LARGO — Two new schools are coming to Pinellas County.
The School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the technology magnet programs at Gulf Beaches Elementary in St. Pete Beach and Kings Highway Elementary in Clearwater. It's the first time Pinellas has opened a school, let alone two, in a decade.
The declining enrollment that prompted Pinellas in 2009 to close Gulf Beaches and Kings Highway, then neighborhood schools, hasn't reversed. But the district has seen high demand in the form of lengthy wait lists for its magnet and fundamental programs....
CLEARWATER — Over the pulpit hung Jesus on a cross. Mike Grego, on Monday evening, was invited to sit on a wooden chair. The church leaders told him not to be nervous. There would be no surprises, they told the superintendent of Pinellas County Schools.
The reassurance was not unwarranted. Faith and Action for Strength Together, or FAST, had brought 830 people from 43 congregations together at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church to ask Grego to step up efforts to curb arrests in schools....
Today's Times hashes out new research suggesting that textbooks marketed as aligned to the Common Core don't actually match up to the new standards.
We quoted a publisher who said they did the best they could under the timeframe, and another who said the research should have also looked at teacher editions of the textbooks....
To sell children on math, textbooks sometimes have colorful fictions on their covers. Iguanas look through kaleidoscopes. Skunks swing baseball bats. Rabbits float away after clutching a few too many balloons.
Now, there's concern that a darker unreality is on the cover of textbooks in order to sell the books to adults: seals that say the texts are aligned to the new Common Core standards....
It can take years to build the reputation of an academic program. But district officials are counting on two new technology magnet schools to fill up, possibly before principals have been named or facilities renovated.
Pending School Board approval Tuesday, Gulf Beaches Elementary in St. Pete Beach and Kings Highway Elementary in Clearwater will start taking applications Wednesday for the 2014-15 school year. Both will serve students in kindergarten to fifth grade, with a focus on learning through technology....
Is Pinellas arresting too many children in schools?
That's the charge of Faith and Action for Strength Together, or FAST, a community group that will meet with Superintendent Mike Grego and school board meetings Monday evening.
Christina Chin, a staff member for FAST, says 500 people will attend the informal 7 p.m. summit at St. Catherine of Siena in Clearwater. FAST is a network of 38 congregations throughout Pinellas....
Pinellas County Schools has taken steps recently to increase its presence on social media - not a bad idea in an age where students tweet more often than they speak.
As of Monday afternoon, the Facebook page launched about a week ago has 487 "likes," and the Twitter account has 61 followers. So far, the content is a mix of feel-good news from the district's Newsroom blog, and submissions from various district departments....
Patrick Boyko is a good teacher. He is probably even outstanding. A couple of weeks ago, Boyko was named the 2014 Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year.
He beat out a band director who has tripled the program's membership, a National Board Certified art teacher, and a third-generation Hillsborough educator who's bringing robotics into elementary schools.
"Patrick treasures his students and challenges them not only to be academically successful but also as future responsible adults," the Hillsborough Education Foundation wrote of his selection....
CLEARWATER — The dream is fading, she says. She's a high school senior with an honor-roll transcript and a mouth full of braces. Pink.
She wants to go to college. Celeste Pioquinto, 17, was born and raised in Clearwater, educated in Clearwater except when she went to Seminole Middle for its gifted program. She'll graduate from Clearwater High this spring.
But her parents are not from Clearwater and moreover not from this country. Mexico. She can't get in-state tuition to Florida colleges and universities. Her parents don't make a ton of money. She is the eldest of four children....
CLEARWATER — A 33-year-old man turned himself in to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on Monday, saying he killed his mother.
Late Monday, Clearwater police were investigating the scene at 1709 El Trinidad Drive East, off State Road 590 east of U.S. 19.
Spokesman Rob Shaw said they found the 59-year-old woman dead in the back yard with upper-body trauma. Police said they would not release her name until they could notify family members, and would not announce the suspect's name until he had been formally charged....
02/24/14 Public Safety
LARGO — A Pinellas County deputy was arrested Monday for striking a 15-year-old inmate last summer and lying about his motives, marking the fifth dismissal of a county deputy in six months.
Joel De Los Reyes, 51, hit the teenage inmate for "mouthing off," Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told reporters at a news conference Monday. Another deputy, Adrian Nenu, was suspended for not reporting his colleague's use of excessive force....
Think about blood when it comes to testing in schools, says John Legg, chairman of the Florida Senate's Education Committee. Most children get a blood test every so often. If something is wrong, doctors do more tests.
"But we don't give everyone a blood test for everything all the time," he says. And that should be the case for reading, math and science.
Legg, who contends Florida students are over-tested, is sponsoring a bill that would prevent school districts from giving their own assessments to students two weeks before or after a state exam, like the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. His concern is that students, feeling fatigue, won't meet their potential on critical tests....
School board member Robin Wikle, who announced plans to resign yesterday, says there's no bombshell reason she's stepping down after her sixth year.
"It's just time," Wikle told the Gradebook on Wednesday. "I'm a leader who comes in and troubleshoots and organizes, and I think we have a district that has sustainable leadership."...
Some of the most struggling high schools in Pinellas County are facing significant cuts to teaching positions next year, according to preliminary staffing memos from district administrators.
But, amid anxiety from school leaders and staff, superintendent Mike Grego cautioned Monday that the numbers likely will become less severe as the budget process moves forward.
Declining enrollment is driving the need to "right-size" the district, Grego said. "It's a process that takes art and skill and science, and it will be another four to five months" before it's through....
Teachers and non-instructional school staff have become quite familiar with VAM. Now it's time for district administrators to feel the love in their evaluations, too.
Pinellas school officials are proposing that 40 percent of the evaluations of district-level administrators be based on student achievement on standardized tests....