, one concerning tuition benefits for veterans and the other directing local school districts to create technology plans.While the measure that passed Tuesday says local school districts will continue to oversee the creation of charter schools, it also encourages collaboration between military bases and the state Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor.Hillsborough has made numerous offers to improve services for MacDill families, including those who live outside the base, Elia said. In response to the controversy over MacDill Charter Academy, she appointed a task force to enhance those efforts.That group has met once, Elia said, and will continue. “We will come up with a response to whatever is needed,” she said. “We certainly want to support our military.”
Hillsborough County School Board candidate Randy Toler held a news conference Tuesday, clutchnig the hand of a child he introduced as "my six-year-old autistic kid."
Here's what he said:
"I want to be a voice for special needs students," he said. "As you can see I've got my 6-year-old autistic kid here ... He goes to a wonderful school called FACE, Florida Autism School for Excellence, around I-4 and 75, they're doing a great job."...
Really? member April Griffin asked in an email to Elia, adding that she would not have approved the $38,500 consultant study if she had been shut out of the process....
03/07/14 Public Safety
One of two school buses that vanished in August 2012 from Hillsborough County has resurfaced — found shuttling football fans in Gainesville.
The buses were taken from outside Miles Elementary in North Tampa and were last known to be headed north. Authorities issued public pleas to help find them. At long last, one has been towed back to Tampa.
Police found it being used to transport fans to the Nov. 2 Florida/Georgia football rivalry....
TAMPA — A Hillsborough County public school teacher was arrested Thursday and charged with felony child neglect after telling police she knew about her sons' marijuana use, according to an arrest affidavit.
Police searched Kelley Fraley's home, where she lives with her two sons, ages 15 and 18. Police found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in both sons' rooms and in the garage, according to the arrest report....
TAMPA — Longtime special education aide Michelle Brown is back at work after being cleared of allegations she mistreated children in her last classroom assignment at Buckhorn Elementary School.
Brown, 49, was assigned to Wilson Elementary School in Plant City on Jan. 15, according to school district records.
While at Buckhorn, she was accused four times in 2013 of either handling children improperly or joking that she had. She was reprimanded for the joke but cleared of the other allegations....
If it seems a lot of eyes are on transportation and exceptional student education in Hillsborough County, they are.
Bus driver trainers are alleging they're told to hide mistakes. Critics say the district did not do what it promised to make special-needs students safer.
While investigations are ongoing, Superintendent MaryEllen Elia told the School Board Friday her staff will issue a comprehensive report on both complex issues....
Responding to questions from the School Board, Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia provided statistics on the eve of Spring Break that show students are getting more psychological services, support workers are being trained and disciplinary actions are becoming fewer.
First, psychological services: Elia's report says the ratio of psychologists to students was 1-to-1,222 in the 2007-2008 school year before the district adopted austerity measures to avoid teacher layoffs in the recession. Today it's 1-to-1,082 students. Behavior coaches, increased behavioral consultations and neuro-psychological assessments have been added, Elia wrote in a report distributed to the board on Friday....
For $38,500, School Bus Consultants is supposed to take a look under the hood, so to speak, at the Hillsborough County school district's transportation department.
But just where they should look and who they can talk to are now up for debate.
There is talk, among some members of the School Board, that top brass in the department are leading the consultant around.
And there is concern, on the part of Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, that some board members are bending consultant Tom Platt's ear....
TAMPA — New Tampa will soon be home to a K-8 public school, the third in Hillsborough County.
A letter went home to students Wednesday announcing the merger of Turner Elementary and Bartels Middle, two neighboring schools in Live Oak Preserve.
The Hillsborough County School District already has two successful K-8 models in the Rampello Downtown Partnership School across the street from school district headquarters; and Roland Park, a K-8 International Baccalaureate-themed school in the Westshore area....
TAMPA — A group that wants to open a charter school at MacDill Air Force Base has dropped its request, but says it will try again.
Florida Charter Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works closely with for-profit Charter Schools USA of Fort Lauderdale, has been at odds with the Hillsborough school district since December, when the staff and School Board rejected its proposal to open a K-8 school on the base....
Fellow members of the Hillsborough County School Board are beginning to weigh in on April Griffin's idea to hold her own focus group meetings to discuss safety issues on the school buses.
Candy Olson says a true focus group -- small, quiet and controlled without a lot of grandstanding or emotion -- is the best way to get at the issues. She suggested that Griffin, who just announced she is seeking a third term on the board, might be taking action that rightfully should be taken by the superintendent. Or, she added, it could be "a campaign stunt."...
TAMPA — Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin is taking the unusual step of organizing her own discussion sessions with bus drivers after being turned away from a focus group meeting where drivers aired concerns.
Griffin said she doesn't trust the school district, which has organized eight focus group sessions to deal with the issues being raised.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't trust the process," Griffin said after she was turned away Wednesday from a session at Sickles High School. "I think there is more of a need to control information than to straighten out the issues."...