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Colleen Wright, Times Staff Writer

Colleen Wright

Colleen Wright covers Pinellas County Schools since joining the Times in 2015. Florida born and bred, she was raised in Miami and graduated from the University of Florida.

Phone: (727) 893-8643


Twitter: @Colleen_Wright

  1. Back to school: What you need to know in Pinellas


    Pinellas County parents can find back-to-school information at Here are a few important steps for families who are not yet registered:

    Getting started

    Any new student going into kindergarten, sixth or ninth grade will be assigned to a zoned school as long as there is available capacity. Students must be 5 years old on or before Sept. 1 to register for kindergarten. Students going into other grades will be assigned to their zoned school on a space-available basis....

  2. Florida education news: back to school, budgets, lawsuits and more


    WHAT'S NEW: As they return to school in August, Florida students will find they have some new rights, courtesy of a state Legislature that was busy this year when it came to education. These range from the ability to speak more freely to the chance to get a little down time. Not all the rules apply to everyone equally. But barring a legal challenge, they'll be in place for the first day of school. Here are eight ways Florida's public schools will be different this year, Jeff Solochek reports....

    Students enjoy lunch at Kid's Community College in Riverview, one of several charter schools to pop up locally in recent years, giving parents more to think about as they choose a school for their children.
  3. Florida education news: #HB7069 lawsuits, budgets, teacher's union tussle and more


    #HB7069 LAWSUIT: The tally of Florida school boards taking legal action against the state has risen to five. On Tuesday three school boards from Bay, Lee and Volusia counties voted to join the lawsuit with Broward and St. Lucie school boards that challenges the controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. The Miami-Dade School Board and Polk County School Board could be next to join, too. Pinellas County School Board's attorney David Koperski on Tuesday evening said those school boards have pooled $95,000 together, which may be enough to cover legal expenses. Pinellas is expected to make a decision on whether to join the lawsuit by August 15....

    The Pinellas County School Board meets in August 2015 at district headquarters in Largo.
  4. Florida education news: #HB7069 lawsuit, school board speakers, audits and more


    #HB7069: Lee County could be the next school system to join in a legal challenge against the state for approving an education bill that many school boards claim is unconstitutional. ...The decision will come up today as part of the consent agenda at the 6 p.m. action meeting. The lawsuit "would seek a declaratory judgment that the bill is unconstitutional, and a court order enjoining its enforcement." Because the district would be joining other school districts in the fight, the legal fees would be shared by all the plaintiffs. This could cost Lee County $25,000, the Fort Myers News-Press reports....

    Citizens fill a Pinellas County School Board meeting in 2016.
  5. Florida education news: #HB7069, 'Robin Hood' funding, the search for teachers and more


    WHAT NEXT? Every year, new state laws hit the books that have to be implemented once they take effect. But House Bill 7069 isn’t your average new law. The sweeping, 274-page, $419 million measure that reforms Florida’s public K-12 schools spans dozens of changes in statute — some of which are complex and take effect at different times over the course of the next few years. So, what goes into implementing something like that? The Florida Department of Education doesn’t want to answer questions about it and hasn’t offered much detail publicly three weeks after HB 7069 became law on July 1, the Herald/Times Bureau reports....

    Over 600 new Hillsborough County teachers listen to superintendent Jeff Eakins during an orientation in July 2016.
  6. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017


    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in suing: at least Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee, Duval, Palm Beach, Alachua, Miami-Dade, Volusia, Bay and Lee. However Pinellas' superintendent and legal counsel predict it'll take about a month for any lawsuit to be officially filed....

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
  7. Pinellas superintendent, School Board pen letter to legislative delegation for help against 'unjust' funds for charter schools


    Thanks to a recent change in state law, the Pinellas County school district will have to shell out $25 million over five years  -- more funding per student than any other large district in the state -- for charter school construction and maintenance projects.

    That's why district officials are seeking help from local legislators to "lessen the inequity."

    New provisions set forth by House Bill 7069, which may soon be the focus of a legal battle between several school boards and the state, now require school districts to share locally levied millage funds with charter schools in the district. Those are the local dollars budgeted for construction and maintenance projects....

    Pinellas County School Board Superintendent Michael Grego during a School Board meeting on August 25, 2015 at the School Administration Building, 301 Fourth Street SW in Largo.
  8. Florida education news: jobs, desegregation, lawsuits and more


    RESOURCES: A job created last year to coach and mentor first-year teachers in struggling schools, which was funded by the Pinellas County school district and the teacher's union, is being eliminated. Kali Davis, the educator who filled that role, is headed back to a school-based site partially because of personal reasons and because it's hard to quantify how effective she was in retaining teachers....

