Procedures changed at Riverdale in wake of death

Published 7:36 am Saturday, February 7, 2009

Southampton County school officials have changed the way students are unloaded from buses at Riverdale Elementary School in the aftermath of an accident that killed a 4-year-old boy last month.

A shift in administrative responsibilities at the school was also announced to parents of Riverdale students, contradicting an earlier statement by a school official denying that changes were taking place.

In a letter to parents dated Jan. 29, Superintendent Charles Turner said that effective Wednesday, Feb. 4, “students will be unloaded directly in front of the entryway at the curb during the morning, one bus at a time.”

According to Turner’s letter, the previous policy for unloading students in the morning was to have a teacher “assigned to meet the students at each bus upon arrival at school and walk the children into the building.”

The process for loading students onto buses at the end of the school day — essentially the previous unloading policy, but in reverse — would remain unchanged. “A teacher will walk the children to the bus to supervise the boarding of students. The current afternoon boarding procedure will remain the same,” Turner wrote.

On Jan. 9, Jameer Khamarie Woodley, a pre-kindergarten student, had just stepped off of a school bus and was walking across the travel lane of the parking lot when he was struck by another bus. He died at the scene. An investigation by the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office revealed that the bus driver did not see Jameer.

Turner also announced a reorganization of administrative duties at Riverdale. He said that for the remainder of the school year, Dr. Timothy Kelly, the division’s assistant superintendent, “will be in charge of the overall administrative leadership at Riverdale.”

Rodney Brown, who serves the division as coordinator of instructional services, will also remain at the school.

Brown “has been on-site during this very difficult time, (and) will continue to be on-site and provide day-to-day administrative leadership and support to the current administrative team,” Turner said.

It wasn’t clear what the administrative changes mean for the school’s principal, Andrea Ellis, or the assistant principal, Tracy Stith-Johnson. Riverdale is the only school in the division with an assistant principal.

The announcement that Kelly and Brown would be assuming a greater role in the administration of Riverdale contradicted a statement made earlier this week by Dr. Wayne Smith, the director of administration for the division.

When asked Tuesday if any central office administrators would be taking over administrative duties at Riverdale, Smith said no.

Turner, Kelly and Smith did not return repeated calls for comment.