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Afternoon update: Feds investigating Pinellas schools; Crist loses the office lottery; mansion Beyonce rented sells in Tampa; review of 'Into the Woods' at the Straz

Pinellas County School District's headquarters at 301 Fourth St. SW in Largo. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]

The

Pinellas County School District's headquarters at 301 Fourth St. SW in Largo. [DIRK SHADD | Times]

The U.S. Department of Education has opened another investigation into Pinellas County Schools. The Southern Poverty Law Center announced Thursday that a complaint filed by the group in August against the school district for disproportionately disciplining black students and disabled students will be investigated by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. 

OFFICE ASSIGNMENTS DON'T GO WELL FOR CHARLIE CRIST

New representatives have no claim on the Washington, D.C. offices they'll inhabit during their term. They are out of luck when it comes to spaces that are coveted for their locations, size or other features, and they get assigned the worst of the worst offices via a lottery. The lottery drawing was today. How did incoming Democrat Charlie Crist do? About as bad as can be imagined.

INFLUENTIAL REPUBLICANS SUPPORT PETRAEUS

As President-elect Donald Trump continues his search for a secretary of state, allies of one of the candidates, David Petraeus, are mounting a vigorous lobbying campaign on his behalf. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina spoke out publicly in favor of Petraeus this week, saying his confirmation would not be hindered by his having pleaded guilty to mishandling classified material and being forced to resign as CIA director.

 

Pop superstars Beyonce and Jay Z rented this Davis Islands bayfront home in April while she prepared in Tampa for her Formation Tour. It has now sold for $3.5 million.

TAMPA MANSION BEYONCE RENTED SELLS FOR BIG MONEY

The Davis Islands home were pop star Beyonce prepared for her world tour last spring has sold for $3.5 million. Although the house built in 1969 drew multiple offers, the interest lay more in its striking mid-century design than in its fleeting connection to the performer, listing agent Jeff Shelton said today.

TAMPA MAN CHARGED IN 2015 MURDER

Nearly two years after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Lyfe Coleman, Tampa police arrested Reginald Bowman, 21, of Tampa and charged him with second-degree felony murder. Investigators say he gunned down Coleman in his front yard near Robles Park on Jan. 5, 2015.

POLICE: ST. PETE BURGLAR STOPPED TO PET CAT

Jasper Fiorenza, 24, was arrested on charges he broke into a woman's home in St. Petersburg.

Police today arrested a man they say broke into a home and stopped to pet a woman's feline while standing at the foot of her bed before fleeing the scene. Jasper Fiorenza, 24, is charged with breaking into a home in Shore Acres on Michigan Avenue Northeast in November.

WIN OR LOSE THE SEC, COUNT THIS A GOOD YEAR FOR GATORS

Florida coach Jim McElwain has a reminder for a frustrated fan base. "I believe we're in the SEC Championship again for the second straight year," McElwain said. "Maybe not the way people want it, but ultimately the idea is to figure out how to win a ball game and how to win the East. Now the next step is how to win the whole SEC." McElwain is 2-for-2. That makes 2016 a success, no matter how ugly the No. 15 Gators might look Saturday against No. 1 Alabama. 

USF PRESIDENT GENSHAFT AWARDED SIZEABLE BONUS

USF System President Judy Genshaft will take home $168,875 of a potential $175,000 performance stipend, university trustees decided Thursday, bringing her pay for the year to $795,275. Thursday's board meeting was full of praise for Genshaft's leadership in the 2015-2016 year. Chairman Brian Lamb ticked off achievements such as a public-private partnership that will bring a massive housing village to campus, as well as progress on USF's path to preeminence.

UPDATE: ONE MANATEE FOUND, TWO MORE TO GO

A state rescue team has captured one of three manatees believed to be trapped in Lake Tarpon and in danger of becoming ill as water temperatures cool. The animal was spotted around 10 a.m. Thursday near a dock just north of Anderson Park on the west side the lake. As each of the manatees is removed, they will be given full medical evaluations and returned to the bay's warmer waters. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

 

Joan Marcus

Lisa Helmi Johanson as Little Red Ridinghood and Anthony Chatmon II as The Wolf in Into The Woods.

 

'INTO THE WOODS' STARTS NEW TOUR AT STRAZ CENTER

The unmistakable imprint of Stephen Sondheim shines through from the prologue of Into the Woods, in which fairy tale characters confess their deepest desires. Sondheim's musical, for which James Lapine wrote the book, debuted on Broadway in 1987, winning Tony Awards in a field that included Phantom of the Opera. A new national tour opened its first stop this week at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. This is a serious effort to capture the humor and humanity of a unique musical.

A BEER FLIGHT WITH 25 BREWS? GET TO SIPPING IN ST. PETE

Inconspicuously located in a small strip next to dive and bait shops, TiKanis uses its small space wisely. This stretch of Bay Pines isn't exactly a drinking and dining magnet, so unless you spotted the tiny tiki-esque patio out front, you wouldn't be likely to notice it. But inside, TiKanis is cozy, upbeat and a refreshing change of pace from the flavorless dives more commonly seen in the area.

 

Afternoon update: Feds investigating Pinellas schools; Crist loses the office lottery; mansion Beyonce rented sells in Tampa; review of 'Into the Woods' at the Straz 12/01/16 [Last modified: Thursday, December 1, 2016 4:14pm]
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  1. Florida Democrats surging with grassroots enthusiasm, but 2018 reality is grim

    State Roundup

    After Donald Trump's election, so many people started showing up at monthly Pinellas County Democratic Party meetings, the group had to start forking out more money for a bigger room.

    Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses Florida Democrats at the Leadership Blue Gala on June 17 in Hollywood, Fla. (Photo by Carol Porter)
  2. Will new laws protect condo owners from apartment conversions and rogue associations?

    Real Estate

    Danny Di Nicolantonio has lived in St. Petersburg's Calais Village Condominums for 33 years. Annoyed at times by the actions, or inaction, of the condo board and property managers, he has complained to the state agency that is supposed to investigate.

    That has left him even more annoyed.

    A bill passed by the Florida Legislature would affect places like The Slade in Tampa's Channelside district, where cCondominium owners have battled a plan to convert homes into apartments.
[Times file photo]
  3. Walmart opens first Pinellas County in-house training academy

    Retail

    Seminole — It had all the hallmarks of a typical graduation: robe-clad graduates marching in to Pomp and Circumstance, friends and family packed together under a sweltering tent and a lineup of speakers encouraging the graduates to take charge of their future.

    New Walmart Academy graduates are congratulated Thursday morning by associates during a graduation ceremony at the Walmart store, 10237 Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg. The Walmart location is one of the company's training academies where managers complete a one week retail course. David Shultz and Richard Sheehan, both from St. Petersburg, get high fives from the crowd.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Four questions with Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith before he helps lead the St. Pete Pride parade

    Human Interest

    A decade ago, Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith was afraid to tell his friends and family he was gay.

    Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith will serve as a grand marshal at the St. Pete Pride parade on Saturday. [City of Largo]
  5. Lawsuit: Florida contractor fakes death to dodge angry homeowners

    Human Interest

    SEMINOLE — For weeks, Glenn Holland, 67, crawled out of bed before the sun rose to look for a dead man.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]