    Third-grade teacher Rachel Lachiusa, 23, left, gets help from Kali Davis, whose job it was to mentor first-year teachers in St. Petersburg.
  9. New job for Pinellas mentor to first-year teachers


    Remember Kali Davis, a Pinellas school district teacher whose job last year was to mentor and coach 26 first-year teachers in six of the district's lowest-performing schools?

    She's still around (she spent this summer training rookie teachers on classroom management), but she'll no longer be known as an "Early Career Educator Support & PCS/PCTA Liaison," a position that was funded by the school district and the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association....

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg. Davis' year-round job has shifted from coaching first-year teachers at six struggling schools to an instructional coach at Ridgecrest Elementary in Largo.
  10. Florida education news: lawsuits, trans rights, recess and more


    ANOTHER ONE: Palm Beach County may be the next School Board to pick a legal fight with the state over the controversial HB 7069, but they may do it alone. Board members Wednesday seemed conflicted about whether to participate with other school boards, like Broward and St. Lucie counties, in a joint lawsuit or sue on their own, but they left no doubt about their intentions to challenge HB 7069 in court. More from the Palm Beach Post and Sun Sentinel. The Duval County School Board is also seeking legal advice before they proceed with joining the lawsuit, the Florida Times-Union reports....

    Ya'riah Ellison, 6, of Tampa, works on a pop art self portrait at the Glazer Children's Museum in Tampa on Friday, July 14, 2017. On Thursday, July 20th, a new pop art exhibition will open in which children will be able to create self portraits in a variety of ways including screen printing, pointillism and pop art methods
  11. New principals for Hillsborough


    The Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday approved a group of principal appointments.

    Effective Monday, they are:

    - Johnny Bush, a senior executive officer of professional standards, has been tapped to lead Plant High. He replaces Robert Nelson, who was appointed as an area principal coach. Bush has worked in Hillsborough school district since 1997.

    - Orestes Mendez, an assistant principal at Lee Elementary, was appointed as principal of Colson Elementary. He replaces Wendy Harrison, who was tapped to be an area principal coach. Mendez has worked in the district since 2002....

    Mickey Boddie, an assistant principal at Hillsborough High, has been appointed the Principal of North Tampa EPIC3 Center.
  12. Florida education news: HB 7069 lawsuit, delayed budget, teachers and more


    #HB7069: The Pinellas County School Board hashed out the details of what it would take to join Broward and St. Lucie counties in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of controversial education bill HB 7069. Pinellas isn’t the only School Board contemplating that decision. Alachua County School Board members largely supported the lawsuit in a meeting Tuesday, though one member suggested the board should hold off on joining the lawsuit to focus on the coming school year, the Gainesville Sun reports. Sarasota County also may make a decision to jump in, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reports....

    Justin Black, entering his third year teaching physical education at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, gives summer students a math lesson under the watchful eye of Kali Davis, a Springboard to Success training director.
  13. Pinellas teachers get schooled over summer break


    ST. PETERSBURG — It was time to line up for lunch, a procedure Justin Black had perfected.

    At his command, nine soon-to-be fourth-graders rose in unison and pushed in their chairs. They about-faced and lined up, single-file, in silence, eyes on their teacher.

    Kali Davis, a training director for Springboard for Success, trained her eyes on the teacher, too. It was her job to coach Black through the intricacies of classroom management....

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching physical education at Melrose Elementary School. Black is instructing students in a math lesson while taking part in Springboard for Success, a summer program to train rookie teachers which was held at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  14. Pinellas School Board hashes out the details about joining lawsuit against HB 7069


    It was the end of a long workshop, and Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego had something to say about HB 7069, the controversial education bill loathed by many school districts.

    Grego said he had spoken to Broward superintendent Robert Runcie. It was Runcie's district that was the first to file a lawsuit against the Florida Legislature for passing a law they felt gave charter schools an unfair advantage....

    Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego raised the topic of potential suing the Florida Legislature over the controversial education bill HB 7069.
  15. Florida education news: closing schools, paychecks, appeals and more


    CAMP: Pinellas County students enrolled in Summer Bridge, a district-sponsored summer program to curb learning loss over the summer, are also going on field trips to a local bird sanctuary. Officials say its a way to offer unique summer learning opportunities to students who have fewer means, WUSF reports....

    Sixth grade teacher Elizabeth Lindenberg, Pinellas Park Middle School, teaches a group of students preparing for fifth grade at Woodlawn Elementary School, St. Petersburg, Tuesday, June 21, 2016 during a session of the Summer Bridge Program. The students were studying nonverbal communication skills. The program was started three years ago by Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Grego to prevent student learning loss, especially in low income areas.