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 School Board hires consultant for $290,000


    LAND O'LAKES — The Pasco County School Board agreed Tuesday to spend nearly $300,000 for a consultant to help write its next strategic plan.

    Tampa-based TransPro would receive $290,000 over two years to guide the district's effort to set priorities that are clearly defined and measurable. The priorities would drive future budgets.

    "If it sits on a shelf it is not successful," group CEO Mark Aesch told the board. "It needs to be a part of daily life."...

  2. Pasco charter school for children with autism faces closure


    The company managing Pasco County's charter school for children with autism has decided to abandon the year-old school, citing concerns over low enrollment and future financial viability.

    Orlando-based nonprofit Quest Inc. also is considering the future of a sister school in Tampa.

    John Dester, whose son Nicholas attends Florida Autism Center of Excellence-Pasco near Zephyrhills, couldn't be more upset....

  3. Pasco school district changes rules for foreign exchange and travel programs


    Pasco County schools have tightened up their rules for student travel abroad and foreign exchange programs, in light of a recent state Ethics Commission opinion criticizing the district's past practices.

    New guidelines, circulated to all principals a week ago, make clear that only foreign exchange companies that have been fully vetted by the district may participate in the schools during the coming year. Further, firms seeking students for travel abroad are not allowed on school grounds to solicit students or teachers....

  4. Scott to schools: Great work creating private-sector jobs


    Sure it's just a form letter. But Gov. Rick Scott's recent letter congratulating the Pasco County school district for being named one of the region's healthiest employers by the Tampa Bay Business Journal has raised a few eyebrows.

    Why? The governor praised the tax-supported public school system for its efforts in creating private-sector jobs.

    "You are to be commended for building a company that is recognizable within your community," Scott (or, presumably, his letter writer) wrote to the district that's headed by his former secretary of state. "Because entrepreneurship is the foundation of Florida's success, I am focused on making the Sunshine State the best place for businesses to grow so that entrepreneurs like you can succeed and continue adding private-sector jobs to Florida's economy."...

  5. Florida education news: Construction, opting out, teacher discipline and more


    CONSTRUCTION FUNDING: Democrats say Florida's traditional schools are not given their fair share of state money for construction and maintenance needs.

    TESTING: Escambia and Santa Rosa schools have trouble transitioning to computerized state testing, the Pensacola News-Journal reports. • A Fort Myers mom joins the growing opt-out movement for her son, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. • Bay officials are hopeful of better results as FCAT testing begins, the Panama City News Herald reports....

  6. Pasco teachers file class-action grievance against district administration


    Fresh off a complaint to the state over planning time and "professional learning communities," the United School Employees of Pasco has filed a class-action grievance regarding the same issues with the superintendent's office.

    The charge is signed by 933 teachers district-wide, or just less than one-fifth of the instructional staff....

  7. No hiring freeze for Pasco schools this year


    At about this time last year, Pasco County schools implemented a hiring freeze in anticipation of eliminating jobs and transferring employees to new positions.

    This year, things don't look as dim. Human resources director Christine Pejot has informed all principals and department heads that they're free to continue hiring temporary or mini-contract employees this spring as spots come open. They'll have to wait, though, to fill any expected vacancies for the coming school year....

  8. Florida education news: Tuition, teacher pay, testing and more


    IN-STATE TUITION: Critics of former governor Charlie Crist are right in saying Crist has flip-flopped on giving in-state tuition to some illegal immigrants, Politifact Florida reports.

    TEACHER PAY: The Orange School Board chairman calls for better pay for veteran teachers, reports....

  9. Florida education news: Arts, FCAT, online gradebooks and more


    BUS SAFETY: Hillsborough's outgoing transportation supervisor says the district's buses are old and unreliable, the mechanics underqualified.

    STEAM: Brevard schools add the arts to their science and math focus, Florida Today reports....

  10. Florida education news: Legislation, evaluations, testing and more


    BUNCH OF BILLS: The Florida Legislature takes big steps on major education legislation. • Lawmakers should not force school districts to oversee textbook adoption, the Panama City News Herald editorializes. • Some major decisions await when the House and Senate return from their weeklong break, the Herald-Tribune reports....

  11. Flurry of education bills dominate debate in Legislature


    TALLAHASSEE — As schoolchildren prepared to take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests for the last time, the state Senate put its unanimous support behind a proposal that would simplify the school grading formula for next year.

    The bill by Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, would not pause the grading system for three years, as district superintendents had hoped. But schools would not be punished for poor academic performance in the 2014-15 school year, as children begin taking a new test....

  12. Pasco school district restarts teacher recruiting


    Gulfside Elementary School principal Chris Clayton spent this past week in Michigan seeking top teachers.

    "We're looking for the best possible teachers to bring back to Pasco County," Clayton said Thursday from a Central Michigan University job fair, as candidates streamed into the auditorium. "Yesterday it was Eastern Michigan. Tomorrow it's Michigan State."

    Many of the hopefuls lined up at booths for nearby school systems, which don't have many openings, he noted. While they waited, Pasco officials joined them in line, talking about employment in sunny Florida....

    School Board vice chairman Steve Luikart wonders about the value of travel compared to other ways.
  13. Florida Senate approves bill to eliminate state role in textbook adoption


    The Florida Senate on Friday took a big step toward eliminating the state's role in adopting school textbooks, instead granting that authority to local school districts.

    Sponsor Sen. Alan Hays has argued that such decisions belong closest to the public, so they can better access the people choosing the materials. He introduced the measure after seeing textbook battles in Volusia County....

  14. Pasco Moon Lake Elementary students put FCAT strategy to song


    Florida students begin taking the FCAT next week. It's the last time they'll see the test, as it will give way to new (still unwritten) assessments in 2015.

    Educators seek to limit the stress of the tests, which carry high stakes. At the elementary level, they often turn to song to make the annual ritual a bit more fun.

    Moon Lake Elementary School in Pasco County is among the latest to go that route. The school posted a video of its kids and staff singing and dancing to an FCAT song that reminds kids to eat well and rest before the FCAT, and not to waste time on questions they don't know during it. A sample lyric:...

  15. Florida education news: Field trips, homelessness, school consolidation and more


    THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Field trips are a way of life for J.D. Floyd K-8 students who spend lots of time outdoors learning about environmental sciences.

    HOMELESSNESS: Pinellas high schools launch a homeless awareness program to help teens in need....