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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

  1. Tampa area schools will open Monday


    School districts around the Tampa Bay region will open for classes on Monday as scheduled.

    Spokeswomen for each of the districts announced the decision Sunday afternoon. Each noted the dissipation of Tropical Storm Erika, which no longer poses a threat to the area.

    Families should have been alerted to the news via social media, robo calls and other announcements.

  2. School tells students and their parents it's okay to fail


    LAND O'LAKES — Preparing to market his new magnet school to parents, Sanders Memorial Elementary principal Jason Petry highlighted four core principles.

    Students first ... Learners have voice and choice ... Positive relationships lead to positive outcomes ... Failing forward.

    That last one jumped out at district communication director Linda Cobbe.

    "Failure is a negative thing," Cobbe said. She tried to dissuade Petry from using the term so prominently, but he stood firm. ...

    Tanner Henry, 7, helps Sanders Memorial second-grade teachers Arielle Harvey, left, and Ashlee Murray explain the “failing forward” concept to students last week.
  3. ICYMI: Florida education roundup, week of Aug. 23


    The past week in Florida education found Pinellas district officials defending against accusations of creating Failure Factories, state Board of Education members calling for changes to class size rules, and parents and students continuing to press the testing opt-out message. Here's our roundup of the highlights. For a steady stream of Florida education news, keep visiting Gradebook and our revamped Education home page. If you'd like to receive this roundup in your email 12 hours before it publishes, send an email to jsolochek@tampabay.com...

  4. Cows to graze Pasco school district land while waiting for future campus


    The Pasco County School Board bought 20 acres on U.S. 41 at Sunterra Drive less than a year ago, in anticipation of another population boom in Land O'Lakes.

    A series of small housing developments in the area led officials to recommend banking the land, at a cost of $1.65 million, for a future elementary school. ...

  5. Tampa area school districts wait on weather to make school closure announcements


    As Tropical Storm Erika continues to waver along its path, it appears to take a more westward trajectory toward the Tampa Bay region.

    Area school district officials have their eyes on the storm, but don't plan to decide whether to close schools until Erika's direction becomes more certain....

    Tropical Storm Erika tracking map, 11 a.m. Friday
  6. Florida testing validity study report to come next week


    All of you waiting anxiously for Alpine Testing Solution's verdict on the Florida Standards Assessments validity will have to sweat it out a little longer. The firm, which had planned to submit its final report today (Friday), has requested and received a short extension....

  7. Florida education news: T-shirts, testing, dress code and more


    CHURCH AND STATE: Criticism rises as 2,000 Hillsborough teachers are given t-shirts advertising a local mega-church.

    REMOVED: Hernando's school transportation director is pulled from duty while officials conduct an undisclosed investigation....

  8. Relocated Pasco middle school copes with moldy portable classrooms


    Pasco County's Bayonet Point Middle School, considered but never proven to be a "sick school" as many teachers there contracted cancer over the years, closed down this fall for a complete renovation. 

    Most of the students relocated to Fivay High School for the duration of the project.

    The move has generated a new set of concerns, though, as three of the five portable classrooms that students and teachers were supposed to use were deemed unusable just days before the start of classes. The culprit: Mold and poor air quality....

  9. Pasco West Zephyrhills Elementary to get new principal


    Two weeks after learning it would lose its principal, West Zephyrhills Elementary School has a new one.

    Five people applied for the post, and Charlene Tidd, the school's assistant principal, came out on top.

    She has been recommended to take over the job, which came vacant after Wendy Lane transferred to Woodland Elementary....

  10. How likely is it for Florida to move to a national test model?


    Much has been made in recent days about comments Florida senators Don Gaetz and John Legg have made regarding the "Seminole Solution" to state testing -- that is, a switch from state to national exams for accountability.

    Lawmakers look to ditch state exams, Politico Florida reported. Key lawmakers like idea of dumping state exams, the Orlando Sentinel added....

  11. Florida education news: Growth, tutoring, testing and more


    OVERFLOW: Manatee School Board members discuss how to handle growth in areas where schools are near or at capacity, the Bradenton Herald reports.

    EXTRA HELP: A nonprofit organization offers free tutoring to students in a dozen schools in Lake, Sumter and Marion counties, the Daily Commercial reports....

  12. Pasco area superintendent to take early retirement


    Beth Brown's past 24 years working in Pasco County school have been, in her own word, "amazing."

    But "the rest of my life beckons," Brown said.

    So she has put in for early retirement, effective Oct. 1. She told superintendent Kurt Browning on Monday, letting Facebook friends know on Tuesday.

    Brown praised Browning and his team as "fantastic," and said she would in some ways love to stay and continue the "right, good work" they are doing. Family commitments are rising, though, and she wants to be able to dedicate her time....

  13. Florida Board of Education members want another look at class size rules


    Discussing legislative priorities for the coming session, some Florida Board of Education members renewed their desire to see the 2002 class size amendment scaled back in its application.

    Calling the law "foolish," board member Gary Chartrand said he would urge lawmakers to take steps to make it easier for schools to measure class size as a school-wide average rather than a classroom count. He suggested a measure to apply penalties at the school average level -- simiilar to a bill that did not make its way through the spring 2015 session....

  14. Florida needs to refocus its approach to digital classrooms, Board of Education member says


    Florida Board of Education vice chairman John Padget has not hidden his enthusiasm for giving school children more access to classroom technology and the classes that support it.

    During a board meeting Wednesday, Padget called upon the Department of Education to revise its approach to digital classrooms, for which leaders have requested $20 million more in state funding.

    The approach should break down into three categories, he suggested. First, there's the hardware needs that have been talked about for years. Next would come the infusion of technology into lessons....

  15. Florida education news: Rainy day funds, cyber attacks, paychecks and more


    FAILURE FACEOFF: Some Pinellas parents criticize the School Board over the fate of five struggling south St. Petersburg elementary schools, leaving board members to defend the district.

    FINANCES: Hillsborough School Board members and administrators knew of the district's dwindling reserves long before discussing them publicly....