HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Dori Jones has a daughter with exceptional needs at Plant High School. Her daughter is a senior this year and she believes one Exceptional Student Education, or ESE, teacher is playing a vital roll in her child’s education.
“She has gone way out of her way to try and help my daughter and find curriculum that works with her. I just think she’s an asset to Plant and I think that it would be a real shame to lose her for any reason,” said Jones.
The teacher is Kristen Stevens, and Jones and other parents at Plant with students in the ESE program recently found out Stevens is being taken away from the school.
“Dealing with a child with ADD isn’t always easy and she is not only able to advocate for my daughter and talk my daughter down and get the things she needs, but she’s able to be there for support for myself as well,” said Chandra Tackney who also has a daughter in the ESE program at Plant.
For children in this program, consistency is critically important and the parents believe taking Stevens away will be a major setback for their children.
“Kristen Stevens is there 100%. I have never seen a teacher be so there for their students, be so enthusiastic and so dedicated,” said Tackney.
Special Education Advocate Claudia Roberts says the removal of a teacher like this from an ESE can be devastating for the families involved.
“It’s the rapport with the students, it’s the rapport with the family and this family is really feeling abandoned in this process,” said Roberts.
Hillsborough County School Superintendent Addison Davis says the removal of Stevens from Plant is just part of the normal realignment that happens in schools at the start of every school year, based on the number of students at each school.
“As a parent, I get it. It gets to a point where we build relationships with our current teacher and we want that relationship to continue from now until the end of the school year. However, these are adjustments that happen every year at this particular time,” said Davis.
At the same time Davis says the school district has identified 424 vacant positions that will not be filled for the 2020-21 school year.
“While teachers hired prior to August 14, 2020 will not lose their employment, they may be reassigned to open positions at other schools or assigned a different role at their current site,” said Davis.
Dori Jones and Chandra Tackney are just hoping the school district can find some way to return Stevens to their school so their children can have some security in a very upsetting year for all.
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