Shawn Livingston's sighs of relief come ten months to the day after he was fired.
"I can't even put it in words. This was not about me, but about the truth coming out," he said.
His fight began last December following the death of Jenny Caballero. The special needs student walked out of gym class at Rodgers Elementary School in Riverview, unnoticed, climbed over a fence, and drowned in a retention pond.
The coach testified that he had complained to Livingston about the aides assigned to the special needs student. Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia accused Livingston of incompetence and willful neglect of duty.
Livingston fired back.
"In order for schools to be a success, they need the support of district administration to come down and make sure things are taken care of," Livingston said.
Livingston said he tried to get the district's attention on many issues at Rodgers Middle School, but it was not until Jenny's death that people started listening.
"I could not think for other people, just hope that what was right would come out in the hearts of others," he said.
The school board originally offered to demote him to teacher if he would accept the claims of neglect.
Livingston refused and then was fired. Some board members now wonder if he was wronged.
"Did we really set up a young inspiring aspiring leader to failure? I think that a lot of the administrative things were broken before he got there," said board member Susan Valdez.
Three out of five agreed. They voted to give Livingston his pay and benefits for the ten months he had left on his contract.
"I am still going to continue to think about the loss of Jenny Caballero and the tragedy and the family and the community," he said.
Livingston will not return to a Hillsborough County classroom. The district did not renew his contract, and he said he would want to move and start fresh in another district.
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