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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. Pasco officials push back against parents who say they were harmed by school rezonings

    K12

    LAND O'LAKES — Lawyers for the Pasco County school system on Monday aggressively questioned parents who are challenging the district's recent decision to redraw school attendance zones, part of a daylong hearing that focused on how severely families had been affected.

    The families have accused the board of not following state laws governing rule-making, which they say should come into play when revising school zones. Those procedures include providing notification of events, which parents say didn't happen....

  2. Florida education news: Charter schools, mentoring, sales tax revenue and more

    Blog

    REZONING: A parent protest of the Pasco County School Board's recent attendance zone revisions heads to a state hearing officer.

    CHARTER SCHOOLS: Florida lawmakers again look at ways to provide more capital projects funding to charter schools, the Miami Herald reports....

  3. Today: Pasco parents begin legal challenge over new school zones

    K12

    LAND O'LAKES — Several Pasco County parents have fought for months to stop their School Board from imposing new school attendance zones, saying the process has been flawed at best.

    Beginning this morning, a group of them will make their challenge more formal.

    They will argue before a state administrative hearing judge that the board did not follow its own policy or Florida law when creating the new boundaries, which are scheduled to take effect in the fall. The families have alleged that the district did not give affected parties enough time to present their arguments, nor did the district offer sufficient evidence to explain its recommendations....

    An image of one of the school zoning maps used by a committee of Pasco parents and school district officials back on Sept. 29, 2016. At the time, the panel was looking for ways to ease crowding at the district's two most overcrowded schools, Wiregrass Ranch High and John Long Middle. Now, after the district's recent vote to change the boundaries, some parents are taking legal action. [Times files]
  4. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Feb.19, 2017

    Blog

    It's been another busy week in Florida education news. Reforms to the state's higher education system took a big step forward in the Legislature, while AP results showed increasing student participation and passage of the accelerated courses and tests. Florida's teachers continued to earn strong marks in their annual evaluations, and state House members talked about urging Congress to just back off on all those regulations. That's just the tip of the iceberg....

  5. Florida public school employees deserve Whistleblower protections, lawmakers suggest

    Blog

    Two Democratic Florida lawmakers filed similar bills (HB 1305 / SB 1236) Friday to offer specific protections to school district employees who reveal fraud, illegal activity or other actions that have a negative effect on student or school performance....

  6. Gradebook podcast: Federal funding, school rezoning and red sauce

    Blog

    This week, Jeff Solochek and editor Tom Tobin take a look at the Florida House measure urging Congress to dramatically change the way the federal government doles out funds to the state for low-income and special education students. They also discuss a Pasco County parent lawsuit that could change the way Florida school districts redraw school attendance zones.

    ...

    State Rep. Bob Cortes introduces HM 7027 during the Education Committee's meeting Feb. 21.
  7. Florida education news: Transgender students, school boundaries, food trucks and more

    Blog

    GENDER ISSUES: Tampa Bay area school district officials say the Trump administration's latest rule on treatment of transgender students won't change their actions protecting students. The same holds true in south Florida, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Central Florida, too, the Orlando Sentinel reports....

  8. Florida lawmaker seeks to make it easier to challenge school instructional materials

    Blog

    Every few years, a Florida lawmaker fixes on the topic of school materials that might offend, and how to root those out.

    Three years ago, Sen. Alan Hays proposed removing the state from the book selection process, so local leaders could better control the books read in area classrooms....

  9. Parents' challenges to Pasco school rezoning decisions to be heard next week

    K12

    When it comes to rezoning her Country Walk neighborhood to different schools, Larondar Stone doesn't worry too much about her freshman daughter, Niah.

    Niah is an advanced student, Stone said, and she's survived moves in the past.

    What troubles Stone more is the way the Pasco County School District approached its Jan. 17 rezoning decision.

    Officials set forth guidelines but didn't follow them, she said. They spoke of reaching conclusions based on numbers the public never saw, she added. Some advisory committee members appear to have discussed issues privately, too, Stone alleged....

    The Pasco County School Board heard from members of the public before redrawing school boundaries in January. [Photo by Jeffrey S. Solochek]
  10. Hearing dates shuffled for Pasco County school rezoning complaints

    Blog

    East Pasco County parents fighting their school district's vote to redraw area attendance zones will have to wait a little longer to make their formal case.

    A similar case stemming from a west Pasco rezoning will get heard first. And because all involved anticipate the testimony will take longer than the one day set aside for a Division of Administrative Hearings session, the east side arguments will be delayed at least a week....

    Meetings on Pasco County school rezoning proposals drew large and often upset crowds from the outset in fall 2016.
  11. Florida education news: Machetes, tuition, laptops and more

    Blog

    RENOVATIONS: The Pinellas County School Board pledges nearly $9 million to the renovation of Lakewood High School.

    SCHOOL SAFETY: A Lakewood High School student is arrested after authorities discover a 28-inch machete in his trombone case at school....

  12. Pasco County school workers' contract talks head to special hearing

    Blog

    Teachers and bus drivers decked out in red filled the Pasco County School Board meeting Tuesday, urging the board to offer better pay raises in advance of scheduled special magistrate hearings on stalled contract talks.

    The session on school-related employee contracts is scheduled for Feb, 28, with the one on teacher contracts set for March 7. Money remains a major sticking point.

    Speaking to the board, the workers made that point abundantly clear....

  13. Florida lawmakers seek reduction of federal Title I, IDEA rules

    Blog

    For its first bill of the 2017 session, the Florida House Education Committee decided to focus on fighting federal regulations rather than on testing, recess or other matters that have dominated discussion throughout the state.

    "We're going to boldly go where no man has gone before," vice chairman Rep. Bob Cortes said, riffing on the fact that the committee bill number 1701 matched the registry number of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek....

    State Rep. Bob Cortes discusses a bill to urge Congress to convert Title I funding into block grants Tuesday.
  14. Florida education news: School zones, recess, alternative programs and more

    Blog

    SCHOOL ZONES: The Hillsborough County School Board discusses the need to reexamine all school attendance boundaries and make adjustments to rebalance enrollment. • The Palm Beach County School Board prepares to vote on attendance zone changes, the Palm Beach Post reports....

  15. Pasco County School Board to look into midyear principal transfers

    Blog

    Some Pasco County parents continued Tuesday to complain about the unexpected, quick removal of principals from their schools this week.

    "Our school has gone from meh to excellent in the past four years," parent Lynn Moses said of Seven Springs Middle School. "I'm terribly disappointed that we've been told the borders of our school would be changing and ... we're losing our very fine principal."...