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. 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.
  2. 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....

  3. 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."...

  4. 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....

  5. 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.
  6. 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....

  7. 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....

  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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....

  11. 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. 
  12. 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."...

  13. Pinellas school board member diagnosed with cancer


    Pinellas school board member Peggy O'Shea was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, she told Gradebook. She expects to begin chemotherapy next week.

    "I plan on being as active as I can. On days I'm not feeling good, that's another thing, but I won't be stopping activities," she said.

    O'Shea found the lump during a self-exam and urged others to stay on top of their own health. Her cancer was caught relatively early....

  14. State orders investigation of St. Petersburg school for possible FCAT cheating


    The state Department of Education has ordered Pinellas County school officials to investigate possible cheating on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test at an elementary magnet school in St. Petersburg.

    This is the first time in the 16-year history of school grades in Florida that the department has withheld a Pinellas school's grade so a full investigation into cheating could take place, a district official said....

    A large number of Bay Point fourth-graders turned in math tests that were so similar as to be statistically improbable, according to a letter from the state to Pinellas school chief Mike Grego.
  15. Pinellas School Board shelves the idea of more fundamentals


    Neighbors in Pinellas, north and south, are no strangers to the debate surrounding fundamental schools. These "back to basics" campuses have stricter dress codes and discipline policies while requiring parents to attend monthly meetings.

    The demand for more of them is high. Waiting lists are long. And parents have called on the district to expand fundamental schools, an idea not without its pros and cons....