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. Pasco teacher contract talks near make or break stage

    Blog

    On this they can agree: If the Pasco County school district administration and United School Employees of Pasco don't come to contract terms by Thanksgiving, they likely won't reach an agreement for a very long time.

    "I think we're going to have a deal, or not, in a couple of weeks," district employee relations director Betsy Kuhn said, echoing comments from USEP negotiator Jim Ciadella....

  2. Wiregrass Ranch High leaders open to all ideas for easing crowding

    Blog

    Plans remain on track to move bursting Wiregrass Ranch High School to a 10-period day next fall. But that doesn't mean that other ideas are off the table.

    After hearing parent concerns at a recent public forum, school leaders are compiling a list of other alternatives that might work instead. They include:

    - Revisiting the blended learning model that parents largely rejected for the current year. It would have students take classes online at home twice a week, and attend school the other days. Principal Robyn White has said she would need close to 500 students to participate to make it feasible....

  3. Florida education news: School choice, charter schools, testing and more

    Blog

    BIG REVEAL: A Pasco high school social studies teacher tells his colleagues, students and their parents that he's in transition to present as female by August.

    SCHOOL CHOICE: The number of Pinellas students selecting specialty academic programs continues to grow....

  4. Pasco County high school teacher announces plans to change gender

    News

    TRINITY — Parents, students and teachers at Mitchell High School in Pasco County learned early Thursday that social studies teacher Robert Konrad no longer wants to be identified as a man.

    The news came to parents via email and robocall from principal Jim Michaels, while teachers and students learned of it at school.

    "Mr. Konrad has begun the process of gender transition and is anticipating presenting as a female no later than August of 2015," Michaels wrote in the email, which he repeated in a staff meeting and during Konrad's classes. "As you can imagine, this is a very private decision, but Mr. Konrad has indicated that he will respond to appropriate questions you may have about the transition process."...

  5. Florida prepaid tuition enrollments hit new high

    Blog

    Florida prepaid tuition plans went on sale last week with a huge price cut.

    The result: Huge sales.

    The Florida Prepaid College Board announced Thursday that its first-week purchases set new records.

    “This is the first time we’ve seen such an exciting and busy first week of Open Enrollment since we began including both tuition and most fees in our Prepaid Plans,” chairman Duane Ottenstroer said in a release. “These Open Enrollment sales numbers are wonderful to see, because it means more families are saving for their children’s education, which in turn brings those children  so many future opportunities.”...

  6. Pasco teacher announces plan to change gender (w/video)

    Teachers

    TRINITY — Parents, students and teachers at Mitchell High School in Pasco County learned early Thursday that social studies teacher Robert Konrad no longer wants to be identified as a male.

    The news came to parents via email and automated phone calls from principal Jim Michaels, while teachers and students learned of it at school.

    "Mr. Konrad has begun the process of gender transition and is anticipating presenting as a female no later than August of 2015," Michaels wrote in the email, which he repeated in a staff meeting and during Konrad's classes. "As you can imagine, this is a very private decision, but Mr. Konrad has indicated that he will respond to appropriate questions you may have about the transition process."...

    Parents, students and teachers at Mitchell High School in Pasco County learned early Thursday that social studies teacher Robert Konrad, inset, no longer wants to be identified as a man. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD, Times; Pasco County Schools]
  7. New Pasco charter school focuses on the classics, humanities

    K12

    SHADY HILLS

    Genesis Santiago laid the lesson out clearly for her eighth graders.

    "When you translate from Latin to English, you need proper English word order," the teacher instructed, writing an example on the board. "Let's experiment."

    The class broke down a couple of sentences into their parts — subject, verb, direct object and so on. Then Santiago changed the assignment....

    Teacher Gabrielle D’Virgilio reviews a Latin lesson Tuesday with Riley Penner, left, at Classical Preparatory Academy, which requires each student to take a core, liberal arts curriculum.
  8. Pasco school administration jobs filling up faster

    K12

    The early October departure of Pasco County assistant superintendent Amelia Larson had one immediate effect inside the district: Department directors were freed to make hiring moves without interference.

    In Larson's absence, some of the leaders began turning to superintendent Kurt Browning to approve their choices for midlevel administrative positions. In the past, Larson wielded veto power over those selections....

  9. Florida state Sen. Hays calls on school board to dump Florida Standards

    Blog

    State Sen. Alan Hays, no stranger to controversy, has launched another attack on Florida's education system.

    This time, the Umatilla Republican has called upon his local Lake County School Board to stop implementing the Florida Standards, which in large part includes the Common Core that many conservatives have come to revile.

    “I am not going to stand here tonight and ask you to break the law,” Hays told the School Board Monday, as reported by the Daily Commercial. “I am going to implore you to find every possible way to bend it and skirt around it without breaking it outright and throw out everything connected with Common Core (Florida Standards) that you may possibly abandon without obviously breaking the law.”...

  10. Florida education news: Retention, standards, audits and more

    Blog

    TEACHER DISCIPLINE: Two Hillsborough teachers face disciplinary action because of alleged inappropriate behavior.

    OUTREACH: The Tampa Bay Lightning begin an educational outreach effort in a Pasco middle school....

  11. Pasco school district finally hires career-technical education director

    Blog

    Pasco County school district leaders have talked for years about the need to ramp up efforts to provide more career and technical training opportunities for high school students. The district's mantra these days, after all, has been to make children college, career and life ready....

  12. Florida Education Association files amended complaint in voucher lawsuit

    Blog

    Rejected in its first effort, the Florida Education Association has revised its complaint against the state's newest school voucher program just ahead of a pending deadline.

    In its amended complaint, the teachers union adds some Miami-Dade public school parents as plaintiffs. A judge dismissed an earlier version, stating the complaining teacher had no standing to file the case. The union lawyers argue standing this way:...

  13. Pasco School Board looks at superintendent replacement rule, just in case

    Blog

    The Pasco County school district remains the largest in the country to elect rather than appoint its superintendent. That status gives the local School Board very little say, outside the ballot box, on who its chief executive will be.

    Even, so, the board this week began to carve out a tiny piece of control for itself, in the odd instance where the governor might suspend the superintendent and not appoint a new one....

  14. Florida education news: Class size, testing, truancy and more

    Blog

    CLASS SIZE: Pinellas district officials stand behind their use of substitute teachers to lower class sizes.

    TESTING: The Alachua School Board is the latest to adopt a resolution urging a delay in the high stakes associated with Florida's tests, the Gainesville Sun reports. • The Broward School Board also approved an anti-testing resolution, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • The Volusia School Board's similar stance should be a wake-up call to Tallahassee, the Daytona Beach News-Journal editorializes....

  15. Florida School Boards Association leader announces retirement

    Blog

    For years, Wayne Blanton has been the face and the voice of Florida school boards. He's advocated loudly in the Legislature, and helped many boards select their superintendents.

    His days in that role are now numbered. He announced Tuesday his plan to retire just before the start of the 2015 legislative session. Here's what he said in his email to education leaders around the state:

    "It has been my honor and privilege to represent school boards and school board members for the last 40 years. My professional career has been dedicated to representing public education and assisting local school boards to be the “Voice of Education” throughout Florida. The friendships I have made and the professional relationships that have been developed over the past 40 years will never be replaced or forgotten. Upon deep personal and professional reflection, I will be retiring at the end of February, 2015....