Make us your home page

Cara Fitzpatrick, Times Staff Writer

Cara Fitzpatrick

Cara Fitzpatrick joined the Tampa Bay Times in 2012 and is an education reporter. She grew up in Washington State and graduated from the University of Washington and Columbia University.

Phone: (727) 893-8846


Twitter: @Fitz_ly

  1. 'Failure Factories': Duncan blasts Pinellas school system for 'education malpractice' (w/video)



    U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a stinging rebuke Friday to the Pinellas County School District, calling the rapid decline of five predominantly black neighborhood schools a "man-made disaster" and "education malpractice."

    Standing in Campbell Park Elementary, Duncan said: "What has happened to too many kids, for too long, is unacceptable. It's heartbreaking. Part of me wants to cry. Part of me gets very, very angry."...

    Fifth-grader Tarell Taliaferro and Campbell Park Elementary principal Rob Ovalle meet U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Deputy Secretary of Education John King, left, at the school on Friday in St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD | Times]  

  2. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to visit Campbell Park after Failure Factories investigation


    U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan plans to visit Campbell Park Elementary Friday afternoon for a private gathering with parents, students and community members.

    Duncan will take questions from the media afterward.

    Campbell Park is one of five neighborhood schools at the heart of the Tampa Bay Times investigation, Failure Factories, which showed how the Pinellas County School District abandoned integration efforts in 2007 and then failed to follow through with promised resources. Today, the five schools — which also include Melrose, Maximo, Fairmount Park, and Lakewood — are the county's most segregated and are failing at rates far worse than almost any other schools in Florida. Dozens of schools with similar demographics outperform them....

    U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan plans to visit Campbell Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg on Friday afternoon for a private gathering with parents, students and community members. [Associated Press]
  3. Administrative moves in Pinellas


    The Pinellas County School Board will be asked Tuesday to sign off on a couple administrative moves.

    Mary Conage, the district's Title 1 director, will become the director of special projects. Conage has worked in the Pinellas school system since 1987. She has been the Title 1 director since 2007. Sherry Aemisseger, principal of McMullen Booth Elementary, will become the director of exceptional student education. She has worked in the school system since 1990. She has been principal of McMullen Booth since 2010....

  4. State education officials investigating Pinellas schools' spending on poor students


    The Florida Department of Education is reviewing how the Pinellas County school system spends federal dollars for poor children and whether all students get equal access to good teachers, according to a letter from federal education officials made public Tuesday.

    The move is in response to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who last month called for a federal review of the "crisis" in south St. Petersburg's neighborhood elementary schools. She said that a Tampa Bay Times investigation raised serious questions about what's going on in five predominantly black schools....

    U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor sought a federal review.
  5. John Hopkins Middle is a finalist for a national journalism award


    Here's some good news for John Hopkins Middle School.

    The St. Petersburg school is a finalist for a prestigious national journalism award. For the third consecutive year, the J. Hop Times is a finalist for the 2014 Pacemaker Awards from the National Scholastic Press Association. The award is given for journalistic excellence. It's the highest honor given in the scholastic press industry, according to the Pinellas County School District....

  6. Confederate flag punctuates Pinellas School Board discussion on failing schools


    LARGO — With a dramatic flourish, a longtime education activist unfurled a Confederate battle flag Tuesday in front of Pinellas County School Board members, saying they had failed black students in five neighborhood schools in south St. Petersburg.

    Sami Leigh Scott told the board she was there to represent the 95 percent of students in the schools who failed reading or math last year. ...

    School Board Chairwoman Linda Lerner wants the focus to be on the district’s efforts to improve schools in the last two years.
  7. Castor calls for federal review of Pinellas schools after 'Failure Factories'


    U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor called Tuesday for a federal review of the "crisis" in south St. Petersburg's neighborhood schools, saying students aren't receiving an "equal opportunity to a high quality education."

    Castor, the Tampa Democrat whose district includes part of southern Pinellas County, said Tuesday in a letter to the U.S. Department of Education that a Tampa Bay Times investigation raised serious questions about the use of federal dollars for poor children and the overall quality of education students are receiving in five predominantly black elementary schools....

