School board members incensed as changes are recommended - FOX 13 News

School board members incensed as changes are recommended

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

It took the loss of two young lives to come up with the changes. Eleven-year old Jenny Cabellero, a girl with Down Syndrome, drowned in a pond at Rodgers Middle School in October.

And Isabella Herrera, a 7-year-old with a neuromuscular disorder, died after going into respiratory distress on a Hillsborough County school bus.

"There are some tasks that are already underway and there are some steps that we can take almost immediately. Others are more long term," said Hillsborough Superintendent, MaryEllen Elia.

Among the recommendations: stricter training requirements for bus drivers and special needs aides. Some have also suggested better pay might help the district attract and keep more qualified employees to fill those roles.

"I just want to know when. I still don't see when this is happening. I need to be able to answer to the people who are calling me. When are we going to start making some changes?" says Hillsborough County School Board member Cindy Stuart.

The task force also says better communication is needed. It's a sore spot with many school board members who had no idea about Isabella Herrera's death until ten months later, when her parents sued the district in October.

"What was going on with these things a year ago? Why wasn't the board informed of this bus incident that happened nearly a year ago? Why weren't better records kept? I am very disappointed in staff and that disappointment goes all the way to the top of this administration," said Hillsborough County School Board member Stacey White.

But many parents of special needs children and their advocates say they've heard it all before.

"To me, the most important question of all is, how can a superintendent of the 8th largest school district in the nation withhold information about the death of a child. That's unconscionable to me." Said special needs advocate Jose Colindres.

Hillsborough's superintendent says that and other recommendations are already being implemented, including more training for bus drivers. But she says others will take more time.

The School Board plans to talk about the recommendations in more detail during a workshop meeting in January.

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