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

Email: jsolochek@tampabay.com

Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

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  1. National Hindu leader speaks on Marion School Board race

    Blog

    With days to go before the vote, Marion County's School Board chairman has apologized to his election opponent and ordered the removal of a "Hindu Jane" website that challenged her trustworthiness and questioned her religion.

    The Ocala Star-Banner reports that board chairman Bobby James accepted full responsibility for the site, which he did not create, and said he was sorry if it offended anyone....

  2. United School Employees of Pasco fires back over superintendent's email to staff

    Blog

    Pasco school superintendent Kurt Browning's Thursday evening email to all staff didn't impress United School Employees of Pasco leaders one bit. They saw it as little more than district spin on ongoing contract negotiations, which find the two sides far apart on several issues....

  3. Florida education news: First day of school, crowding, security and more

    Blog

    START DATES: Pasco district officials call for a change to Florida's school start date law after it interferes with the district's 2015-16 calendar plans.

    CROWDING: Pasco Wiregrass Ranch High leaders press forward with plans to move the school to 10-period days....

  4. Pasco district offers 3 percent raises, sends message to explain to employees

    Blog

    Pasco County teacher contract negotiations continued Thursday evening, with the back and forth over raises still a hot topic. The United School Employees of Pasco opened the conversation a few weeks back asking for 5 percent, and the district initially countered at 1.5 percent.

    On Thursday, the district offered 3 percent, with the provision that its local early retirement benefit — not to be confused with the state DROP program — be ended for new participants. The USEP has yet to respond, but it has not sounded positive about killing the retirement plan to this point....

  5. Satanic Temple submits materials for Orange County students

    Blog

    It almost seemed a stunt when the Satanic Temple announced its plans in September to distribute materials to Orange County public school students.

    The group made its play shortly after an atheist organization won permission to hand out pamphlets, and appeared to just be making a point: What's good for one is good for all....

  6. Pasco schools plan for split first semester, call for change to Florida law

    Blog

    Pasco County school leaders don't like the idea of continuing the first semester of classes after winter vacation. They much prefer giving semester exams, closing down for two weeks and then returning to a fresh start.

    That's not possible for the 2015-16 academic year, though. State law forbids it.

    Back in 2006, lawmakers mandated that school districts not start school any earlier than two weeks before Labor Day. With Labor Day falling on Sept. 7 in 2015, that means classes can't begin until the last week of August. To meet the minimum number of hours required for a semester, Pasco has scheduled its first semester to end two weeks into 2016. (See the proposed calendar here.)...

  7. Pasco's proposed 2015-16 school calendar puts exams after winter break

    K12

    LAND O'LAKES — The Pasco County School Board is poised to take a step it has avoided for the past decade — ending the first semester after winter break.

    It blames the Florida Legislature.

    With the public clamoring for longer summers, lawmakers decided in 2006 not to allow classes to begin earlier than two weeks before Labor Day. Some school starting dates had crept into late July, in part to provide more preparation time for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test....

  8. Wiregrass Ranch High to move forward with 10-period days to help crowding

    K12

    WESLEY CHAPEL — Plans to ease Wiregrass Ranch High School's crowding woes with a 10-period day will move forward, despite some parents' pleas to find better options.

    "We are at a last resort place right now, unless we can find something else we literally have not thought of before," principal Robyn White told the school crowding committee this week.

    The committee, which meets biweekly, aims to identify and resolve problems associated with lengthening the academic day and placing students on overlapping schedules. It will continue its effort unless and until an alternative solution arises....

  9. Palm Beach schools reduce local testing

    Blog

    While Florida school districts urge state leaders to curtail high-stakes testing, several of them also are taking steps locally to ease the load. The Palm Beach district is the latest.

    In a memo to staff and board members, Palm Beach superintendent Wayne Gent on Wednesday announced he would suspend 11 winter diagnostic tests and all remaining middle school nine-week exams, while offering teachers flexibility on the use of local performance assessments. He wrote:...

  10. Florida education news: Hunger, contracts, campaigns and more

    Blog

    HUNGRY STUDENTS: Pasco schools create food pantries to help students make it through the weekends.

    CONTRACTS: The Miami-Dade school district explores whether minority- and woman-owned businesses get their fair share of contracts from the system, the Miami Herald reports....

  11. Pasco education reporter's notebook

    Education

    The U.S. Department of Justice wants pages of student data from the Pasco County school district.

    It's to help determine whether the district is complying with a decades-old desegregation order that officials have long considered closed. The state reported in 2006 that Pasco schools entered a 1973 consent decree ending the 1970 federal order and never looked back.

    "District officials hold that the 1973 declaration of 'unitary' is sufficient and there is no necessity given that declaration to pursue 'unitary status,' " the 2006 report stated....

  12. Florida PTA seeks more insights on Scott, Crist education positions

    Blog

    Both Rick Scott and Charlie Crist have made education a key issue in their campaigns for Florida governor. Amid all the accusations and counterclaims, the Florida PTA sought information that went unanswered in recent televised debates.

    It put out its questions, and the candidates' answers, online today. Here's a sample.

    Other than funding, what is your top priority issue(s) regarding early childhood development and K-12 education?  ...

  13. AFT heads to Broward County to tackle testing issues

    Blog

    Less than a week before Election Day, the American Federation of Teachers heads to Broward County on Thursday to enter Florida's growing anti-testing debate -- and to try to plaster it to Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

    AFT president Randi Weingarten plans an early morning event in Fort Lauderdale, alongside Broward Teachers Union presidnet Sharon Glickman and Broward superintendent Robert Runcie, to talk about the importance of "teaching and learning, not testing and punishing." In a new ad, available on YouTube, the union makes clear its view that Scott bears responsibility for the testing regime that so many school districts and parent groups have decried, Polk being the latest....

  14. Florida gets high marks in ALEC education report co-written by Bush adviser

    Blog

    Critics of Florida's education accountability and reform model long have decried the state's adherence to policies promoted by ALEC, a conservative group that has supported such things as tying teacher pay to student test results.

    They might not be surprised to see ALEC's latest Report Card on Education, which rates Florida second among all states for its education policies and tenth for education performance....

  15. Florida education news: Testing, equal rights, paddling and more

    Blog

    REHIRED: The Hillsborough School Board rehires a retired assistant superintendent as a private contractor, raising questions about the administration's employment practices.

    TESTING: Alachua parents and teachers rally against Florida's standardized testing system, the Gainesville Sun reports....