Former Times staffers dominate school district communications office
Four out of six positions in the newly restructured Pinellas County school district strategic communications office now belong to former Tampa Bay Times staffers.
The Times announced this morning that reporter Lorri Helfand, left, will be leaving the paper in June to take a job with the district. She joins a team led by Donna Winchester, a former Times education reporter who was hired by former superintendent Julie Janssen in 2009 and promoted in December to head the district's re-imagined communications efforts.
Superintendent John Stewart reorganized the communications staff soon after his arrival in Pinellas, whittling the office staff from nine positions to seven and essentially cleaning house as former spokeswoman Andrea Zahn announced plans to leave.
Other former Times staffers serving the district's office include:
* Debbie Wolfe, assistant director of strategic communications. Wolfe was the technology training editor at the Tampa Bay Times (then called the St. Petersburg Times, of course) when she was laid off in 2008 after about 20 years. She began working for Pinellas schools in December.
* Rita Farlow, communications specialist. Farlow joined the Times in 1997 and left her post covering crime from the paper's Clearwater bureau in late January to join Winchester's team.
Helfand, who has been with the Times for 12 years, currently covers city goverment and St. Petersburg College, also from the Clearwater bureau. She fills the remaining position of "communications specialist" for Pinellas schools on June 11. Her salary will be $47,520, according to the district.