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


Twitter: @Fitz_ly

  1. Pinellas teachers can expect a small boost in pay


    Here's some good news for teachers in Pinellas County.

    Teachers will see a slight increase - about $300 - in their pay this year because the county's property values have gone up, which affects the special property tax used to supplement the teacher pay schedule. The projected supplement for the 2014/15 school year is $3,216, or about $294 more than last year. The difference in pay should be seen either this month, for 11.5- and 12-month employees, or in August for 10-month employees....

  2. Florida's Teacher of the Year to be named Thursday


    Florida's 2015 Teacher of the Year will be announced Thursday in a ceremony at the Hard Rock in Orlando.

    Of the Tampa Bay area, only Pinellas County has a teacher in the running for the honor. Kevin Ford, a music teacher and band director at Tarpon Springs High, is among the five finalists. Other finalists are from Flagler, Indian River, Polk and St. Johns counties....

  3. Summer Bridge cost is higher than expected


    The cost for this year's Summer Bridge program has come in higher than expected. 

    Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego estimated a $2.4 million price tag for the six-week summer session. District officials now have put that figure at $3.2 million, a little higher than the first year's $3.1 million cost. The program attracted many more students in its second year than its first, and most of the program's costs are the salary and benefits of the teachers. Some supplies also were purchased, although the district was able to reuse many of the instructional materials they bought last year....

  4. Tampa Bay Times names Graham Brink metro editor


    The Tampa Bay Times has named a new metro editor to oversee its local news operation.

    Graham Brink, 44, will move into the role after six years as the Times' business editor. He succeeds Jennifer Orsi, who was recently named managing editor.

    "Graham has a terrific record of excellence as an editor. I'm thrilled to have him leading our vital local news efforts," Orsi said....

    Graham Brink joined the Times in 1997. His most recent stint was as business editor.
  5. Pinellas Summer Bridge program aims to help struggling students


    Standing outside, in the partial shade of a tree, Makeda Hartwell didn't try to hold back.

    She shouted. She pointed. "I see a tree!" "I see some leaves!"

    This wasn't a nature walk or a trip to the park. This was school. For Makeda, a 10-year-old student at Fairmount Park Elementary in St. Petersburg, this was also a really good time.

    Makeda is one of about 10,400 students in elementary, middle and high school attending Pinellas County's Summer Bridge program this year. The six-week session, which continues through July 24, is designed to curb summer learning losses, particularly among struggling students. Students get an extra helping of reading, math and science, with a focus on hands-on activities. ...

    Kindergartener Destiny Moore, explores the world with binoculars as her Summer Bridge class goes on a nature walk at Fairmount Park Elementary School on Wednesday.
  6. Tampa Bay turnaround schools need more work after poor FCAT results



    That's how many fifth-graders at Melrose Elementary passed the math FCAT this year.

    Despite state-mandated changes in leadership and staffing, test scores at some of the "turnaround" schools in the Tampa Bay region were devastatingly low this year. Some schools could count their success stories on one hand.

    Three F-rated elementary schools in St. Petersburg, including Melrose, had some of the lowest scores in Florida. ...

    Melrose: Fourth-grader Destiny Wise looks out the window before she and other straight-A students on the Principal’s List head to a reward lunch at 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House in St. Petersburg on Dec. 12. Read more at
  7. Summer Bridge tops the 12,000-student mark


    More than 12,000 students in elementary, middle and high school have registered for Summer Bridge, which starts next week in Pinellas County. 

    When superintendent Mike Grego introduced the program in February 2013 he said that his goal was to target 11,000 to 12,000 struggling students. In its first year, about 6,600 students enrolled in the program, though not all of those showed up when Summer Bridge started....

  8. Old school on Fourth Street sold; South Ward to be leased


    ST. PETERSBURG — North Ward Secondary School has been sold for $1.9 million, despite efforts by two community groups to first get it declared a landmark.

    The century-old school was closed in 2008 and has remained vacant. It sits on less than an acre just off the Fourth Street N corridor, at 327 11th Ave. N. The Pinellas County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the sale of the property to GLI Development LLC of New York. ...

    North Ward Secondary School is at 327 11th Ave. N in St. Petersburg. Newly sold, it’s not known what will become of it.
  9. Pinellas approves sale of closed North Ward school


    The Pinellas County School Board approved Tuesday the $1.9 million sale of closed North Ward Secondary School in St. Petersburg.

    North Ward Secondary School closed in 2008 and has been vacant ever since. District officials said it made sense to sell the property to eliminate ongoing maintenance costs as well as the potential for liability costs. Board members voted 7-0 in favor of the sale to GLI Development LLC. The school sits on less than one acre of land on 11th Avenue North in the Old Northeast neighborhood....

  10. Pinellas names 2014 SRO of the year


    A school resource officer at East Lake High has been named Pinellas County's 2014 School Resource Officer of the Year.

    The Pinellas County School Board recognized Deputy Kurt Frazho Tuesday during its regular meeting, citing his "integrity, courage and duty." Michael Bessette, the district's head of operations, said students seek out Frazho to share information, seek advice and "simply because they like him."...

  11. In its second year, Pinellas' Summer Bridge nears goal of 12,000 students


    Superintendent Mike Grego announced an ambitious plan in February 2013: He would push about 12,000 of Pinellas County's struggling students to attend a sweeping new summer program.

    The timing, with only a few months until school ended, was tough. Principals scrambled to prepare schools, persuade students to attend and hire teachers. District officials rushed to buy supplies. Grego said he'd celebrate if even 1,000 students signed up. Instead, about 6,600 students enrolled in the six-week summer session, more than half the goal. ...

    “I was ecstatic with it,” school chief Mike Grego said of the latest enrollment count.
  12. With five Pinellas School Board seats in play, races begin to take shape


    Five seats on the Pinellas County School Board are open to challenge this year in an election that has the potential to dramatically change the board's makeup, and its easy relationship with second-year superintendent Mike Grego.

    Four incumbents will be trying to keep their jobs on the seven-member board.

    The board's longest-serving member, Linda Lerner, faces a challenge from Maureen Ahern, a former journalist and wife of state Rep. Larry Ahern. Board member Terry Krassner faces Chris Tauchnitz, a software engineer, while board member Rene Flowers has opposition in Irene Olive Cates, a former chef and co-founder of a nonprofit organization focused on social issues....

    Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego could be looking at a vastly different School Board in the fall with at least four seats being contested.
  13. State sees mostly flat FCAT performance


    Scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test were mostly flat this year, according to results released Friday by the state Department of Education.

    Reading scores went up one to two percentage points in grades four, five, six, eight and 10. Math scores improved slightly in grades four, five, six and seven. In science, which is taken by fifth and eighth graders, scores rose one to two percentage points. ...

  14. Pinellas considers $1.9 million sale of North Ward property


    The Pinellas County School Board will consider Tuesday whether to move forward with the sale of the closed North Ward Secondary School in St. Petersburg. 

    GLI Development LLC has offered $1.9 million, minus closing costs, for the property. It's less than one acre of land on 11th Avenue North. It's not clear what GLI Development wants to do with the property, if the School Board approves the sale....

  15. Grego proposes more principal moves in Pinellas


    The principal shuffle continues in Pinellas County Schools.

    Superintendent Mike Grego is bringing forward six principal appointments Tuesday to the School Board. Three of the principal positions were open due to retirements. It's not unusual to see principal changes this time of year, and Grego hasn't hesitated to move people. He already demoted several principals at struggling schools. Here are the latest proposed changes:...