The man who has overseen the Hillsborough County school district's transportation department has resigned, Superintendent MaryEllen Elia confirmed Wednesday.
John Franklin had been with the department for seven years, but found himself dealing with mounting problems beginning in 2012 when Isabella Herrera, 7, died after she stopped breathing on a bus.
That incident, along with several others, caused the school district to change the way it trains its drivers. The district also has one of the oldest bus fleets in the state.
One week ago, dozens of drivers rallied at a town hall forum, organized by School Board member April Griffin, and complained about those issues and several other ones.
"This is about the safety of school buses. This is about Morale. This is about respect," one driver said.
"[Transportation Department supervisors] want to belittle you and we all know our buses are junk," said another driver.
Elisa acknowledged those problems could make it more difficult to find a replacement for Franklin.
"I certainly think people of the caliber that we're looking for are going to look at that and say, 'do I want to be part of this plan?'" she said. "We're hoping that we can certainly pull some high quality people in to consider taking a job in Hillsborough County."
Franklin becomes the third member of the Transportation Department to step down.
"I would like to reserve my greatest appreciation for the hundreds of hardworking (sic) and dedicated Transportation Department employees who faithfully serve students each day," Franklin wrote in his resignation letter, obtained by FOX 13. "At this time, it is best that I explore other opportunities."
Griffin said it's unfortunate he resigned, but she said this might present the department with a fresh start.
"I see it as an opportunity to get some outside influence in that department," Griffin told FOX 13.
Elia wouldn't put a timetable on the department and said she's focused on conducting a nationwide search for the right candidate.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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