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. Playgrounds, recess as important as testing, class time, Pasco principals say


    LAND O'LAKES — Karley Green stared wide-eyed at the newly renovated playground behind the yellow ribbon and the shiny gold helium balloons.

    Connerton Elementary School's outdoor play area had been closed for a year, as workers replaced equipment and ground cover to make it safer and more accessible to all children, including those with disabilities.

    The $75,000 project was now complete, and the school's 970 students gathered for the grand reopening last week. A few speeches and lots of cheering later, the kids got to test the wheelchair-friendly glider, the soft padded flooring, the zip line and more....

    Connerton Elementary assistant principal Claudia Steinacker plays with Dracy Johnson, left, and Paul Davis on the school’s newly renovated playground.
  2. Pasco superintendent urges parents to monitor kids' social media


    Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning sent a phone message home to middle and high school parents on Friday, reminding them to keep on top of what their kids might be doing on social media sites.

    Some parents complained to the district about a site on Twitter called PascoCrushes, on which teens are making some vulgar and inappropriate comments about others in the community. The district has asked the account, which has nearly 1,800 followers, to delete many of the comments....

  3. Pasco charter school for students with autism to close


    Florida Autism Center of Excellence-Pasco, a charter school that opened in August, will close at the end of the academic year. The school's Board of Directors voted Thursday to dissolve, just days after their management company Quest Inc. announced it would walk away from the school amid low enrollment and struggling finances....

  4. Florida education news: Tuition, transportation, innovation and more


    TUITION: A bill to grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants stalls as a key Florida senator blocks its next committee hearing.

    SHUTTLE SERVICE: The Hillsborough school district will provide transportation to students who must cross busy Hillsborough Avenue to Middleton High....

  5. Pasco schools to clarify penalties for student-athletes who are arrested


    For years, the Pasco County school district has had a lengthy set of rules detailing how to deal with student-athletes who are arrested.

    "Every time we had a situation, a principal would call and say, 'What do I do?'" district athletic director Phil Bell said.

    There were eligibility suspensions of 20 days in some circumstances, 40 days in others, and 90 days for still others. The rules were, in a word, confusing....

  6. Hand over your mice. It's FCAT season


    Florida lawmakers wondering whether schools are prepared for computerized testing need to look no further than Pine View Elementary School in Pasco County for an answer.

    With the FCAT approaching, the school's media-technology coach sent an e-mail to teachers confiscating all the computer mice from their classrooms for the testing period. "We need a total of 70 and we have 30 in the computer lab," the specialist wrote. "We need them during the week of April 21st and will get them back to you by the end of that week."...

  7. Florida education news: Principals, tests, single-gender classrooms and more


    WHOSE JOB? A Hernando School Board member criticizes the superintendent for changing high school schedules without asking for public input or a board vote.

    LEADERSHIP: Principals of two Pinellas elementary schools are selected to lead new schools opening in the fall....

  8. Two models of assessing civics: Florida and Tennessee


    In its examination of states' civics education initiatives, the Education Commission of the States has found just two that have statewide exams with consequences -- Florida and Tennessee.

    Both states are launching their tests this year. Both have the same goal in mind, to enhance civics understanding. Yet their approaches are "very different," the ECS reports in a newly released white paper....

  9. Pasco school district officials seek consistency in student discipline


    Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning had heard the stories too frequently that students at one district school received a punishment much different from students at another campus committing the same offense.

    "I was starting to get e-mails from parents," Browning told the School Board on Tuesday. "There needs to be some consistent practices."

    So for the first time, the district has created a three-page chart detailing offenses and the specific penalties associated with each. Principals and teachers are still offering input as officials edit it in time to place it in the next Code of Conduct....

  10. Florida education news: Charter schools, summer school, strategic planning and more


    CHARTER SCHOOLS: A Pasco charter school serving children with autism faces closure without a big cash infusion as its management company backs out. • One of Duval's oldest charter schools could close if its academic performance doesn't improve, the Florida Times-Union reports. • Miami-Dade breaks ground on a privately funded, district-run charter school, the Miami Herald reports....

  11. Pasco School Board hires consultant for $290,000


    LAND O'LAKES — The Pasco County School Board agreed Tuesday to spend nearly $300,000 for a consultant to help write its next strategic plan.

    Tampa-based TransPro would receive $290,000 over two years to guide the district's effort to set priorities that are clearly defined and measurable. The priorities would drive future budgets.

    "If it sits on a shelf it is not successful," group CEO Mark Aesch told the board. "It needs to be a part of daily life."...

  12. Pasco charter school for children with autism faces closure


    The company managing Pasco County's charter school for children with autism has decided to abandon the year-old school, citing concerns over low enrollment and future financial viability.

    Orlando-based nonprofit Quest Inc. also is considering the future of a sister school in Tampa.

    John Dester, whose son Nicholas attends Florida Autism Center of Excellence-Pasco near Zephyrhills, couldn't be more upset....

  13. Pasco school district changes rules for foreign exchange and travel programs


    Pasco County schools have tightened up their rules for student travel abroad and foreign exchange programs, in light of a recent state Ethics Commission opinion criticizing the district's past practices.

    New guidelines, circulated to all principals a week ago, make clear that only foreign exchange companies that have been fully vetted by the district may participate in the schools during the coming year. Further, firms seeking students for travel abroad are not allowed on school grounds to solicit students or teachers....

  14. Scott to schools: Great work creating private-sector jobs


    Sure it's just a form letter. But Gov. Rick Scott's recent letter congratulating the Pasco County school district for being named one of the region's healthiest employers by the Tampa Bay Business Journal has raised a few eyebrows.

    Why? The governor praised the tax-supported public school system for its efforts in creating private-sector jobs.

    "You are to be commended for building a company that is recognizable within your community," Scott (or, presumably, his letter writer) wrote to the district that's headed by his former secretary of state. "Because entrepreneurship is the foundation of Florida's success, I am focused on making the Sunshine State the best place for businesses to grow so that entrepreneurs like you can succeed and continue adding private-sector jobs to Florida's economy."...

  15. Florida education news: Construction, opting out, teacher discipline and more


    CONSTRUCTION FUNDING: Democrats say Florida's traditional schools are not given their fair share of state money for construction and maintenance needs.

    TESTING: Escambia and Santa Rosa schools have trouble transitioning to computerized state testing, the Pensacola News-Journal reports. • A Fort Myers mom joins the growing opt-out movement for her son, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. • Bay officials are hopeful of better results as FCAT testing begins, the Panama City News Herald reports....