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. Interested in two new elementary technology magnets? Apply March 12-17


    It can take years to build the reputation of an academic program. But district officials are counting on two new technology magnet schools to fill up, possibly before principals have been named or facilities renovated.

    Pending School Board approval Tuesday, Gulf Beaches Elementary in St. Pete Beach and Kings Highway Elementary in Clearwater will start taking applications Wednesday for the 2014-15 school year. Both will serve students in kindergarten to fifth grade, with a focus on learning through technology....

  2. Athenian Academy looks to move to Clearwater


    Athenian Academy, a long-time charter school in Pinellas County, plans to move to a new facility in Clearwater for the 2015/16 school year.

    The charter, which focuses on language immersion in Greek and Spanish, would move from its current location in Dunedin in two years, if the change is approved Tuesday by the Pinellas School Board. Charter officials also have requested a slight boost in enrollment for the 2015/16 school year, from 320 students to 400 students....

  3. Pinellas taking applications for some middle school programs


    Pinellas County Schools still is promoting some of its special middle school programs. Several open houses are planned, starting next week, and late applications will be accepted at the end of the month.

    The school district will take applications to three of its four new middle school programs, including the pre-Cambridge program at Pinellas Park Middle School, the Leadership Conservatory for the Arts (with the pre-Cambridge program) at Tarpon Springs Middle, and the engineering program at Azalea Middle. It also will accept applications to the Center for the Arts and the Center for Journalism and Multimedia at John Hopkins Middle. ...

  4. Summer Bridge registration opens next week


    Pinellas County Schools will open registration next week for Summer Bridge, a six-week program aimed at struggling students.

    This is the second year of Summer Bridge for the school district. School officials are expecting greater turnout this year; last year, about 9,000 students in elementary, middle and high school participated in some part of Summer Bridge. Superintendent Mike Grego has said, however, that he expects the initiative to cost less because some instructional supplies will be reused. Last year, the total price tag was about $3.1 million. ...

  5. Confused by Florida's teacher scoring? So are top teachers


    Patrick Boyko is a good teacher. He is probably even outstanding. A couple of weeks ago, Boyko was named the 2014 Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year.

    He beat out a band director who has tripled the program's membership, a National Board Certified art teacher, and a third-generation Hillsborough educator who's bringing robotics into elementary schools.

    "Patrick treasures his students and challenges them not only to be academically successful but also as future responsible adults," the Hillsborough Education Foundation wrote of his selection....

    Hillsborough Teacher of the Year Patrick Boyko got a minus 10.23.
  6. Pinellas schools hope for Bill and Melinda Gates grant


    LARGO — School officials are awaiting word on whether they have secured a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to plan for the opening of a new "incubator" high school with a focus on personalized education and technology.

    The $691,217 grant also would pay for pilot programs in at least four traditional high schools.

    Pinellas County School District officials traveled to Texas in late January to make their pitch. They expect to hear soon whether they were successful....

  7. Transfer requests for Pinellas teachers should be in today


    Pinellas County teachers looking to make a change need to put in their requests to transfer by today. 

    The window for voluntary transfers opened Feb. 17 and closes today. Teachers will get another chance to put in a request this year, starting April 28 and ending June 19, according to a district memo. Principals will make their recommendations next week for reappointments for the 2014/15 school year. ...

  8. Pinellas moves public comment to end of meeting


    The public will have to wait until after the Pinellas County School Board's regular meetings conclude to make comments about items not on the regular agenda. 

    Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to move general comments from before the meeting until after. Chairwoman Carol Cook said the intention was to make the meetings run more efficiently. Often, she said, there are only two speakers before the meetings, which then results in a lag time between public comment and the official start of the meeting. Or, like Tuesday night, there are a dozen speakers and the comment period runs into the start of the meeting....

  9. Pinellas fires special education aide


    The Pinellas County School Board fired Tuesday a special education aide who had a history of problems and poor performance. 

    The vote was unanimous to accept the recommendation of an administrative law judge and fire Rose Dacanay, a classroom aide at Paul B. Stephens Exceptional Student Education Center in Clearwater. She has been out of the classroom for a year following superintendent Mike Grego's original recommendation that she be fired. Dacanay had appealed to the state....

  10. Pinellas School Board changes grading policy for honors students


    LARGO — How valuable is an honors class?

    For next year's ninth-graders, the answer is: a little less.

    Students will earn a half-point less toward their grade-point average for earning an "A" in an honors class than for the same grade earned in more challenging Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual-enrollment courses.

    Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego brought the idea up a year ago after meeting with a group of high school students. The juniors and seniors suggested that honors classes be weighted less than more difficult courses....

    "It makes sense. Most school districts have it that way," says Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego.
  11. Pinellas will consider making honors classes worth less than IB, AP


    Incoming ninth graders in Pinellas County could find their honors classes less valuable in grade-point calculations than challenging college-level courses. 

    The School Board will consider Tuesday whether to change the current practice that ranks honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate the same for the purpose of GPAs. On a five-point scale, those classes merit a 5, while regular classes get a 4. With the proposal, students entering high school in the 2014/15 school year still would get a 5 for IB and AP classes but a 4.5 for honors....

  12. School districts reassure teachers about release of VAM data


    With the release of teachers' individual value-added evaluation scores, school officials in Tampa Bay area school districts sought Monday to reassure their employees - and to caution parents about reading too much into the data.

    Hernando superintendent Lori Romano and Hernando teachers union president Jo Ann Hartge released a joint statement, saying that the release of the data could be stressful to teachers but "Please know that we value you and your daily commitment to our students."...

  13. Pinellas will consider change in public comments


    The Pinellas County School Board will consider Tuesday whether to have the public wait until after a meeting has ended to make general comments. Right now, the public can make comments about items not on the agenda before the meeting has started....

  14. Pinellas School Board member Robin Wikle announces plans to resign


    A routine Pinellas School Board workshop played out as expected Tuesday — at least until a bombshell announcement by board member Robin Wikle that she plans to resign.

    Wikle, who was elected in 2008 and 2012 and served as the board's chairwoman in 2012, told the board she will tender her resignation later this year. The delay allows her seat to be filled in the election and not through a gubernatorial appointment....

    Robin Wikle has two years in her current term. She will stay until fall.
  15. Turnaround school: At Melrose Elementary, pressure is on to improve grades



    Sitting on the cafeteria floor, about 170 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders gathered to celebrate the academic stars among them.

    There were only a few.

    Eight students earned all A's. Twenty-four had A's and B's. The exercise itself — an honor roll assembly — was peculiar for Melrose Elementary. One hadn't been held in years, staff members said.

    "Destiny Wise … Alissa Knox … ."...

    “I feel like I’m in a fairy tale,” fourth-grader Destiny Wise said after getting off the bus across from the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club.