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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. Hillsborough faces strong competition for top talent as superintendent search begins


    TAMPA — As Hillsborough County School Board members get ready to search for a new superintendent, they sound confident they'll attract some top candidates.

    "They will want to come to Tampa, Florida," board member Sally Harris predicted. "We are the eighth-largest school district in the country. Why wouldn't you apply for this job if you have ambition?"

    But the board, which dismissed MaryEllen Elia on Jan. 20, faces a highly competitive market and a small pool of candidates qualified and willing to lead a large, urban school system....

  2. Florida education news: Sexual assault, online planning, teacher contracts and more


    ASSAULT: A girl's report of sexual assault on the John Hopkins Middle School campus yields a questionable response by administrators that experts say failed the girl.

    PLANNING: Hillsborough middle and high school students have access to a new online guidance and planning program....

  3. Pasco County district announces schools frozen to choice


    When Pasco County opens its school choice application period on Sunday, parents will find more than a third of the district's schools frozen to new students who don't live in their zones.

    Twenty-nine of 72 schools (not counting charters or education centers) have enrollments at or above their capacity, meaning there's basically no room for choice transfers.

    That doesn't mean that families may not apply for these schools, government relations liaison Spencer Pylant said. Isolated seats in different grade levels might come open from time to time....

  4. Florida state-mandated testing costs Pasco County schools millions


    During an early January meeting (video here), members of the Florida Senate education appropriations committee pressed education commissioner Pam Stewart for a key number. How much, they asked, does it cost to implement all state-mandated tests in Florida?

    Stewart offered the number $90 million, but under questioning acknowledged that the amount included only state-level tests. District tests put in place solely to meet state requirements weren't part of the calculation....

  5. Florida education news: Student pickup, Bibles and Satanic coloring books, free meals and more


    PICK-UP TIME: The Seven Oaks CDD complains that too many parents park illegally outside Pasco's Seven Oaks Elementary each afternoon.

    HANDOUTS: The Orange School Board moves forward with a policy to ban groups from distributing religious and political materials to students, the Orlando Sentinel reports....

  6. Pasco schools open enrollment period begins Sunday


    Pasco County families seeking to transfer their children to public schools other than the one they're assigned to can begin applying for open enrollment on Sunday.

    The applications will be available online by clicking on a banner at the top of the district's main web page. Each child in a family must apply separately, and might not receive the same results....

  7. Name change to Florida's technical centers could lead to guns on campuses


    Florida Rep. Greg Steube's legislation to extend concealed carry weapons permits to colleges and universities could have a side effect that has school districts on edge.

    It might allow guns on campuses that serve large numbers of high school students....

  8. Seven Oaks board says afternoon traffic at elementary school is a safety concern



    For about an hour every school-day afternoon, lightly traveled Mystic Oak Boulevard becomes a traffic snarl.

    The Seven Oaks Community Development District wants to put an end to it.

    Specifically, it wants parents to stop "illegally parking" on the road while waiting to pick up their children at Seven Oaks Elementary School, citing safety concerns over a clogged roadway....

    Traffic Control Officer Jerry Martin directs traffic at Seven Oaks. Parents parking on the road restrict traffic.
  9. Florida superintendents talk testing with Gov. Rick Scott


    Nine superintendents met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and education commissioner Pam Stewart on Wednesday to talk about testing.  Nothing really new was said. It was just presented to the governor in person.

    Afterward, Florida Association of District School Superintendents leader Bill Montford sent its members a brief synopsis of their key points:...

  10. Florida education news: Superintendents, physical education, teacher pay and more


    SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: The Hillsborough School Board will talk about its next steps to replace MaryEllen Elia at a Tuesday meeting. • The Palm Beach School Board forges ahead with its superintendent search, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • Outgoing Volusia superintendent Margaret Smith defends herself against accusations of poor management, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports....

  11. Changes have increased the number of substitute teachers, but bus drivers are needed


    The Pasco County School District's effort to attract and retain more substitute teachers has begun to work.

    At the start of the year, the district had 675 instructional and non-instructional substitutes on file. Now, it has 1,003, of which 872 are instructional.

    But it's not necessarily for the reasons you might imagine.

    The district didn't increase its pay, as some educators have recommended. It didn't hire a temporary employment firm, as other districts have done....

  12. Hernando school district wins reaccreditation


    AdvancED announced its reaccreditation of the Hernando County school district on Wednesday.

    The decision came after a thorough review including interviews with more than 200 employees.

    “This is a great school district,” lead evaluator David Gullatt said in a released statement. “We were able to identify several powerful practices in Hernando County that folks in other districts would certainly benefit from knowing more about.”...

  13. Pasco schools nurse named top in Florida


    Kathy Browning, a nurse at Pasco's Lacoochee Elementary School, has been named 2015 Florida School Nurse of the Year by the Florida School Nurses Association.

    Browning, the wife of superintendent Kurt Browning, has worked for the school district since 1992 except for a two-year break. 

    She was nominated for the award by several administrators and a Lacoochee fifth grader, James Royal....

  14. FLVS gets new board chair as past leader steps down


    Michael Olenick, recently appointed to the Florida Board of Education, has stepped down as chairman of the Florida Virtual School board of trustees.

    The trustees on Tuesday selected Lady Dhyana Ziegler to step into the leadership position. 

    Ziegler, who has been the board's vice chair for four years, is the Garth C. Reeves Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair of Excellence in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University. She previously held several administrative jobs at the university.  She was knighted as a Dame of Justice in England in 2008....

  15. Florida education news: Student voices, testing resolutions, African-American education and more


    STUDENTS SPEAK: Hillsborough high school students get to meet with district leaders, and they discuss education rather than politics.

    TESTING: The Pinellas School Board joins the crowd of districts clamoring for changes to Florida's testing and accountability system....