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

Email: lgartner@tampabay.com

Twitter: @LisaGartner

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  1. Others will, but Brevard won't discuss student discipline

    Blog

    Here at Gradebook, we take covering education pretty seriously. We do everything we can to understand complicated issues in our schools so that we can be an authority in reporting the news to you. A few weeks ago, we set out to better get a handle on student discipline. What does it mean to be disciplined in school, and how does that differ across the 20 largest school districts in Florida?...

  2. Flowers faces challenger for School Board seat in struggling District 7

    K12

    The county is carved up into seven pieces, and on the Pinellas School Board, no seat serves a more challenging area than District 7. Home to the elementary school with the lowest reading scores in Florida, District 7 also has the state's second-lowest performing school, as well as the sixth, the 16th and 22nd.

    It's a serious job, and now two natives of the district are fighting to represent it....

    Rene Flowers
  3. Pinellas might ease school policy blocking felons from volunteering

    K12

    Pinellas County school officials are re-examining the district's policy barring parents and other people with felony convictions from volunteering in schools.

    The concern was raised by two candidates for the Pinellas County School Board who say the volunteer rules keep parents convicted of nonviolent, nonsexual offenses from being active in their children's education.

    In August, the Tampa Bay Times told the story of a Lakewood Elementary School PTA president who rallied 60 parents to her meetings, only to lose her post over past felony convictions for check fraud....

  4. Pinellas schools returning M-16 assault rifles

    K12

    The Pinellas County schools police department, which last month defended the purchase of 28 M-16s for its officers, is returning the assault rifles to a federal government surplus program.

    School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook said Wednesday the board should have known about the purchase beforehand, instead of reading about it after the fact in a Tampa Bay Times article.

    Rick Stelljes, the Pinellas schools police chief, said he wanted to return the rifles after much "reflecting."...

    A stock image of an M16 assault rifle. [iStockphoto.com]
  5. John Hopkins dance teacher finds purpose in helping children

    Life

    The power was shut off almost every month, but he'd take out his flashlight and play tag, and so by Tai White's estimation there were much worse things about growing up poor in St. Petersburg. If only his parents had touched more, and his mother hadn't thrown that book, maybe his father wouldn't have left. At 10 years old he was changing his disabled brother's diapers while his mother worked nights. She brought White with her to pay the rent check so the landlord wouldn't get mad they were behind....

    Dance instructor Tai White (center), 28, an adjunct teacher, works with Raven Anderson, 12(right), 12, as White walks around the room making minor adjustments to form during Dance 1 part of an arts magnet program at John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St S, St Petersburg. About 25-30 students were present for the class which was the first period of the day on Friday morning (9/26/14).
  6. John Hopkins dance teacher finds purpose in helping children

    K12

    The power was shut off almost every month, but he'd take out his flashlight and play tag, and so by Tai White's estimation there were much worse things about growing up poor in St. Petersburg. If only his parents had touched more, and his mother hadn't thrown that book, maybe his father wouldn't have left. At 10 years old he was changing his disabled brother's diapers while his mother worked nights. She brought White with her to pay the rent check so the landlord wouldn't get mad they were behind....

    Dance instructor Tai White, 28, helps 12-year-old Raven Anderson get into the proper position Friday morning during an instruction period at John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg.
  7. Pinellas charter schools come under scrutiny

    K12

    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....

  8. Pinellas schools buy assault rifles from military surplus program

    K12

    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.
  9. Too many Pinellas graduates not ready for college classes, SPC official says

    Education

    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. "...

    Mike Grego, Pinellas County Schools Superintendent , speaks at the Superintendent's Roundtable at the Stavros Institute, 12100 Starkey Road, in Largo Thursday afternoon (08/29/13).  Local education, political and civic leaders discussed the Common Core State Standards, career education, summer learning loss and other education issues. Participants included Grego, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook, U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis, R-Fl, and State Representative Larry Ahern, R-St. Petersburg.
  10. School Board candidates explore Pinellas' policy on felony records

    K12

    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.
  11. East Windsor kids placed in new schools

    Blog

    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....

  12. Textbooks arrive on time in Pinellas, Hillsborough

    Blog

    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."...

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

    Blog

    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....

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

    K12

    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.
  15. Pinellas to review its charter school contracts after East Windsor 'calamity'

    K12

    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....