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 school budget includes more money for operations, lower tax rate


    LARGO — The Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday tentatively approved a $1.2 billion budget that includes two new elementary magnets, new middle school programs and the rebuilding of Largo High School.

    Final budget approval will come in September.

    The budget for the 2014-15 school year includes about $25 million more from the state for operating expenses. The $878.8 million operating budget pays for teacher salaries and day-to-day costs. Some of the additional dollars will be needed to pay for state-mandated expenses, such as an extra hour of reading at more than a dozen low-performing schools....

  2. Pinellas gives area superintendents control of $1.9 million in capital funds


    Four area superintendents will have control over $1.9 million in capital dollars as part of a new fund created by the Pinellas County school system for the 2014/15 school year.

    The top administrators - Patricia Wright, Robert Poth, Barbara Hires and Ward Kennedy - primarily oversee schools, which involves managing principals, school-based administrators and support staff. Their work typically is focused on academics. The new fund will make them more involved in "prioritizing maintenance projects," according to the budget department. The fund has $1,897,250 in it for the 2014/15 school year. The School Board will consider Tuesday night whether to tentatively approve a $1.2 billion budget, which includes the new fund for area superintendents....

  3. Election: Forum coming up for Pinellas County School Board


    The election for Pinellas County School Board is a month away, with five seats in play. Next week, there will be a chance to see the candidates in action.

    Candidates have been invited to a public forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Digitorium at St. Petersburg College on the Seminole campus. That's at 9200 113th St. N, Seminole. The candidates will be asked about current issues and their qualifications for office. The forum is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6 p.m. ...

  4. New principals named at Tarpon Springs High and Tarpon Springs Middle


    New principals have been selected for open posts at Tarpon Springs High School and Tarpon Springs Middle School.

    James Joyer, an assistant principal and magnet coordinator at Boca Ciega High, will lead Tarpon Springs High. Raquel Payne Giles, a central office administrator in the Tuscaloosa school system, will lead Tarpon Springs Middle. Both of the moves were approved Tuesday by the Pinellas County School Board. ...

  5. Grego responds to criticism about Dunedin Elementary


    Superintendent Mike Grego has taken some heat for his comments to a Times reporter who asked him about his decision to demote the principal of Dunedin Elementary. The Times editorial board Wednesday called it the "latest example" of Grego responding curtly when asked to explain his decisions....

  6. Would proposed IB program at John Hopkins compete with Sanderlin K-8?


    Superintendent Mike Grego is making his pitch Tuesday to the School Board to expand magnet programs in Pinellas County, adding magnets to five schools. One of the questions to arise from the proposal is whether the addition of an International Baccalaureate program at John Hopkins Middle would compete with the existing IB program at Sanderlin K-8....

  7. Grego proposes dramatic expansion of Pinellas magnet schools


    Faced with long waiting lists and the flight of frustrated parents to private and charter schools, superintendent Mike Grego will unveil next week a multiyear proposal to dramatically expand magnet programs in Pinellas County schools.

    Under the proposal, five schools across the county would get new magnet programs.

    In Clearwater, Sandy Lane Elementary would open a performing arts center similar to the popular one at Perkins Elementary in St. Petersburg. Tyrone Middle School in St. Petersburg would become a technology magnet. And three schools — Largo Middle, John Hopkins Middle and Mildred Helms Elementary — would open International Baccalaureate programs....

    Mike Grego said the proposal is “subject to discussion.”
  8. 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....

  9. 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....

  10. 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....

  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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
  14. 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....

  15. 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.