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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


Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

  1. Gradebook podcast: Why is Hillsborough County teacher Ryan Haczynski blogging?


    Many public school teachers in Florida don't speak out on issues that affect them, saying they fear retribution for their comments. Not so Ryan Haczynski. The International Baccalaureate teacher at Strawberry Crest High School started a new blog and podcast over the summer to talk Florida education, and to encourage activism among his peers. H, as his students call him, spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek about the forces that drove him to get vocal....

    Ryan Haczynski
  2. Incumbent Pasco School Board member declares reelection bid


    Cynthia Armstrong, first elected to the Pasco School Board in 2010, has filed papers with the Pasco Supervisor of Elections to seek a third term representing the southwest corner of the county.

    Armstrong, a real estate agent and former teacher, said she intends to pay the filing fee to qualify for the ballot, and not collect petition signatures. She said that way she can spend more time talking to residents about issues the school district faces....

    Cynthia Armstrong first won a seat on the Pasco County School Board in 2010.
  3. Former Pasco schools administrator takes education post in Hillsborough County


    Some people just can't get enough of public education. And Ray Bonti appears to be one of them.

    Bonti, a veteran Pasco County school and district administrator, announced this week he will lead the Hillsborough Association of School Administrators, an advocacy group for the county's school and district level leaders. He did it quietly, by setting up a Twitter account using his new executive director title....

  4. Pasco County school district to buy land for new east-side high school


    With no signs of growth slowing in eastern Pasco County, the School Board is poised to buy 64 acres in Zephyrhills for a future new high school.

    The site, part of the River Landing community master plan, had been a reserved school site for seven years, after which the district had to decide whether to purchase it or let it go. District officials see the location as valuable to serve additional students moving into new homes along the State Road 56 corridor....

    The Pasco County school district is opening a new high school in Wesley Chapel this fall, and is planning to further expand in the east side.
  5. Pasco School Board to tackle district finals rules


    With questions over the use of district-created final exams still swirling, the Pasco County School Board plans to review ideas to improve the system when it meets Tuesday.

    District staff is recommending that the tests, designed to help evaluate teachers using student data, count as 10 percent of students' course grades for the semester in which they take the tests. The proposal is part of Student Progression Plan revisions coming to the board as part of a workshop....

    The Pasco School Board will consider this new model for how district finals count in student grades.
  6. Pasco County commissioners say they'll back 92 percent school impact fee hike


    They couldn't vote because the proposal had changed enough to warrant another public hearing.

    But Pasco County commissioners on Tuesday signaled their strong support for a compromise on school impact fees crafted over the past several days by school district officials and area home builders.

    The accord, which would increase the fee on a newly built home by 92 percent, drew praise from the entire commission, including some members who had been hesitant to back anything that builders opposed....

    Assistant county attorney David Goldstein explains a school impact fee proposal to Pasco County commissioners as school district officials look on.
  7. Can Florida students still take the Algebra 2 end-of-course exam?


    When Florida lawmakers said they wanted to eliminate the state Algebra 2 end-of-course exam, they meant it.

    The law killing the test went into effect on July 1. When the retake window opened on Monday, students scheduled to sit for the EOC learned it was no longer available.

    "The Algebra 2 EOC has been discontinued effective immediately," Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Audrey Walden told the Gradebook. "There is no statutory requirement for students to obtain a passing score, so it is up to districts as to how to address course grades moving forward."...

  8. Florida education news: Test scores, impact fees, school grades and more


    TEST SCORES: When confronted by the argument that Florida's testing system is too "high stakes," officials often note that students have multiple options to get past the gatekeeper exams. This year, the Florida Board of Education is considering changes to the scores students can use to replace their 10th grade reading and Algebra I exams, both of which are graduation requirements. The state's proposed revisions, though, have run into criticism from Florida's superintendents, who have offered an alternative. ...

  9. With new state law, report card delay could worsen in years to come


    The Fourth of July had come and gone, and the Pasco County School District continued to receive complaints that some parents had not yet received their children's report cards.

    Officials said the report cards were running the week before the holiday, and sent shortly thereafter. They apologized for any problems with the time frame.

    But they also have noted that grades are likely to arrive even later next year....

  10. Hillsborough County schools get another new spokesman


    Hillsborough County schools superintendent Jeff Eakins has named the district's fifth communications director in two years.

    Reporter-turned-spokesman Grayson Kamm, most recently of the Museum of Science and Industry, is slated to take the post on July 24, if the School Board approves on July 18....

  11. Pasco County school district, home builders cut deal on impact fees, seek commission approval


    After weeks spent butting heads, representatives of the Pasco County school district and area home builders have reached an accord to end objections to a proposed school impact fee increase.

    The agreement, reached after three days of hourly back and forth negotiations, could pave the way to a near doubling over three years of the fee attached to newly built homes in support of needed additional school seats. It still would require a majority vote of the County Commission, which was not party to the talks and has not weighed in on the latest proposal....

    The Pasco Board of County Commissioners left open room to alter its school impact fee ordinance after its first public hearing in June.
  12. Superintendents object to Florida plan for alternate high school reading, algebra tests


    Plans to revise Florida high school student options for key state tests have run into some objections from the state's superintendents.

    The Florida Association of District School Superintendents has suggested that the Department of Education's proposal to do away with the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test as an alternative to the Algebra I end-of course exam could have negative consequences for students. The department has recommended using the PSAT as the second option for students who do not pass the Algebra I EOC, which is required for graduation....

  13. Hate late report cards? New Florida law could make them later next spring


    As summer rolled into July, some parents across the Tampa Bay area continued to complain that they had yet to receive their children's report cards.

    One of the delays in the area and across Florida was the delivery of state test results, which factor in to several marks. The end-of-course exams for Algebra II, geometry, U.S. history and biology, for instance, count for 30 percent of the course grades. ...

    Sample Hillsborough County report card (2014)
  14. Florida education news: #HB7069, climate change, charter schools and more


    #HB7069: Florida House Republicans respond to a planned lawsuit over their priority education legislation with a slick video aimed at demonstrating how their program will help needy children. At least one Manatee School Board member isn't impressed, and plans to ask his colleagues to consider joining the suit, the Bradenton Herald reports....

  15. Battle over Pasco County school impact fees heats up


    So much for that peaceful, easy feeling leading to Tuesday's Pasco County Commission vote on a proposed school impact fee increase....

    A committee of builders and parents recommended increasing Pasco County school impact fees in April. The Board of County Commissioners is preparing to vote July 11.