Thursday, September 20, 2018


Marlene Sokol

Marlene Sokol

Marlene Sokol has worked at the Times as a reporter, editor and columnist since 1988. After launching North of Tampa in 1996, she served first as its editor and later as a general assignment reporter specializing in the suburbs. She now covers education in Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins opens a series of town hall meetings at South Tampa Fellowship. [MARLENE SOKOL | Times]

In town hall, Eakins takes school district's story to Ballast Point

 TAMPA — First, the disclaimer: "I'm not here to tell you how to vote," Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins told his audience. "I'm here to educate you about why we're here."
Published: 09/18/18
Updated: 09/19/18
Principal John Haley walks through the cafeteria of Franklin Boys Preparatory School. [TIMES FILES]

DeSantis’s school visit is “not a campaign stop,” Hillsborough district says

Social media this morning was abuzz with questions about gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis's planned 2 p.m. visit to Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy, a public middle school in Hillsborough County.Educators are asking: Wouldn't this...
Published: 09/18/18
Betty Castor, left, at an elections watch party here with daughter and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, would serve as chairwoman of a committee overseeing the spending of prooceeds from a proposed sales tax hike for schools. [Times files (2016)]

Betty Castor would head up spending oversight if voters approve school sales-tax hike

TAMPA — Betty Castor, long-time educator and former president of the University of South Florida, will head up a committee charged with ensuring responsible spending of a sales-tax hike for Hillsborough public schools improvements if voters approve...
Published: 09/17/18
Across Florida, even in some heavily conservative counties, voters are supporting added local taxes for schools. Of 10 local education funding measures on the Aug. 28 primary ballot, every one passed. Similar measures for eight more counties, including Hillsborough, will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. []

More Florida counties are voting to raise local taxes for schools. Is it a message to lawmakers?

In a video that appeared on YouTube in mid-May, the Republican-controlled Florida House of Representatives said "union bosses and their media allies" were pushing a "myth." It wasn’t true, they said, that state funding for public schools had...
Published: 09/17/18
Karen Perez, a social worker, is running for a seat on the Hillsborough County School Board. [MARLENE SOKOL | Times]

On the campaign trail with Hillsborough School Board candidate Karen Perez

The Tampa Bay Times was not able to interview Karen Perez during her primary campaign for Hillsborough County School Board. After she placed second in a six-way districtwide race to replace April Griffin, we invited her again...
Published: 09/14/18
Updated: 09/15/18
Tampa Theatre [SKIP O'ROURKE | Times]

Two chances next week to see “Backpack Full of Cash”

PTA organizations around Hillsborough County are sponsoring two free screenings of "Backpack Full of Cash," the documentary film about charter schools, and their growth at times of limited funding for traditional public schools.The...
Published: 09/13/18
Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins. [Hillsborough County School District]

Eakins schedules town hall meetings to discuss school needs

NOTE: This post has been updated to include appearances at Plant City High School, Wharton High School, and Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church. Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins has planned a series of...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/18/18
Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins, seen here talking with teachers in 2016, says he takes pride in having cut teaching and administrative positions over the last three years.

For Hillsborough voters, a question: How good has the school district been with your money?

TAMPA — At a Ballast Point church this Tuesday, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins will do something he held off doing for three years. He will ask the public to trust him with more of their money.
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/15/18
Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, foreground, appeared in June with Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins, right, after the teachers union and the school district reached agreement on a contract. Baxter-Jenkins, who heads the union, now is part of a political action committee supporting a new sales tax for schools. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]

New group signals grass roots support for Hillsborough schools sales tax

TAMPA — A group of Hillsborough County parents have taken the first step in mobilizing like-minded residents to support a referendum to pay for capital needs in the public schools.Teachers union leader Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins and public...
Published: 09/12/18
The Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday approved a $3 billion budget for 2018-19. District officials say they need an additional half-cent sales tax to keep up with maintenance needs in future years.

Hillsborough approves $3 billion schools budget, and a lower tax rate

TAMPA — With no discussion, the Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday adopted a $3 billion budget and a property tax rate that is lower than last year's, reflecting an increase in property values.Homeowners will pay $641.40...
Published: 09/11/18