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Cara Fitzpatrick, Times Staff Writer

Cara Fitzpatrick

Cara Fitzpatrick is a senior education reporter at the Tampa Bay Times. In 2016, she and Times reporters Lisa Gartner and Michael LaForgia won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting for Failure Factories, a five-part investigation that traced the rapid decline of five elementary schools after the Pinellas County School Board abandoned integration efforts. The series also was honored with the George Polk Award for Education Reporting, the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism, the Investigative Reporters and Editors Medal, and the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, among other awards. 

Fitzpatrick joined the Times in 2012. She grew up in Washington State and graduated from the University of Washington and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in St. Petersburg with her husband and two children. 

Phone: (727) 893-8846

Email: cfitzpatrick@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Fitz_ly

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  1. Pinellas 'Transformation Zone' schools showing signs of progress, officials say

    K12

    At eight of the lowest performing schools in Pinellas County, district officials see promising signs: academic growth, reductions in suspensions and discipline referrals, better teaching and improved attendance.

    The question is whether the improvements will translate into stronger academic performance and higher test scores.

    "We're seeing continued growth in these schools, which gives us hope," Dan Evans, the district's head of accountability and research, said this week during a community meeting in south St. Petersburg, where six of the eight schools are located. Two other schools are in Clearwater....

    A third-grade class at Fairmount Park Elementary, one of eight “Transformation Zone” schools in Pinellas County. A new draft report details signs of progress in the schools as they head into the spring testing season. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times (2015)]
  2. Pinellas School Board approved $10.5 million for first technical high school

    Blog

    The Pinellas County School Board approved Tuesday a $10.5 million project to turn Career Academies of Seminole into a technical high school, expected to open in the 2018-19 school year.

    Hundreds of students currently commute to the school for two periods of technical classes. The project will make it into a comprehensive high school.

    Superintendent Mike Grego said he was “very excited about this project.”...

  3. School on Saturday? Pinellas sees it as another way to reach struggling students

    K12

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sitting in the school library on a brisk and breezy Saturday morning, Cadi Moorehead proudly held up two sheets of paper.

    "I wrote a two-page story about Nate the Great," she announced.

    Cadi, 9, could have slept in. She could have played outside. But she wanted to be in school. So here she was on a Saturday morning at Fairmount Park Elementary, doing math on an iPad, reading aloud from Nate the Great, a children's series about a boy detective, and writing a story about what she read....

    Third grader Shandreeke Henry, 10, reads her book  during Saturday Academy Jan. 28, 2017 at Fairmount Park Elementary School. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Voters see School Board candidates through a new lens: Trump versus Clinton

    K12

    Carol Cook came to the polls Tuesday prepared to talk about issues.

    The good things happening in struggling schools, an improving graduation rate, Hispanic student achievement and more career education options. The 16-year Pinellas County School Board incumbent could expound on them all.

    Instead, many passers-by avoided her gaze or sidestepped away. When voters did talk to Cook, they weren't focused on education. They didn't ask about her opponent, Eliseo Santana. They wanted to know: Are you for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Are you a Republican or a Democrat?...

    Eliseo Santana interacts with a voter as he campaigns for Pinellas County School Board outside the Supervisor of Elections headquarters, where people were voting early. School Board candidates, who are running for non-partisan seats, are increasingly being asked whether they support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in this year’s vitriolic election. Santana is running against incumbent Carol Cook for the District 5 seat. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  5. Third Bridging the Gap forum draws more than 100 people

    Blog

    More than 100 people turned out Tuesday night at the third public forum to receive input about the Pinellas County School District's plan to close the achievement gap.

    The forum, which was held at Gibbs High, followed the same format as the first two, held at Largo High and Boca Ciega High. Superintendent Mike Grego spoke for about 20 minutes and then asked audience members to write their suggestions on sticky notes....

  6. Plaintiffs in desegregation case suspend negotiations with Pinellas County Schools

    Blog

    The plaintiffs in a Civil Rights-era desegregation lawsuit announced Monday that they are suspending informal negotiations with the Pinellas County School District.

    In a letter emailed to the district, Enrique Escarraz and Roger Plata, lawyers for the plaintiffs, said that after more than a half-dozen meetings, progress has been “extremely slow and uneven.”

    Instead of continuing to meet as scheduled, they are giving the school district two weeks to provide detailed plans related to black student achievement....

  7. Pinellas students transfer out of four low-performing elementary schools

    Blog

    Dozens of students transferred this year out of four low-performing elementary schools in south St. Petersburg, taking advantage of a long-standing state law.

