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 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."...

  2. Pasco School Board set to give final budget approval


    After months of discussion and debate, the Pasco County School Board is scheduled to officially adopt its 2014-15 budget during its meeting Tuesday night.

    The spending plan calls for a slight tax rate decrease, and a 5 percent increase in general fund spending. That bump reflects a return to growth in property values, as well as a rising student population....

  3. Florida education news: Testing, financial aid, resource officers and more


    TESTING: The Florida Department of Education suspends the state FAIR test for kindergarten through second grade amid technical problems. More from the Miami Herald, Gainesville Sun ...

  4. Florida suspends a controversial exam as debate widens over school testing


    After weeks of protests, Florida testing critics claimed a victory Monday: The state suspended one of its tests.

    Education Commissioner Pam Stewart ended the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading, known as the FAIR test, in kindergarten through second grade. In its place, teachers will observe children's reading abilities in a more informal setting than the online exam, which recently experienced glitches....

  5. Satanists plan to send materials to Orange County schools


    The Satanic Temple is at it again.

    The group that once planned a rally to support Florida Gov. Rick Scott's signature permitting school districts to let students offer "inspirational messages" at school functions is now celebrating the Orange School Board's decision allowing the distribution of religious materials on its campuses....

  6. Backers call for national mobilization in Florida's voucher fight


    The battle over Florida's corporate tax credit scholarships continues to gain attention outside the state, with voucher advocates calling upon supporters to push hard to keep the Florida model intact.

    The latest argument comes from Howard Fuller, head of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and former superintendent of Milwaukee (WI) public schools, home of one of the nation's first large-scale voucher programs. You can find his views on the Redefined blog run by Step Up for Students, which oversees the Florida program....

  7. Pasco teacher grievance hearing scheduled for midday, while teachers work


    When teacher complaints rise to the superintendent's level in Pasco County, the hearings generally take place after work hours, so the teachers can attend.

    Not so for the United School Employees of Pasco's latest grievance over planning time and the use of professional learning communities, or collaborative preparations....

  8. Florida education news: Bright Futures, student data, immigrant children and more


    HIGHER BAR: Florida students find it harder to qualify for Bright Futures scholarships and afford college, State Impact Florida reports.

    PRIVACY: Florida is among several states grappling with the role of technology and student data in schools, the NY Times reports....

  9. Florida education news: Sales taxes, magnet schools, kindergarten and more


    TAXES: The Hernando school district pushes a sales tax referendum to hold off deep budget cuts, such as the possible closure of schools.

    MAGNET SCHOOLS: The Broward school district must improve its magnet schools or lose the funding, the Sun-Sentinel editorializes....

  10. Florida education news: Enrollment, vouchers, remediation and more


    CHOICES: Pinellas school enrollment grows for the first time in years, but mostly in charter schools.

    IN THE RUNNING: Two longtime community activists seek a seat on the Hillsborough School Board....

  11. Forget test score requirement for Bright Futures, FSU professor suggests


    Aiming to cut costs, Florida lawmakers in recent years have changed the requirements for teens to earn a Bright Futures scholarship.

    Florida State University professor Paul Cottle suggests going even further. If the state is so interested in pushing science, technology, engineering and math, he says, why not tie the award to successful completion of those courses?

    "My proposal is to replace the test score requirement for Bright Futures with a course-taking requirement that includes precalculus, biology, chemistry, physics and computer programming," Cottle writes in an op-ed for the Tallahassee Democrat. "Would this be a loss of rigor over an 1170 SAT requirement? I dare anyone to tell me that it would be. And this course requirement would put pressure on districts and the state to make these courses available to students in all high schools — which they should be doing, anyway."...

  12. Pasco 'teacher chairs' miss the mark on safety, too


    Maybe it's a good thing that the Pasco County school district is moving away from the plastic molded chair it had designated for teachers.

    One observant reader noted that they're frowned upon as workplace furniture. He said his office got rid of all four-legged chairs years ago, in favor of more study ones with five....

    Virco 9050-P chair previously recommended for Pasco County teachers
  13. Florida education news: Planning time, teacher chairs, virtual school and more


    AT ODDS: Talks to resolve a dispute over teacher planning time fail, highlighting tensions between the Pasco teacher union and administration.

    PICK YOUR SEAT: Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning changes the rules about teacher chair selection after one educator complains about the choices....

  14. In Pasco schools, not all chairs are created equal


    LAND O'LAKES — In Pasco County, teachers and administrators each get their own special chairs.

    A model designated for teachers is made of molded blue plastic, set on casters, with fabric pads. The price: $82.

    Administrators get an executive chair with a high back and armrests. The height and tilt are adjustable. The price: $185.

    In case there's any confusion about who gets which chair, the district's purchasing catalog makes clear the more expensive model is for "superintendents, directors and principals (ONLY)."...

    Photos of pages from the catalog that the Pasco County School District offers employees for new supplies and furniture. On one page, a photo of a high-back, ergonomic office chair labeled for Superintendents, Directors and Principals only. On this page, the chair available to teachers: molded plastic, on casters with cushions affixed.
  15. Florida Board of Education to move forward with standard charter school contract


    The Florida Board of Education is set to adopt a new standard charter school contract when it meets Sept. 29 in Tampa. The move comes despite lengthy debate by lawmakers that ended in the spiking of a bill that would have mandated a single uniform contract for all charters....