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 pledge to focus on attendance — of teachers


    LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning arrived at his office Wednesday to find a sea of cars in the usually half-filled parking lot.

    Hundreds of teachers had come to attend training sessions as part of a concentrated two-week professional development push.

    Browning supports giving teachers the training. But on the heels of announcing plans to improve the district's excessive student absenteeism rate, the superintendent had something else on his mind....

    Pasco school superintendent Kurt Browning wants teacher training to disrupt the classroom as little as possible.
  2. Florida education news: School board races, college counseling, breastfeeding and more


    SEEKING OFFICE: The candidates for Hillsborough School Board District 4 focus on conservative issues.

    CAMPUS RAPES: Few reported rapes on Florida university campuses are prosecuted....

  3. Florida education news: Crowding, college costs, grenade launchers and more


    NO VACANCY: Hernando's Winding Waters K-8 hits its capacity, forcing the district to send new students who move in to other less crowded schools.

    COLLEGE COSTS: The Legislature should create a program that helps make college affordable for low-income students, the Times editorializes....

  4. Pasco superintendent holds hearing over teacher planning


    Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning made one thing clear during his 90-minute hearing over teachers' complaint about planning time. He wanted to ensure that the district meets its contractual obligations.

    "I want to be sure if contract language is there, that we're following the contract language," Browning said.

    The United School Employees of Pasco contended that the district was falling short. Business representative Jim Ciadella said the contract sets aside 40 minutes for training in a collaborative environment, also referred to as a professional learning communities. Yet many schools demand more, he claimed....

  5. Pasco teachers, administration compromise on planning time


    The battle over planning for Pasco County teachers took a twist Thursday, as the district teachers union and administration inked a deal increasing the amount of time teachers will have to prepare independently each week.

    Concerned that required professional learning community meetings were eating into teachers' individual prep time, the United School Employees of Pasco proposed giving teachers 400 minutes of weekly planning rather than the current 250. All the extra time would have given teachers the ability to do things such as make copies and prepare their rooms, USEP officials said....

  6. Florida education news: Paddling, killer bees, driver education and more


    CHARTER SCHOOLS: Four low performing Pinellas charter schools present improvement plans to the School Board. • The St. John's School Board finds several problems with a charter school application, the St. Augustine Record reports. • The Sarasota school district requires action plans from two Imagine charter schools with financial problems, the Herald-Tribune reports....

  7. Florida Virtual School may sue over naming trademarks


    The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that Florida Virtual School can sue Florida Virtual Academy over its name.

    "We hold that the Florida Virtual School’s statutory authority to 'acquire, enjoy, use, and dispose of . . . trademarks and any licenses and other rights or interests thereunder or therein,' and the designation of its board of trustees as a 'body corporate with all the powers of a body corporate and such authority as is needed for the proper operation and improvement of the Florida Virtual School,' necessarily includes the authority to file an action to protect those trademarks," the Court stated in a ruling issued Thursday....

  8. Voucher supporters seek backing from Pasco School Board


    Crystal Kryder had a simple message for the Pasco County School Board: Support vouchers.

    Students come to First Christian Academy in New Port Richey for many reasons, the mother of three told the board, and not all can afford the cost. Step Up For Students, the organization that oversees the state's corporate tax credit scholarships, makes it happen for nearly half of the school's students, she said....

  9. More fallout from Florida's FAIR test suspension


    When Florida suspended its FAIR exam for kindergarten through second grade, high-stakes testing opponents cheered the change as a step toward a deescalation of the state's attachment to assessments.

    Since then, though, the Florida Department of Education has moved to tamp down any such notion. The decision to cut the reading test had nothing to do with growing complaints about how Florida relies on test results too heavily, spokesman Joe Follick told reporters. ...

  10. Florida education news: Assault rifles, end of course exams, financial aid and more


    ARMED AND READY: The Pinellas school district police department gets 28 M-16 assault rifles from the military, just in case.

    BUDGETING: The Hernando School Board adopts a new budget with a lowered tax rate....

  11. Florida PTA calls for changes to state's school accountability system


    The Florida PTA has called upon the state Department of Education to reconsider its approach to school accountability amid the heated debate over the role of testing in public education.

    Just after noon Wednesday, the group released recommendations it said would make the system more fair and viable. They were:...

  12. Does it matter if kids miss school?


    Pasco County school officials want students to come to school more often. High absenteeism -- 10 or more days -- has concerned officials for years. (They've often bemoaned the situation, which has changed little, in 2011, 2013, and again this week.)...

  13. Florida education news: Attendance, solicitations, testing and more


    STUDENT NUMBERS: Hillsborough school enrollment continues to surge. • Pasco schools grapple with high absenteeism.

    UNPREPARED: A St. Petersburg College official says too many Pinellas schools graduates arrive needing remedial work....

  14. Student absences still a problem in Pasco schools


    LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County schools still have an attendance problem.

    Three years after district officials raised the red flag over chronic student absenteeism, the School Board continued Tuesday to explore solutions.

    "This is a community imperative," student services supervisor Carrie Morris said at a workshop.

    She said more than one-third of high school students missed 20 or more days of classes in 2012-13, the most recent completed data available. More than 36 percent of elementary students and more than half of middle schoolers were absent 10 or more days....

  15. Pasco school urges parents to stay off phones in car line


    All over Florida, high school students learn not to text and drive. It's dangerous.

    It's also a lesson that some parents still need to remember. Just ask Double Branch Elementary School in Pasco County.

    Complaints about parents texting while driving in the school's car line, and in the parking lot, have grown to the point where they've posted a giant "Don't Text & Drive" sign on campus. The school also sent the message out on its Twitter feed, urging parents to "please help keep our students safe by not using your cell phones or texting in our car line."...