    According to the Pinellas County School District, 88 students opted to transfer to higher-performing elementary schools. The transfers include: 26 students from Fairmount Park to Bauder; 22 students from Campbell Park to Cross Bayou; 22 from Lakewood to Azalea; and 18 from Melrose to Fuguitt, Curlew Creek and Pinellas Central. (Most of the students from Melrose went to Fuguitt.)...

  8. Second 'Bridging the Gap' forum draws large crowd

    Blog

    More than 100 people turned out Tuesday night at a public forum to get input about the Pinellas County School District's plan to close the achievement gap.

    The gathering, held at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport, was the second of four scheduled by the school district. Superintendent Mike Grego first unveiled the "Bridging the Gap" plan in 2013, but district officials have updated it, as well as the district's overall strategic plan. ...

  9. Before you go: Review the Pinellas Bridging the Gap plan

    Blog

    The Pinellas County School District is holding four public forums to solicit community feedback about an update to its 2014 Bridging the Gap plan.

    The first forum starts at 6 p.m. tonight at Largo High School. District officials have posted information about the plan online that you can review before attending. (Don't let that stop you from going, though. There also will be a presenation at the forum.)...

  10. Friction mars talks in legal battle over Pinellas black students

    K12

    For the second time since settling 16 years ago, the plaintiffs in a 50-year-old desegregation case have forced the Pinellas County School District back to the table to try to ensure that black children get an equal education.

    The meetings, which started in August, have been tense, even hostile.

    So much so that the lawyers for the plaintiffs, Enrique Escarraz and Roger Plata, said Friday that they were considering going to the next step in the legal process and calling in a mediator....

    Roger Plata, co-counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, listens during a March meeting of an education advocacy group.
  11. Tony Dungy tells Pinellas students: 'Think about your future'

    K12

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tony Dungy, a bestselling author and the first black head coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl win, told students Wednesday at Gibbs High School that the key to having a bright future is simple: Get good grades, get a high school diploma and go to college.

    In other words, "keep your options open," he said.

    Dungy's father gave him that advice. But Dungy, a former head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, told students that he didn't get it when he was a teenager. At that point in his life, the future was about six hours later that day. It was "what was going to happen that night." Sports was everything to him....

    Maurice Thurton with his son J'Len Thurton, 11, a 5th grader, during the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the Day Of Dialogue and Dads Take Your Child To School Day in the auditorium at Gibbs High School Wednesday afternoon (09/28/16). The event featured an inspirational speech by coach Tony Dungy. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
  12. Incumbent Ken Peluso loses to teacher Eileen Long in close race for Pinellas School Board

    K12

    The Pinellas County School Board lost one incumbent during Tuesday's primary election, while two other races will be decided in runoff contests in November.

    Ken Peluso, 59, narrowly lost his District 4 seat to 55-year-old Eileen Long, a veteran teacher. Long earned 51.1 percent of the vote, while Peluso earned 48.9 percent, according to preliminary results.

    Long said she was nervous about the close race but excited. She said she kept looking away from the results at a watch party at the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association headquarters in Largo....

    Pinellas County School Board candidates, from left, Joanne Lentino, Eileen Long and Eliseo Santana celebrate Long’s victory in the District 4 race at a watch party Tuesday in Largo. Lentino and Santana had a good night, too, with each earning enough votes to make runoff contests in November.
  13. Events: Black Men & Boys Week starts Monday

    Blog

    Black Men & Boys Week 2016 starts Monday in Pinellas County. Here's the schedule of events:

    Monday: "The Faith Community Role in After-School Education," by Rev. Dr. Alfonso Wyatt, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Mt. Zion Progressive M.B.C.

    Tuesday: "More than a Statistic: The Plight of Black Men and Boys," moderated by Dr. Christopher Warren, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., USFSP Davis Hall Room 130...

  14. So far, most teachers staying in Failure Factories

    Blog

    A review released this month by the Florida Department of Education found that students enrolled in five struggling elementary schools in south St. Petersburg had a larger number of inexperienced teachers than higher-performing schools. The Times wrote about the review yesterday - and revealed that issue nearly a year ago here....

  15. Report: Inexperienced teachers a problem in south St. Petersburg schools, but improvements noted

    K12

    Students at five failing elementary schools in St. Petersburg's black neighborhoods were far more likely to be taught by an inexperienced teacher than students enrolled in higher-performing schools in Pinellas County, a state review has found.

    State officials found that teachers who had three years of experience or less accounted for 30 to 40 percent of the staff at Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose elementary schools. At some higher-ranked schools, that number was between 4 and 8 percent. State officials reviewed teacher data from the 2014-15 school year....

    Students gather outside Campbell Park Elementary before the start of school in April 2015. Using data from that year, the state Department of Education found that 30 to 40 percent of the teaching staff at Campbell Park and four other south St. Petersburg elementary schools had three years of experience or less in the 2014-15 school year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]