Lisa Gartner, Times Staff Writer

Lisa Gartner

Lisa Gartner covers Pinellas County Schools, colleges and universities. Before joining the Times in 2013, Lisa covered D.C. Public Schools for The Washington Examiner. Herself a product of Florida public schools, Lisa grew up in Palm Beach County. She attended Northwestern University after purchasing a very heavy coat.

Phone: (727) 893-8707


Twitter: @LisaGartner

  1. Pinellas charter schools come under scrutiny


    LARGO — The point of charter schools is to do better for students. They have the freedom to think outside the box, innovating with longer school days or years, gender-segregated classrooms and more, all in the name of providing better options for children than the traditional system can.

    But four Pinellas County charter schools came under fire this week from the School Board after standardized test scores indicated subpar student performance....

  2. Pinellas schools buy assault rifles from military surplus program


    The Pinellas County School District has purchased 28 M-16 assault rifles from the federal government and is preparing to assign them to school police officers in the coming weeks, the chief of the police unit said Wednesday.

    The district is one of at least 120 education organizations, including the University of South Florida, that have received military gear as part of a Defense Department program that came under increased scrutiny in August after the heavily armed police response to tensions in Ferguson, Mo....

    A stock image of an M16 assault rifle.
  3. Too many Pinellas graduates not ready for college classes, SPC official says


    LARGO — The boards governing St. Petersburg College and Pinellas County schools do not meet often, so Tuesday's joint meeting was supposed to be informational and pleasant, until it wasn't.

    Riding the elevator up to the meeting at school district headquarters, SPC trustee and former chairman Deveron Gibbons said he planned to break up "the love fest."

    Sitting down, he told the School Board and superintendent Mike Grego, "We get a whole bunch of students who are ill-prepared for college from the Pinellas County school system. … Some of these kids who are passing through the school system are not ready for college. "...

    SP_303284_diez_spmayor 8 of 11 (03/17/09 St. Petersburg) St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons. [CHERIE DIEZ, Times]
  4. School Board candidates explore Pinellas' policy on felony records


    ST. PETERSBURG — Food helped. So when Simona Bain told parents about the meetings, she told them of the pies she had sweet-talked from Pizza Hut and the platters coming in from Beef 'O' Brady's. Money was tight, she knew, for families at Lakewood Elementary, so she promised gas station gift cards to those who raised the most funds. By the spring of 2007, the school's parent-teacher organization had 50 to 60 parents at its meetings. They held field days, planted gardens, got on their knees to put on puppet shows....

    Simona Bain, who led the parent-teacher group at Lakewood Elementary in St. Petersburg, lost her position when a background check showed that she spent less than a year in prison for writing bad checks.
  5. East Windsor kids placed in new schools


    The dozens of children who were kicked out of a charter school days before the first day of school were all placed in new schools by late Tuesday, a Pinellas County Schools spokeswoman said.

    Melanie Marquez Parra said that 33 studied who were enrolled in East Windsor on Thursday and no longer enrolled there have been assigned to a new school in Pinellas, Parra said.

    However, Pinellas was unsure if this captured all the students leaving the charter school after it held a second lottery for students on Thursday....

  6. Textbooks arrive on time in Pinellas, Hillsborough


    Hernando's in a bit of a sticky situation after textbook publisher Pearson recalled books aligned to the Common Core, but not tweaked to the Florida Standards.

    But all's well in Pinellas and Hillsborough, the districts report.

    "We are not waiting on any textbooks," said Melanie Marquez Parra, a spokeswoman for Pinellas County Schools. "Our new adoption materials were from (publishers) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Carnegie Learning."...

  7. Pinellas doesn't know how many East Windsor kids found schools


    When a new charter school suddenly held a second lottery days before the start of the school year, dozens of Pinellas families were left scrambling to find a new school for their kids.

    Today was the first day of school, just two business days after East Windsor kicked out some of the middle school kids it had accepted months ago....

  8. Pinellas plans to expand Children's Initiative in troubled schools


    The picture has long been bleak at Fairmount Park Elementary, a squat campus painted white in the heart of Midtown St. Petersburg. It is one thing to be an F school; it is another thing to be Fairmount Park, where so few students can pass reading tests that the state education department recently named it the second-worst school in Florida.

    So it may surprise some that Pinellas school officials say there is a success story hidden within the chronically failing school — lessons that will now be applied to five low-achieving elementary schools in St. Petersburg....

    Mike Grego said he does not know the cost of the program.
  9. Pinellas to review its charter school contracts after East Windsor 'calamity'


    The Pinellas County School District is going to review how it contracts with charter schools after a St. Petersburg charter held a new lottery and kicked students out days before the start of the school year.

    Dot Clark, the district official who coordinates charter school applications, said East Windsor Middle Academy did not violate its charter because the contract doesn't specify when or how many times a lottery may be held....

  10. Pinellas charter school leaves parents searching for spots


    Dozens of Pinellas families are scrambling to find schools for their children after a St. Petersburg charter school abruptly held a new lottery for admission just four days before the first day of school.

    East Windsor Middle Academy emailed parents on Wednesday evening that construction on its middle school building wouldn't be finished by Monday, and that a temporary location could serve only 65 students....

  11. Pinellas County School Board, District 6


    School Board | District 6

    It's a choice between record-setting experience or a fresh face: Six-term School Board member Linda Lerner is asking for a seventh in a race against Maureen Ahern, a former journalist who thinks the board needs new blood to improve student performance.

    Lisa Gartner, Times staff writer


    Linda Lerner,71


    Linda Lerner
  12. Pinellas County School Board, District 3


    School Board | District 3

    Incumbent Peggy O'Shea is seeking her third term and faces St. Petersburg parent Kent Curtis, who founded a school garden organization that connects struggling students with mentors. He has made parent engagement the cornerstone of his on-the-ground campaign message, while she touts her experience and district knowledge. Lisa Gartner, Times staff writer...

    Peggy O’Shea
  13. Pinellas asks Crist campaign to stop airing ad shot at school


    Lawyers for Pinellas schools are asking former Gov. Charlie Crist to stop running a campaign ad shot at St. Petersburg High School.

    In a statement, district officials also said thecommercial should not be perceived as an endorsement for Crist's gubernatorial run by the school system....

  14. Parent engagement at the heart of District 3 School Board race in Pinellas


    Pinellas County School Board member Peggy O'Shea is facing a St. Petersburg professor in her bid for a third term.

    O'Shea, 64, says she wants to see through plans the current board has set in motion, such as new career academies, ideas for magnet schools and new programs that target the district's struggling minority students.

    Kent Curtis, 47, says the board has made recent turns in the right direction. But as a parent and volunteer at St. Petersburg's Lakewood Elementary, one of the lowest-achieving schools in the state, he says he has detailed plans to address high-need schools....

    Peggy O’Shea, 64, says she has pushed for career academies, as well as tougher enforcement of attendance policies. 
  15. Pinellas School Board member Peggy O'Shea diagnosed with cancer


    Pinellas County School Board member Peggy O'Shea, who is running for re-election, says she has breast cancer and expects to begin chemotherapy next week.

    She said in an interview Thursday that she is staying positive, but wants people to know because it may affect her ability to attend some campaign events.

    "If I have some days when I can't be everywhere, my health will be a priority," O'Shea said, "but I fully intend to carry on my duties as a School Board member and, of course, the campaigning."...