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. Pasco schools athletic transfer policy won't change


    LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County student-athletes who change high schools still will need to win permission to play sports after their move.

    The Pasco School Board on Tuesday rejected an effort to ease its year-old policy that forces transfers to sit out a year unless a committee grants the students a waiver. Vice chairman Steve Luikart argued forcefully for a change, calling the rule "subjective" and "inconsistent."...

  2. Change Florida school start date rule, superintendent suggests


    Labor Day comes later than usual in 2015. That situation has Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning concerned about the impact on schools.

    The problem, he said, is that Florida law forbids school districts from beginning classes any earlier than two weeks before Labor Day, which will be Sept. 7. And Pasco, like many districts, prefers to end its first semester before winter break.

    "It is almost impossible to complete the semester prior to the Christmas break starting that late," Browning said in a letter to the Florida superintendents association. "I believe it's in the best interest of our students to complete the semester prior to the break."...

  3. Florida education news: Seclusion, testing, pre-k and more


    SECLUSION: The Pasco school district aims to end the use of seclusion on out-of-control students by the end of the 2014-15 school year.

    TESTING: Florida Democrats disagree over the path the federal government should head on standardized testing, WLRN reports. • Duval district leaders worry that Florida's new tests will not really determine what children know, the Florida Times-Union reports. • Miami-Dade schools have some sort of testing on all but eight days of the year, the Miami Herald reports....

  4. Pasco schools aim to end use of seclusion rooms


    TRINITY — Closet-sized seclusion rooms are a fact of life in some Seven Springs Elementary School classrooms.

    The school takes in children with emotional and behavioral disabilities from across southwest Pasco County. Sometimes those students become so agitated that putting them alone into the locked, dimly lit rooms with bare walls and viewing windows becomes the last option to protect them and others....

  5. Florida education news: Chess, prayer, charter schools and more


    CHECK: Broward elementary students take weekly chess lessons as a way to learn logic and strategic thinking, Reuters reports.

    PARTISANSHIP: Party politics play a role in the nonpartisan Indian River school board races, the Vero Beach Press-Journal reports....

  6. Florida education news: School buses, testing, parent involvement and more


    STUDENT TRACKING: The Hernando school district explores adding GPS tracking to all its buses.

    PARENT INVOLVEMENT: The Pinellas school district should ease its restrictions on volunteers with minor criminal backgrounds, the Times editorializes....

  7. Lee School Board to reconsider test opt-out


    With opinion mounting that its move might be illegal, the Lee County School Board has scheduled a meeting to reconsider its surprise decision to opt out of state testing.

    From the Fort Myers News-Press:

    "The Lee County School Board will meet at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday to consider rescinding Wednesday's vote to opt-out of all state-required standardized testing.

    "Board member Mary Fischer, who was just reelected Tuesday to a second term, has requested a meeting in which she would offer a motion to rescind the controversial board vote....

  8. Florida education news: Testing opt-out, voucher lawsuit, school prayer and more


    TESTING DEBATE: Lee County's vote to opt out of state testing prompts leaders in other districts to consider whether it's a good — or legal — move. • The Palm Beach School Board has opting out on its radar screen, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Gov. Rick Scott warns the move could have serious negative consequences, the AP reports. • More from the Naples Daily News, Fort Myers News-Press. • See also the varied local opinions on the Lee move in the News-Press editorial section....

  9. Over-testing in schools? Lee County's vote has educators talking about it


    The debate over high stakes testing in Florida schools has raged for years.

    Parent groups have railed against it. School board leaders have deplored it. Just four days ago, Gov. Rick Scott called on his Department of Education to conduct a "thorough investigation" of standardized tests.

    It took a vote by the Lee County School Board on Wednesday to push the discussion to a new dimension....

    Lee County School Board member Don Armstrong, a longtime testing opponent, looks on after Wednesday’s milestone vote.
  10. Still no pay proposal in Pasco school contract negotiations


    With employees back to work nearly a month, the Pasco County school district had hoped to have pay and benefit terms close to closure by now.

    Instead, the first proposal has yet to hit the negotiating table. 

    Small details have emerged, such as the district's intention to give raises -- although the level has shrunk from 2 percent to 1 percent. The United School Employees of Pasco has talked about increasing wages for teachers who substitute in their colleagues' classrooms....

  11. Pasco district's 8.5 program helps struggling students transition to high school


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Until almost the last minute, Joseph Salvatore didn't think he would make it to Gulf High School.

    Joseph, 14, had completed all his eighth grade courses. But he still hadn't passed seventh grade civics or science, and so technically he didn't qualify for promotion to his freshman year.

    "They were saying, 'If you don't finish, you are going to Schwettman,'" Joseph recalled, referring to Pasco County's west side alternative school. "Then the principal called and told us they were working out something with Gulf High."...

    Joseph Salvatore, 14, is a Gulf High School student in the Pasco school district’s new 8.5 program.
  12. Florida education news: Voucher lawsuit, testing opt-out, English learners and more


    VOUCHERS: A coalition of education groups plans to file suit against Florida's corporate tax credit scholarship program, prompting a flurry of criticism and threats from voucher backers.

    GETTING ALONG: The candidates remaining in the hunt for Hillsborough School Board seats say they will seek a more collegial atmosphere for the board and district....

  13. Florida leaders call on feds to reverse course on ELL testing


    Florida Gov. Rick Scott and education commissioner Pam Stewart have given the U.S. Department of Education 30 days to change its position on Florida's accountability measures relating to English learners.

    If the feds don't relent, they said, the state will begin investigating "every legal option available" to maintain its two-year flexibility in counting test scores for those students in school grades....

  14. Pasco School Board has questions about after-the-fact requests


    At least one Pasco School Board member is growing frustrated with staff requests for approval of spending for activities that have already taken place.

    Two schools have asked the board, which next meets Sept. 2, for permission to hold training sessions that took place in early August. Weightman Middle conducted its positive behavior training event on Aug. 5-7, while Zephyrhills High ran its Advanced Placement Preparation Academy Workshop on Aug. 7-8....