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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. New PHSC president's goal: nation's top community college award

    College

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Dr. Tim Beard's head was still in the clouds 30 hours after winning trustees' nod to become Pasco-Hernando State College's fourth president.

    Well wishes flooded in from family members, colleagues in academia, and even childhood friends who remembered him as "Timmy" and figured the one-time star running back might have wound up with the Dallas Cowboys rather than running a school....

    “I believe if you want something, you need to ask for it and you need to do it assertively. If I represent this college, I want to be at the table fighting for it.”
Dr. Tim Beard, incoming PHSC president
  2. Pasco sheriff offers more details about Hudson murder-suicide that left two boys dead

    Crime

    HUDSON — A 12-year-old boy shot his brothers, 6 and 16, then himself at his family's home Wednesday evening, according to Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco.

    Kevin Pimentel died from self-inflicted injuries. Brady Pimentel, 6, also died from gunshot wounds. Trevor Pimentel, 16, was shot in the leg and called authorities about 6:19 p.m., moments after his brother opened fire, Nocco said.

    "He calls up to tell law enforcement that his brother Kevin, who's 12 years old ... had just shot six-year old Brady," Nocco said....

    Pasco sheriff's officials say Kevin Pimentel, 12, fatally shot his 6-year-old brother, wounded his 16-year-old brother and then turned the gun on himself. [Pasco County Schools]
  3. What did Florida senators do about third grade retentions?

    Blog

    After lengthy, sometimes confusing debate Wednesday over Florida's testing and its consequences, the state Senate Appropriations Committee adopted a proposal that would change the rules relating to third-grade retention.

    Reports quickly emerged that the state where likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush launched third-grade retentions based on reading test performance was about to suspend the practice. "If Florida lawmakers agree to the change, it would mark a major departure from a policy pushed into law by then-Gov. Jeb Bush who decried 'social promotion' when he campaigned for governor," the Associated Press wrote....

  4. Florida education news: Third-grade promotion, athletics, music teachers and more

    Blog

    TESTING: The Florida Senate Appropriations Committee tackles third grade promotion issues as it advances a testing reform bill with some key differences from the House version.

    STUDENT ATHLETICS: High school athletics officials have strong reservations about a bill in the Florida House that would change oversight of high school sports....

  5. Pasco School District to join Central Florida coalition

    K12

    The Pasco County School District is about to join forces with several of its neighbors to hash out regional and state education issues, and promote positions of shared interest.

    Superintendent Kurt Browning has told leaders of the Central Florida Public School Boards Coalition that he's ready to participate in the group, which currently has 10 member districts.

    Coalition officials, including Manatee School Board member Dave "Watchdog" Miner and Marion superintendent George Tomyn have courted Browning for a few months. Miner suggested in an email that Pasco "would be a natural and positive addition to our coalition and beneficial to all."...

  6. Trinity woman on education commissioner's advisory board

    K12

    With complaints mounting about testing, academic standards, textbooks and a host of other education issues, Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart announced she would form a statewide panel to advise her.

    More than 2,800 Floridians applied for 10 spots on the Keep Florida Learning Committee, which lists as its goals "reviewing further deregulation opportunities for the school system, reviewing the instructional material review processes used by school boards, identifying strategies to increase parental involvement in education, and reviewing the implementation of the Florida Standards and the Florida Standards Assessment."...

    Hendricks says people take public schools for granted.
  7. Zephyrhills High imposes restroom restrictions, gets direction to change them

    Blog

    Hoping to curtail vandalism and class skipping, Zephyrhills High School leaders announced Tuesday that students would not be allowed to leave classrooms during the first and last 10 minutes of any period. During the rest of the period, they would need to have an administrator escort them -- including to the restroom. 

    The outcry was immediate.

    "Welcome to Zephyrhills High School were we are treated like elementary kids," one student tweeted....

  8. Orlando third grader urges Florida lawmakers to pause testing consequences

    Blog

    A growing number of Florida school children are raising their voices in the state's testing debate, hoping to be heard in a discussion that so many people say is about them.

    One Orlando third grader emailed several lawmakers, urging them to consider adopting an amendment that would halt test-based third-grade retention, high school graduation and school grading decisions until the test is validated....

  9. Rep. Adkins revives Facebook testing debate

    Blog

    Floridians hoping to influence state House K-12 committee chairwoman Rep. Janet Adkins' views on testing via Facebook were disappointed when the Fernandina Beach Republican abruptly deleted a lengthy, detailed thread on the subject.

    Adkins explained that she wanted to hear peoples' views. "Once the Facebook thread became a political conversation as opposed to authentic interaction with teachers and stakeholders I decided the thread was no longer fruitful and deleted it from my Facebook account," she said via e-mail....

  10. Florida education news: Testing, sports, raises and more

    Blog

    TESTING: Lake County schools scrap several local end-of-course exams, following Orange and Seminole, the Daily Commercial reports. • Some Southwest Florida residents protest the way the state uses standardized testing, NBC 2 reports. More from the Naples Daily News. • About 1,400 Orange County students attend spring break camps to prepare for state tests, the Orlando Sentinel reports....

  11. Florida education leaders raise more testing concerns

    Blog

    With two weeks of computerized writing tests in the rearview mirror, Florida's superintendents are taking a closer look at what went wrong -- and what it means.

    They're more concerned than ever that the results will be tainted.

    In a draft document circulating through district offices, the Florida Association for District School Superintendents raises six "serious concerns" that it wants state leaders to consider. The issues coincide with some of the validity questions discussed by national experts in the aftermath of students' widespread problems logging in and finishing the Florida Standards Assessment exam....

  12. Florida House panel advances bill to expand open enrollment statewide

    Blog

    A measure to further open the door to more public school choice (HB 1145) found broad bipartisan support as it moved through its first Florida House committee on Tuesday....

  13. Florida education news: Open enrollment, guns, hazing and more

    Blog

    SCHOOL CHOICE: Florida lawmakers consider expanding open enrollment beyond school district borders.

    GUNS ON CAMPUS: Another Florida Senate committee okays a bill to let superintendents select people to carry concealed weapons at schools, the News Service of Florida reports....

  14. Florida senator would temporarily halt test-based third-grade retentions, graduation decisions

    Blog

    A conservative Florida senator with a flair for headline-grabbing proposals could generate lots of support in the anti-testing sector with his latest recommendation.

    Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has filed an amendment to the Senate's major testing reform bill (SB 616) that goes to its final committee stop on Thursday, with availability Wednesday. His objective: To end third-grade retentions, graduation decisions and school grades based on state standardized test scores until the tests are more thoroughly vetted as valid. ...

  15. Florida Department of Education reminds school districts to follow hiring procedures

    Blog

    Hardly a week goes by that we don't read a story about a teacher getting arrested for a bad act. It's not that these things didn't happen before, but nowadays they get reported more frequently and publicly.

    And unlike in the past, the idea of quietly counseling someone out of a district and then letting them move to another place is pretty much history.

    And that's the way it should be, the Florida Department of Education is reminding school districts. In a memo to school and district leaders, education commissioner Pam Stewart repeated expectations that districts conduct thorough background checks of all employee applicants and also help out their counterparts when asked for references....