Hillsborough school board member says kids aren't safe on buses

"Kids are not safe," said Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin. 
The words seemed to echo in the room at Tuesday night's school board meeting. 
"I cannot look my constituents in the eye and tell them that if I had a child with special needs, a child that was medically fragile, that I would feel safe putting my own child on a bus," Griffin said.
The declaration came during a lengthy discussion on the transportation department and the status of ongoing focus groups.
The transportation department has been in the spotlight recently following a scathing memo from four employees earlier this year. The memo detailed several areas of concern, including poor bus driver training on how to properly transport ESE students.
Corie Holmes, a trainer with the school district, was one of the four employees who signed the memo.
"We didn't have any documentation as to any training," Holmes said. "In a district this big, that's a problem."
In a PowerPoint presentation, Superintendent MaryEllen Elia discussed what is currently being done. In addition to focus groups with transportation staff, she says they've hired a consultant and are in the process of investigating and reviewing the entire department's operation. 
Griffin and board member Susan Valdes both said they have no confidence in the process. 
But after the meeting, Elia wanted to make it clear she disagreed. She assured parents that students are safe.
"We have bus drivers. We have mechanics. And they're very actively working to make sure our children are safe," said Elia. "I will accept the fact that we have improvements to make. I think that's an important factor. But our buses are safe." 
Nothing transportation-related was voted on at Tuesday's meeting. There was just a discussion. On Friday, more focus groups are planned with transportation employees.
The consultant's final report will be given to the school board at the of April.


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