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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

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  1. Pinellas can't agree on testing resolution

    Blog

    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. ...

  2. Pinellas to discuss revisions to teacher evaluations

    Blog

    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....

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

    Blog

    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....

  4. Lerner is new chair of Pinellas School Board

    K12

    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....

  5. Pinellas School Board to consider testing resolution

    Blog

    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....

  6. Lerner is new chair of Pinellas School Board

    Blog

    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....

  7. Pinellas already has dismissed some co-teaching substitutes

    Blog

    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....

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

    Education

    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.
  9. Despite state law, Pinellas presses ahead with class size fix

    K12

    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.
  10. Schools have a new forbidden term: 'drop out'

    K12

    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. ...

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

    Blog

    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....

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

    Blog

    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....

  13. Pinellas to try Spanish 'academies' at some elementary schools

    K12

    LARGO — Children will learn Spanish outside of the regular school day as part of a pilot program to begin soon in Pinellas County Schools.

    Before- and after-school "academies" could start at 10 elementary schools as early as November or January, officials said Tuesday. The clubs will meet one day a week, but with an emphasis on students practicing their language skills at home.

    Known as SPLASH, or Spanish Language Academy for School and Home, the program is another effort by superintendent Mike Grego to extend learning beyond the regular school day and year. In two years on the job, he has created a six-week summer session, before- and after-school programs for struggling students, a digital initiative to outfit low-income students with laptops, and academies in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. All of the programs are voluntary. ...

  14. Spanish language pilot proposed in Pinellas schools

    Blog

    Children could learn Spanish outside of the regular school day as part of a proposed pilot program in Pinellas County Schools.

    The before and after school "academies" could start at 10 elementary schools as soon as November or January. Each would be just one day a week, but with an emphasis on students practicing at home. Participation would be voluntary. A working name for the pilot: SPLASH or Spanish Language Academy for School and Home....

  15. Parent info sessions coming up in Pinellas

    Blog

    This is that time of year when we at the Gradebook start reminding you with annoying regularity about parent information sessions in the Pinellas County school system. Special programs, such as fundamental schools and magnets, are notoriously difficult to get into - and the application period is coming up in January - so here is your opportunity to get informed.

    Three information sessions are scheduled in November:...