Saturday, April 21, 2018
Education

Errant robocall from Pinellas schools gives parents a rude awakening

ST. PETERSBURG — The last day before the first day of school is supposed to be a final exercise of summer freedom, with an emphasis on sleeping in.

But a predawn phone call Sunday from the Pinellas County School District jolted hundreds of bleary-eyed parents out of bed with a one-minute recorded "welcome back" message from the superintendent.

Welcome back, indeed.

According to parents' Facebook posts and Twitter messages, their phones began ringing around 6 a.m. Those who answered woke up to the sound of superintendent Michael Grego's recorded voice reminding them that the county's public schools reopen today and encouraging them to talk to their children about their goals for the upcoming academic year.

A school district spokeswoman said Sunday that the robocalls, which the district pays California-based company SchoolMessenger to distribute, were intended to go out that evening instead.

Shortly after noon Sunday, the district sent out a second automated phone message to parents, apologizing for the wake-up calls.

"It certainly was not the district's intent for the call to be delivered at the time most families received it. The district apologizes for this unexpected disturbance and is investigating the reason for the error," spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra wrote in an email.

In the hours after the call, dozens of parents went online to make their complaints known. In Facebook posts filled with a sense of betrayal and laced with the occasional expletive, they commiserated with one another over losing what amounts to a national holiday, if an unnamed one. Some joked — or maybe not — about calling Grego's home in the wee hours of the morning.

"It was like the last day to sleep in, and it was a really rude awaking," said Barbara Walker, 48, who has two children in Pinellas schools.

At 6 a.m. her landline phone and cellphone began ringing one after the other, sending her scrambling out of bed, alarmed there might be an emergency.

In a daze, she answered, catching snippets of the recording.

"It was like in Charlie Brown," she said. "I heard blah, blah, blah."

Comments
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Every time I see an algebraic formula, Mrs. Watson, Mrs. Landreth and Mrs. McBee flash through my mind.If you say history, I say Mr. Groot and Mrs. Melton. If you say civics, I say Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Hunt.I type using the "home keys" because Mrs....
Updated: 30 minutes ago
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18
Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

LARGO — Starting soon, Pinellas County public schools could be using a nationwide violence prevention program founded by families of those killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012.The nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, with ...
Published: 04/19/18

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Published: 04/18/18
After Parkland, these students became activists. Will their movement last?

After Parkland, these students became activists. Will their movement last?

TAMPA — Sam Sharf’s parents thought he had the best position on the Plant High School football team. As back-up quarterback, he could impress the girls but rarely played enough to get hurt.Now a junior, Sharf is off the team so he can focus his energ...
Published: 04/18/18