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. ...
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....
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....
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....
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....
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....
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....
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....
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....
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....
A special property tax raised more than $32 million during the 2013/14 school year, paying for musical instruments, band uniforms, Smart Boards, iPads and field trips, an oversight committee told the Pinellas County School Board this week.
Of the millions raised each year, 80 percent goes to teacher salaries — giving each teacher a little less than $3,000 each year — and the rest supports art, music, reading and technology in schools. In years when property values declined, teachers actually lost money in their salaries. That wasn't the case in 2013 or 2014, when values improved and teachers got a tiny bump in pay as a result....
More than 50 teachers came out Tuesday with a clear message for the Pinellas County School Board emblazoned on their red T-shirts: Just let us teach.
Mike Gandolfo, president of the teachers union, said that teachers are fleeing the profession. He said he was "hard pressed" to find a young teacher who planned to continue teaching in five years. Veterans are retiring as soon as they can afford to, he said. Part of the problem, Gandolfo said, is that new teaching strategies encourage teachers to follow "pre-ordained scripts" and cookie-cutter lessons....
This is a friendly reminder to parents in Pinellas County. If your child applied to a magnet or fundamental program for the 2015/16 school year, today is the FINAL day to accept an invitation. Log into the student reservation system here.
Things to keep in mind:
*If you accept an invitation to a program, your child's name will be removed from waiting lists for other programs. That frees up spots for other students. This means you need to be sure about your selection. ...
The Pinellas County School District saw an increase again this year in the number of students applying to magnet and fundamental programs.
During the 10-day application window, 11,266 students applied to elementary, middle and high school programs. Last year, 10,432 students applied; in 2013, 9,680 did. Students can submit up to five applications each year. That means, of course, that there are far more applications than students. This year, there were 29,471 applications submitted....
After four years in the top job at Dunedin High, Reuben C. Hepburn learned last month that he would be the new principal of Gibbs High. His first day was Jan. 5. We caught up with him for a few minutes to ask about his plans for Gibbs. We've paraphrased some of his comments below.
First, a quick bio: Hepburn is 44 and lives in Dunedin.
He has a bachelor's degree in history education from Florida A&M University and a master's degree in educational leadership from the University of South Florida....