The Times reported in October that University Preparatory Academy, the new charter school in Midtown St. Petersburg, had failed to enact several key provisions of its charter.
Of note, University Prep did not have a local advisory board, which was supposed to help choose the school's principal. Cheri Shannon, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit behind University Prep, instead became the principal. Meanwhile, dozens of children were withdrawing from the school and returning to struggling Pinellas neighborhood schools....
No teacher in Pinellas County public schools received a poor rating last year. Not one. None were deemed "unsatisfactory" on their evaluations. There were none in Pasco, and there were none in Hernando. You could find 138 in Hillsborough, about 1 percent of its teachers.
Across the state, out of 163,986 evaluated teachers, 306 received a poor rating, according to preliminary results released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education....
The button was round, red and small, but most important, it was never alone. Before the first question was asked at the academic competition, before the kids handed their cellphones to their mothers and the rules were read, Aadith Moorthy's finger was on the buzzer. It stayed there even during breaks, or hovered just above it, shaking more than slightly. When a question was asked and he pressed the button, it made its loud, nasal sound, and the judge looked toward Moorthy's table and said his school's name, "Palm Harbor," and Moorthy spoke: "Eight-point-eight-two times ten to the second."...
PALM HARBOR — The health inspector stared at the class full of fifth-graders and told them, in plain terms, that they were disgusting. That morning they had surely petted their dogs, or perhaps sneezed into their hands. They were now covered in germs.
"Does everyone have germs on them?" asked Kenny Christanto-Nagai.
"Oh, yes," said the state inspector, a man in a baseball cap named Mark Fragola....
It used to be that they didn't have to work so hard. Pinellas County would open a school, and students would enroll.
Charter schools, private schools — they're the ones who had to put their work in. Shiny brochures, weekly information fairs, promises of longer school days, gender-segregated classrooms and Montessori philosophies.
But the game is changing. Increased competition for students, declining enrollment in the middle grades, and a need to offer more attractive options to families is leading Pinellas County Schools to open new magnet programs at four middle schools next fall....
In this age of plastic, some Pinellas students want to know - why can't they pay for their school lunches with debit cards?
At a recent workshop, the Pinellas School Board met with student leaders from the county's high schools. Emily Tharp, a senior at Seminole, asked why she had to pay cash to get her mid-day meal.
Pinellas students have accounts that their parents can fill with funds, but Tharp said sometimes parents forget and don't have cash on hand. Allowing students to use their debit cards to pay for food would put the control in students' hands....
Seeking to save money, Pinellas is considering scaling back five school police officers' schedules by June 2014. Instead of working 12 months, these officers would work 10, aligning with the school year.
Pinellas is also looking to eliminate the school police department secretary and a half-time school police officer. Both positions are currently vacant.
Additionally, another position would take over the duties of the school police employee charged with creating access tags for new employees, eliminating that position as well....
Pinellas County Schools is considering buying property near two of its elementary schools, although school board members are split on whether one of the add-ons will be worth it.
School system staff and board members agreed to seek an appraisal for the vacant lot next to 74th Street Elementary, citing the parking problems at the school. 74th Street only has 94 parking spots for a staff of 112, and the parent pick-up line has no choice but to weave through the staff parking lot....
When Sophia Wisniewska, the new chancellor at USF St. Petersburg, took office in July, she was tasked with creating a strategic five-year plan.
Pinellas's only public university, USF St. Pete has a lot on its plate. Wisniewska said during a July interview that the university first figures out what kind of place it wants to be - how many students should it enroll, how residential should it be, and how many programs should it offer?...
Thanks to the hazards of rain and rescheduling, six Pinellas high schools are moving their graduation ceremonies indoors this spring. Only Clearwater and Tarpon Springs are sticking with the outdoors.
For some at Lakewood and St. Pete Highs, the change was hard to swallow; both schools have held commencement on their football fields, a proud tradition. Now both will move their ceremonies into Tropicana Field....
The parents of an Azalea Middle School student sued the Pinellas County School Board and the parent of another student after they say their child was injured during P.E.
In the lawsuit dated Oct. 29, Cary and Lori Forney claim that Rene Plummer's child engaged their son in a game called "tapping" back in February. The game involved "striking and/or hitting and/or forceful touching that resulted in significant injury" to the Forneys' son....
Pinellas saw a slight increase in SAT scores this year, marking a five-year high for local test-takers. The average composite score was 1517 (out of 2400), above the state's 1457 average.
Reading scores jumped the most in Pinellas, up five points over 2012 to 513 (out of 800). Math bumped up two points to 513, amd writing went up two points to 491.
While Pinellas test-takers saw across-the-board improvements over 2009, Florida's averages are lower for all subjects....
11/10/13 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — The first time she learned to walk, she kicked grapefruits across the kitchen floor, so there was never a time that Erin Davis didn't play soccer. She played with the neighborhood kids and she played with the boys, the ones four years her senior, and by the time Erin was 13, colleges were filling her mailbox, wondering if she'd come play with them too.
Soon she'd join the most elite pool of players in the country, on the United States youth national team. She'd play on five teams at once, and train at the Bradenton athletic academy that gave Eli Manning to football and Ian Desmond to baseball. The Olympics committee would send letters to her high school. Erin can't come to school today because ... ...
ST. PETERSBURG — The squid was long dead and could not apologize for its detached eyeballs free-floating in mucus, its inside-out body baring bloated organs, or the red-brown juice of its digestive tract that dripped off the table onto the floor. What didn't land on Heather Judkins' tennis shoes, she collected in a bucket.
"This is my Christmas," Judkins said more than a few times.
An assistant biology professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Judkins, 42, was doing what she loved most: examining rare squids. Deep-dwelling, inky and cannibalistic, they're her life's work. Over the course of a decade, she's handled tens of thousands....
At its first meeting since May, University Prep's governing board took steps Wednesday toward providing local oversight of the new St. Pete charter school
Nine people applied to serve on the local advisory board that will help hire a new principal. Applicants include former Pinellas School Board member Glen Gilzean and voucher nonprofit Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill. (The full list of applicants is after the jump.)...