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Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writer

Jeffrey S. Solochek

Jeffrey S. Solochek writes about schools and education for the Tampa Bay Times. Solochek has covered the school districts in Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco counties since joining the Times in 2000. He also oversees The Gradebook education blog.

Phone: (813) 909-4614


Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

  1. Pinellas teachers get contract choices


    Salary steps? Or performance pay?

    That is the question Pinellas County teachers face this summer.

    District officials sent faculty a memo this week telling them that, for the first time, teachers on continuing or professional services contracts have the option to move to a performance pay schedule. They could see much larger raises if they have strong performance evaluations, thanks to state law....

  2. What if we treated teachers like athletes?


    As school districts and teacher unions across Florida negotiate contracts this summer, consider this Key and Peele piece on Comedy Central. They host Teaching Center, a la ESPN's Sports Center complete with sponsors, highlighting teacher trades, plays of the day and even the draft, in which the school with the lowest test scores gets first pick of top newcomers.

    "Just like that you're a millionaire," effuses host Jordan Peele, as he views the top choice teacher. "Mike Yoast is an incredible story. His father, living from paycheck to paycheck as a humble pro football player. Kid was a natural mathlete."...

  3. Florida education news: Technology, testing, recess and more


    DISCIPLINE: The Hillsborough School Board unanimoulsy adopts new student discipline rules despite concerns from teachers and principals.

    CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGY: How are Florida schools tackling the digital classroom? The Miami Herald takes a look....

  4. New choices limited for families of delayed Pasco charter school


    Families coping with Garden Montessori Charter School's unexpected decision not to open in August won't have many new choices among Pasco County public schools heading into the new academic year.

    "Because of where we are with the opening of the 2015-16 school year, I have directed staff to take school choice applications but they will not be acted upon until after the 20 day count," superintendent Kurt Browning told the School Board on Tuesday....

  5. Pasco teachers, district keep working on evaluation solutions


    Tuesday marked the United School Employees of Pasco's turn to take another stab at an agreement on how Pasco County's teacher evaluations will look for 2015-16.

    The union continued to push a model that would make it easier to earn a "highly effective" rating than district officials have so far been willing to accept.

    Superintendent Kurt Browning has insisted that the past year's model, in which about 90 percent of teachers received the top mark, offered an unrealistic view. His team recommended a changed definition, in which a teacher would have to receive 60 percent "innovating" scores to be considered "highly effective." Last year, a teacher could get that same result with 60 percent "applying" -- a lower standard....

  6. Pasco-Hernando State College picks new leadership


    The Pasco-Hernando State College Board of Trustees has selected new leadership for the 2015-16 academic year.

    Morris Porton, a retired banker from Spring Hill, will head the board as chairman. Porton served on the college foundation board until his appointment as a trustee in 2011. 

    Ed Blommel, a retired TECO executive from Dade City, will serve as vice chairman.  Blommel, first appointed to the board in 2013, recently led the school's president search committee, which hired Tim Beard....

  7. Florida education news: Paddling, priorities, apologies and more


    TEACHER DISCIPLINE: A Hillsborough elementary music teacher faces unpaid suspension leading to possible termination over her "bizarre punishment" of a kindergartner.

    WRONGDOING? The Brevard School Board chairwoman asks law enforcement to investigate a controversial district software purchase, Florida Today reports....

  8. Pasco School Board delays two key issues


    The Pasco County School Board has put off the two key issues it planned to address during its extra July meeting on Tuesday.

    It had to postpone its first public hearing on the 2015-16 budget because of an advertising error.

    The district was supposed to advertise the hearing in the July 26 Tampa Tribune and hold the session within five days. The ad did not run, and is now scheduled to appear in the July 29 paper. ...

  9. Florida teachers get instructions how to seek bonuses tied to SAT, ACT scores


    They might ridicule the idea. But plenty of Florida teachers have contacted their districts, the state Department of Education and, yes, even reporters who have written about the new Best and Brightest scholarship asking how they could get theirs....

  10. New Pasco charter school won't open as planned


    With one month before the first day of classes, Pasco County's newest charter school has informed parents it won't be opening after all.

    "Despite our best efforts, the Board was unable to finalize negotiations on our facility lease and has made the heart breaking decision to delay our opening until the 2016-17 school year," Garden Montessori Charter School's leadership posted on its website Friday. "We have met with Pasco County School District and have officially applied for a 'Planning Year' for the 2015-2016 school year."...

  11. Florida school districts get guidance on student uniforms incentives


    Florida Board of Education member Gary Chartrand wanted to know: How are school boards responding to the Legislature's offer of $10 per student to adopt district-wide uniforms in kindergarten through eighth grade.

    He asked Sarasota superintendent Lori White, who attended the board's recent meeting in Tampa, her view on the $10 million in the budget.

    White did not bite. She said her administration and board allow each school to individually decide whether it wants uniforms, and that's the way things would stay....

  12. Florida education news: Uniforms, discipline, home schooling and more


    DRESS CODE: Florida school district leaders say they couldn't take up the Legislature's incentive to adopt district-wide uniforms even if they wanted to -- and most don't.

    LABELING: Sarasota schools are second worst in Florida when it comes to over-identifying black students as disruptive, the Herald-Tribune reports....

  13. Florida school districts seem unlikely to take the bait as House promotes uniforms


    If there was a hot education topic in Florida this spring, it was student testing. But not in the state House of Representatives.

    There, under the guidance of K-12 Committee Chairwoman Janet Adkins, the talk focused on collared shirts and khaki shorts.

    Citing the need to improve school security, Adkins sought to persuade districts to adopt mandatory uniforms for elementary and middle schools. As an incentive, she wanted to offer districts $10 per student, with a cap of $10 million statewide, first come, first served....

    Though a fan of uniforms, Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin says there needs to be individual school control.
  14. Florida education news: Discipline, prayer, leadership and more


    DISCIPLINE: The Hillsborough School Board nears approval of a new student discipline model.

    PRAYER: A religious freedom group asks the Okaloosa School Board to stop praying at its meetings, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports....

  15. Florida education news: Electives, certifications, math competition and more


    STUDENT CHOICE: Florida's middle schools no longer may offer sixth graders the electives wheel sampler course.

    TRAUMATIZED: A Hillsborough mom says her son was not the same after his music teacher duct taped his eyes....