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Monday, Jun 25, 2018
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Hillsborough school officials: We’re making progress on transportation woes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school district officials say they are making progress on a plan to improve the transportation department, boost morale and address a shortage of bus drivers.

The district this week is hiring new staff to support drivers who transport special education students. Interviews finished up Tuesday for eight new district resource teachers, who will each be stationed in one of eight transportation areas.

Meanwhile, the application period for a new transportation leader will close July 22, and district officials hope to recommend an applicant to the school board in late August.

That means a new transportation head could be in place not long after school starts, chief facilities officer Chris Farkas told school board members Tuesday. Farkas has been overseeing the department since general manager John Franklin resigned in April.

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia’s transportation advisory group met for the second time last week, focusing on driver recruitment, retention and incentives. Another group that was formed to focus on handling student behavior on the school bus met for the first time last week.

“I’m looking forward to the work of the behavior task force,” board member Candy Olson said. “One of the problems I heard a lot was not the management on the bus, but the fact the school doesn’t always work with the bus driver.”

The district is working with a consultant to research alternative fuels and has placed orders for 100 new school buses to begin updating the district’s aging bus fleet. Salary negotiations also are underway and might result in raises for bus drivers.

The board also took the following action at Tuesday’s meeting: ♦ Deputy Superintendent Jeff Eakins said the district is addressing a student survey in which just 42 percent of students said they knew how to report sexually inappropriate behavior. Eakins said the district will focus on talking to students at schools where that number was lowest and that the district is taking steps to improve student training on sexual harassment.

♦ Five teachers were suspended without pay, pending termination, because they have not met a mandatory certification in English for Speakers of Other Languages. Each was alerted 15 times in the last year that they would face disciplinary action if they didn’t do the training, which is required by the state. Those five will be eligible to once again apply for a job with the district if they get the certification.

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