Fired Rodgers Middle School assistant principal aims to clear na - WFLA News Channel 8

Fired Rodgers Middle School assistant principal aims to clear name

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RIVERVIEW, FL -

A former assistant principal says he is fighting for his reputation after being fired in the wake of a student death last year.

Jennifer Caballero, an 11-year-old with Down syndrome, drowned in a pond near Rodgers Middle School in October 2012, after getting away from her physical education class.

On Tuesday, former Rodgers Assistant Principal Shawn Livingston and others testified in a courtroom-like hearing about his job. Livingston had been fired with the superintendent citing "incompetency" and "willful neglect of duty" under a Florida statute.

At the hearing on Tuesday, an attorney for the superintendent said the firing was about "inaction" and that Livingston did not address failures in the physical education department.

Former PE teacher Gary Gawrych said he had complained to Livingston about aides for the Exceptional Student Education, or ESE, students not doing their jobs and not keeping an eye on the students.

But Livingston said Gawrych "never communicated to me that he had an issue with the aides."

After Caballero's death, the district moved to fire and demote multiple employees, including Livingston. He had been offered a teaching position instead of his administrative job, but Livingston said that would have meant not pursuing his appeal.

"I would love to be an assistant principal, I would love to be a teacher," he said. "But I can't with this on my record."

Livingston's hearing was the first of its kind in Hillsborough County, taking place according to a school code that changed in 2011. School board members did not vote on Tuesday, but after a transcript of the hearing is completed, both sides will have 14 days to submit their conclusions to the board to make a decision.

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