    "Our federal and state laws — and our values — require that all children, no matter what neighborhood in which they live, receive an equal opportunity to a high quality education," said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
  8. Officials announce stepped-up efforts after Times' Failure Factories schools investigation


    Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego has announced a plan to convert three of five failing elementary schools in St. Petersburg's black neighborhoods into magnet programs, even as city and county leaders reacted to a Tampa Bay Times investigation that found years of neglect turned the schools into some of the worst in Florida.

    The proposal could mean additional resources and even facility upgrades for the schools. If successful, the magnet programs could create racial balance at schools that last year were as much as 86 percent black....

    After a Tampa Bay Times investigation found that years of neglect turned five predominantly black elementary schools into some of the worst schools in Florida, Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego announced that he plans to convert three of the schools into magnet programs. Grego called it a "needed step" for Pinellas County. "We're dealing with trying to undo and re-engineer some of the decisions that have been made," he said. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  9. Brickley to be principal again


    Kathleen Brickley, who was demoted a year ago despite overseeing a two-letter grade jump at Dunedin Elementary, has been tapped to be a principal again.

    Pending School Board approval Tuesday, Brickley will lead Curlew Creek Elementary in Palm Harbor for the 2015/16 school year. Brickley spent the 2014/15 school year as an assistant principal at Brooker Creek Elementary in Tarpon Springs. She had been a principal for nearly a decade when she was demoted....

  10. How does John Hopkins Middle School garden grow? With Mr. Mac's help


    Walking through tidy rows of plants, McKinley Hayward asks, "Have you ever seen a sweet potato grow?"

    Often, the answer is no.

    Here, in the heart of Midtown, many of his visitors haven't been in a garden before. The corner stores sell chips and soda but are short on fresh produce. He asks children where vegetables come from and they say Publix or Walmart. He loves to astonish them by revealing sweet potatoes in the dirt or a head of cauliflower tucked behind big, green leaves....

    Hayward, who retired from the city water department after a 33-year career, explains his dedication to the garden simply: “I’m a worker.”
  11. Melrose Elementary teacher is Pinellas' Outstanding Educator of the Year


    CLEARWATER — After more than three decades of teaching, Kim Lopez made a surprising decision to move to one of Pinellas County's lowest-performing schools.

    With retirement nearing, Lopez, 60, said she wanted to spend her final years "teaching my heart out."

    That was a year and a half ago. On Tuesday, Lopez, a fifth-grade teacher at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, was named Pinellas County's 2015 Outstanding Educator of the Year. She was recognized for her teaching skill, her passion and her perpetual energy....

    Dunedin Highland’s Kathleen Earle was the “fan favorite.”
  12. Teacher investigated for posting 'terrorist list' of students on classroom door


    Pinellas school district officials are investigating a math teacher at St. Petersburg High who allegedly posted a "terrorist list" on his classroom door with students' names.

    District officials declined to name the teacher, citing the investigation.

    Tyler Harris, 15, discovered the list Wednesday after arriving at his fourth period class. He was one of five students named. Under each name was an Arabic-sounding alias that mimicked the students' actual names. Harris took a photo of the list and sent it to his parents....

  13. Principal named for alternative school in Pinellas


    A new principal has been named for the alternative high school at Hamilton Disston in Pinellas County.

    Tamika D. Hughes-Leeks, assistant principal at Seminole High School, will move into the position Feb. 25, pending School Board approval. The School Board, which will consider the appointment Tuesday, typically must vote to approve the superintendent's personnel appointments unless a candidate is unqualified....

  14. A familiar face will be new public information officer


    Superintendent Mike Grego has selected a familiar face to fill the public information officer job in the Pinellas County School District.

    Lisa Wolf will step into the role in March, pending approval by the School Board. Wolf, who works for the Moffitt Cancer Center, was a multimedia coordinator for the school district from 2012 to 2013. Prior to working in the district, Wolf was an evening anchor and reporter in Montana and a morning anchor/reporter and producer in Florida. She has a bachelor's degree from Florida State University....

  15. Pinellas soon to name public information officer


    The Pinellas County School District could name a new public information officer as soon as next week.

    The position has been open since December, when former spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra was tapped to lead the communications department. Parra said Thursday that eight people were interviewed to fill the position....