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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. New Pasco magnet schools draw strong interest


    Pasco County's newest magnet schools, set to open in the fall, drew a healthy dose of parent interest during the application window last month.

    Many of them are likely to win a seat, especially at Centennial Middle School in Dade City.

    Centennial received 171 student requests to attend its new STEM magnet, and it has 104 seats available through the lottery but can grow to accommodate up to 247 more children, officials said. The school has open classrooms and also will be bringing in portables for the new program....

  2. Florida recess proponents are getting nervous


    Committees in the Florida Senate generally stop meeting after the session's midway point. That means Week 6 -- next week -- could be the last chance for bills to get heard and have a chance for passage.

    Parents who have been advocating a mandate for 20 minutes of daily elementary school recess are, therefore, fretting over the lack of a Senate Education Committee meeting this week. The legislation they're promoting, SB 1002, has yet to be heard in the Senate despite a House companion having won unanimous support in two panels there and being set for its third and final stop on Tuesday....

  3. Florida House moves to curb school construction costs, support charter school capital projects


    Rep. Erik Fresen's pledge to "address the overspending of school districts on school facilities" takes a step forward Tuesday, when the House Appropriations Committee takes up a sweeping measure that would force districts into construction spending limits while also sharing local capital projects tax revenue with charter schools....

  4. Florida education news: After-school care, charter schools, student spending and more


    AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS: A Florida Senate plan to force after-school care providers to compete for funding raises questions and concerns.

    CHARTER SCHOOLS: A St. Johns charter school plans to shut down because of low enrollment, while two other seek contract renewal, the St. Augustine Record reports....

  5. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Jan. 31, 2016


    This week, we got a front row seat as Florida's superintendents sparred with powerful lawmakers over school construction funding. So far, the superintendents look to have the weaker hand. We met a teacher who got so fed up with "education by legislation" that she quit her job. And we braced ourselves for 2015 school grades, just less than year after students took their 2015 state tests. Out in the districts, school boards debated blue jeans, cell phones and recess, among so many other issues. Who says public education is boring? Keep up with it all on the Gradebook. And please keep your tips, questions and comments coming to

  6. Florida Gifted Network worries funding might be threatened


    A proposed new rule aimed at expanding access to gifted education in Florida has gifted advocates worried that funding for the program is in jeopardy.

    Much of the rule, titled Special Instructional Programs for Students who are Gifted, focuses on how to get more children identified and placed into advanced instruction. Within the proposal, though, gifted education is referred to as a "support service" rather than as a "program."...

  7. After a year of hurdles, Florida's 2015 school grades are coming. Will anyone care?


    Florida schools expect to get their 2015 state grades as early as Tuesday, and Sgt. Paul R. Smith Middle School principal JoAnn Johnson has a good feeling.

    Her school, located in Citrus Park, is projected to earn an A after just missing a year earlier.

    "We opened our school (in August) with the theme 'Moving On Up to the A Side,' " Johnson said. "Once we know for sure, we will celebrate."...

    Participants in a three-day Education Accountability Summit in Clearwater in 2013 listed the strengths of Florida's school grading system as the state began its transition to new standards. The grading system -- and the transition -- would later come under attack after problems in 2015 with the new state test, the Florida Standards Assessments. [SCOTT KEELER    |    Times]
  8. Rep. Fresen unconvinced by Florida superintendents on school construction costs


    Florida House Education Appropriations chairman Rep. Erik Fresen on Friday responded with disdain to superintendents' recent criticism of his views on school construction spending....

  9. Florida education bills gain traction


    You've heard about the major education legislation coursing through the Florida Legislature -- expanded school choice, athletic "free agency," teacher bonuses, recess and the like.

    But what about some of the smaller measures? Where are they in the process?

    Here's a brief look at some less publicized education bills making their way through the chambers. You'll note the Senate is moving more slowly than the House. Let us know if we missed any you're interested in....

  10. Florida education news: Research class, property taxes, recess moms and more


    NEW APPROACH: Pasco County sixth graders learn research skills as their district drops a mandatory reading course.

    FUNDING: Hernando School Board members discuss seeking a local property tax increase to support school technology....

  11. Pasco Mitchell High School gets a new principal


    In what has become a general practice, Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning has promoted a school's assistant principal to take the top job after the principal's departure.

    Jessica Schultz, an assistant at Mitchell High since 2006, accepted the post Thursday afternoon. She will replace Jim Michaels, who recently retired.

    Schultz was one of nearly a dozen candidates to run the school in Trinity, coming out ahead of some current and former principals. Unlike the previous administration, Browning has tended to prefer internal applicants to run schools, unless he's cleaning house....

  12. Pasco testing schedule under scrutiny


    A constant complaint during testing in Pasco County schools has been that teachers struggle to maintain their courses because students rotate in and out to take their exams.

    That criticism baffled superintendent Kurt Browning, who couldn't fathom why all students in a class would not be testing at the same time.

    Kids coming and going "certainly is going to be a problem for a teacher," Browning said....

  13. What's in a name? Pasco school district considers options for new elementary school


    When building new schools, the Pasco school district holds off on giving them names until construction nears completion. As a placeholder, it uses letters.

    Now it's preparing to name Elementary W, in Wesley Chapel near John Long Middle School.

    Officials have asked for suggestions, and they've started pouring in. We thought we'd share some of the ones that stood out.

    On the serious side, proposals have included Wendell Krinn Elementary, for the recently deceased longtime principal; Godwin Elementary, after the family of late 19th century postmasters in the area; and Susan Jordan Elementary, after an Indiana principal who died pushing children out of the way of an oncoming bus....

  14. New research course helps Pasco sixth-graders master needed skills


    Sixth-graders in Stephanie Wisnieske's fourth-period class sifted through books on body functions, sorting them by topic and putting them into separate bins.

    The work, though somewhat tedious, held the promise of making it easier for the students to find materials as they study and report about body functions. It marked their third research project this school year, and the pre-teens not only understood the drill, they appreciated it....

    Centennial Middle School teacher Stephanie Wisnieske works with sixth-graders Emily Schreck and Olivia Gillispie, right, on a project about body systems during their research class.
  15. Florida education news: Resignation, block schedules, school nurses and more


    'I AM RESIGNING': A veteran Pasco County teacher says she can no longer take the micromanagement and stress of her classroom job.

    IN THE RACE: Two candidates file for Hernando School Board District 4....