TAMPA, Fla. - Within the next few days, Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin will file for re-election. She points to bus safety concerns as reason for her new campaign.
Griffin had a tough path as school board chair last year. The deaths of special needs students Jenny Caballero, who wandered away from Rodgers Middle School, and Isabella Herrera, whose improper restraint on a school bus led to her suffocation, caused her to question the district's safety policies.
"I believe this is definitely the tip of the iceberg," she said.
Two weeks ago, ABC Action News spoke with the at-large board member about school transportation workers who had come forward to question safety issues. She helped foster their movement in an effort to undo what she considers major communication complications within the district. She said she will now seek to keep her seat in November because she wants to ensure the issues are addressed.
"Employees are being told to not talk to school board members and that's problematic," she said. "There's been too much time trying to control the board and, from my opinion, not enough time to control some of the employees that are in charge of some very, very important divisions and departments within our school district."
"Cronyism?" ABC Action News reporter Bill Logan asked.
"You said it," she said.
School administration, she said, including Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, with whom she's clashed in the past, isn't being straight with students, parents and board members about how safety issues like those that led to deaths are being handled.
"The board was misled," Griffin said. "The board was told that all of these things had been done to safeguard our children, to make sure that when a parent puts their child on the bus in the morning that child is going to come home safe to them in the afternoon."