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Education

School board near settlement with family of student who drowned


Published:   |   Updated: December 4, 2013 at 11:21 PM

TAMPA – The Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday is scheduled to approve a settlement amounting to nearly $600,000 over 25 years with the parents of Jenny Caballero, the seventh-grader with Down syndrome who walked away from gym class at her Riverview school last year and drowned in a pond.

After her daughter's death on Oct. 22, 2012, Jenny's mother – Elizabeth Rosas – accused teachers and aides at Rodgers Middle School of negligence.

The settlement calls for the school district to pay a cash sum of $200,000 to Rosas and Jenny's father, Tarsicio Caballero-Perez, and their attorneys.

Beginning Feb. 15, 2014, and lasting for nine years, they would receive $750 from the district each month. That amount would then be bumped up to nearly $1,500 per month for life, a guaranteed 16 years. The district would pay them an additional $1,000 each year beginning next December and lasting for 25 years.

Insurance company MetLife Tower Resources Group Inc. was involved in the settlement process.

Local attorney Stephen Diaco, who represents Jenny's parents, would not comment on the settlement before it goes before the board.

“My goal is to make sure it's approved,” Diaco said. “I'm excited this is happening, but out of respect to the school board and the family, I think it's best we just say we're close.”

Diaco will host a press conference at 3 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the decision and speak on behalf of the family.

District spokesman Stephen Hegarty would not comment on the pending settlement.

Jenny's death came less than one year after another student, Bella Herrera, died from a medical emergency she suffered on a bus ride home from Sessums Elementary School. The two deaths prompted some changes in the district's exceptional student education department, including the transfer of its top administrator.

Jenny's death, declared an accidental drowning by the county medical examiner's office, resulted in significant changes at Rodgers Middle, too.

Former Principal Sharon Tumicki was demoted to assistant principal and is no longer at the school. The gym teacher retired and five aides have all either retired, resigned or were fired.

Former Assistant Principal Shawn Livingston, accused of incompetence and willful neglect of duty, lost his job in January. In October, the school board later decided there was not enough evidence to support those accusations and he was granted back pay and benefits for the remainder of his one-year contract, which was up in June.

The school board meets at 9 a.m. on Tuesday in the board room at 901 E. Kennedy Blvd.

ekourkounis@tampatrib.com

(813)259-7999

Twitter: @ErinKTBO

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