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Cara Fitzpatrick, Times Staff Writer

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

Email: cfitzpatrick@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Fitz_ly

  1. Florida education news: guns, sex ring and grade fixing


    GUN DEBATE: The FSU shooting has revived a debate about whether guns should be allowed on campus. 

    FRIENDSHIP: A high school club helps students with disabilities form friendships....

  2. Discovery nights happening now until January in Pinellas


    With the application period for special programs coming up in January, schools in Pinellas County have started holding "discovery nights" to give parents and students more information about magnet and fundamental schools. School tours also have started. 

    The Pinellas County school system has more than 60 choice programs total for students in elementary, middle and high school. Not all of the programs are available to every student, of course. Some are limited by geography. Others have special entrance requirements. The district opened several new programs this year, including two technology magnet elementary schools and a middle school engineering program. It also has new programs slated to open for the 2015/16 school year. ...

  3. Shorecrest Prep names new head of middle school


    Shorecrest Preparatory School has announced that the assistant head of its middle school will take the top spot in July following Jane Morelli Johnson's retirement.

    Jonathan Davis, currently the assistant administrator, will become head of Shorecrest Middle School effective July 1. He has been in the assistant head position since 2006. Johnson is retiring at the end of this school year. Shorecrest's middle school has about 315 students enrolled in grades fifth through eight. There are about 32 faculty members. ...

  4. Pinellas can't agree on testing resolution


    A growing list of school boards in Florida have urged the state to slow down as its makes changes to its accountability system. 

    The resolutions haven't been exactly the same, but boards in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Broward, Duval and Polk counties, among others, have requested that Florida ease the transition to new standards and tests by limiting the consequences for schools and students. Palm Beach County's resolution called out high-stakes standardized testing at both the state and federal level and said it was "undermining educational quality and equity" in public schools. ...

  5. Pinellas to discuss revisions to teacher evaluations


    The Pinellas County School Board will take a look today at proposed revisions to the evaluation system for teachers and administrators.

    Superintendent Mike Grego has recommended that the School Board approve the changes at the regular meeting in December. The changes, if approved, will apply to all teachers for this year's evaluations. That means it will affect teachers under the district's regular evaluation model as well as those working in the 21 schools using the pilot program....

  6. Construction to start on new East Lake Middle Academy of Engineering


    Construction should start soon on the new East Lake Middle Academy of Engineering in Tarpon Springs.

    District officials have a groundbreaking scheduled at 10 a.m. Friday at the new site. The magnet program, which started ths year, has about 300 students enrolled. Right now students are attending school on the campus of East Lake High. But East Lake Middle Academy has its own principal and assistant principal, teachers and staff. The new program also has a separate address....

  7. Lerner is new chair of Pinellas School Board


    LARGO — Linda Lerner, who won her seventh term in office this year, was named Tuesday the chairwoman of the Pinellas County School Board. Board member Peggy O'Shea, who also won re-election in August, became vice-chairwoman. Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint the new leaders.

    Lerner, 71, is the board's longest serving member. She faced a tough re-election challenge from Maureen Ahern, a longtime journalist and wife of Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, but prevailed....

  8. Pinellas School Board to consider testing resolution


    Update: Pinellas has added the sample resolutions it's considering Thursday to the back up materials available online. Those typically are available a week in advance; board members received the resolutions in an email today.

    School Boards across Florida have taken a stand recently about the amount of testing being done in public schools.

    Lee County was, perhaps, the boldest of the bunch and voted to opt out of state standardized testing. (It then reversed itself - as the law didn't really support such a move - and adopted a resolution.) Others, including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Broward, Duval and Hernando, have adopted testing resolutions calling for the state to slow down changes in its accountability system. Pasco County is considering such a resolution today....

  9. Lerner is new chair of Pinellas School Board


    Linda Lerner, who won her seventh term in office in August, was appointed Tuesday the new chairwoman of the Pinellas County School Board.

    Lerner, 71, is the board's longest serving member. She faced a tough re-election challenge from Maureen Ahern, a longtime journalist and wife of Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, but prevailed. Peggy O'Shea, who also won re-election this year, will serve as the board's vice-chairwoman. Both women's appointments were approved with unanimous votes....

  10. Pinellas already has dismissed some co-teaching substitutes


    The Pinellas County school system made an aggressive push last month to meet the state's class size law by hiring substitute teachers to co-teach in crowded classrooms. Now, just weeks after the student count, district officials have dismissed some of the substitutes....

  11. Schools have looming crisis, foundation says: We're losing our boys


    For the Pinellas Education Foundation, there's a crisis looming in the school system.

    It's not that Pinellas County has 11 F-rated schools. It's not that nearly half of high school students read poorly. And it's not that less than half of all black males earn a diploma.

    The problem comes down to this, foundation officials say: We're losing our boys.

    They point to what they say are alarming statistics showing a gender gap in education. Fewer boys than girls graduate high school. Boys are disciplined more often than girls. And boys are outnumbered by girls on college campuses....

    Jacob Cherchio, 12, makes notes while designing a wind turbine model during an energy and environment lesson. Pinellas Education Foundation officials believe lessons can be more boy-friendly if they are more hands-on or involve more time outside.
  12. Despite state law, Pinellas presses ahead with class size fix


    LARGO — Florida law is clear about what should happen when two teachers share a classroom.

    To comply with the state's class size mandate, co-teachers must have equal responsibility for planning, teaching and grading students in the same class.

    But that wasn't the message that Pinellas school officials sent when they pushed earlier this month to hire substitute teachers as temporary co-teachers without the same duties as regular classroom teachers. The substitutes "are not responsible for any work beyond the normal school day," one district memo said, including "lesson planning, grading papers, night activities, etc." ...

    Mike Grego, Pinellas County school superintendent, says hiring substitutes as co-teachers in elementary and high schools was less disruptive to students than the alternative — hiring new teachers and splitting up classes.
  13. Schools have a new forbidden term: 'drop out'


    The Pinellas County school system would like to stop saying "drop out."

    It's negative, it carries a stigma, and some parents object when they get contacted by the district's Dropout Prevention department and their children haven't, in fact, dropped out.

    A new "catchy phrase" has been put in its place, area superintendent Barbara Hires told the School Board on Tuesday. Dropout Prevention is now called Educational Alternative Services. ...

  14. Pinellas hasn't backed off using substitutes for class size


    In its rush to meet class size, the Pinellas County school system hired substitute teachers to work as co-teachers in elementary and high schools.

    As the Times wrote last week, the state doesn't prohibit the use of substitute teachers. It does, however, say that co-teachers must have equal responsibility for planning and delivering instruction to students in the classroom. Pinellas made it clear in its internal memos that the substitutes wouldn't be expected to perform the same duties as regular classroom teachers, despite the state's direction....

  15. "Drop out" too negative, Pinellas officials say


    The Pinellas County school system would like to get away from the term "drop out."

    It's negative, it carries a stigma and some parents don't understand why they get contacted by dropout prevention services when their children haven't, in fact, dropped out. Barbara Hires, an area superintendent, has proposed a "nice, catchy phrase" instead.

    The phrase? Educational alternative services....