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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. Using Gates money, Pinellas schools plan a shift toward 'personalized' learning


    The Pinellas school system is planning to restructure its classrooms to meet students' individual interests, beginning with a handful of secondary schools but eventually refiguring the entire district.

    Called "personalized learning," the approach will take hold next fall in new programs at Northeast, Clearwater, Seminole and Pinellas Park high schools in an effort to engage students and graduate them at greater rates....

    Lealman Intermediate, an alternative school in St. Petersburg, will reopen as Lealman Innovation Academy and accept districtwide applications for grades 6 through 12.
  2. Pinellas grad rate increases even as school grades fall


    When high school grades were released today, Pinellas wasn't able to maintain its all A's and B's status that it achieved for the first time last year.

    Yet Pinellas boasted the largest hike in its graduation rate in the Tampa Bay region: 76.2 percent of students graduated, up 4.3 percentage points over 2013.

    Regardless, no Pinellas high schools improved their grade this year as the state made it a more difficult feat....

  3. Pinellas school officials crafting an official message to Tallahassee: slow down, reduce testing


    LARGO — Pinellas school officials said Tuesday that they will formally call on the Legislature to slow down as changes in the state's school accountability system take effect this year.

    The district joins several other Florida school systems — including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Polk and Duval — in requesting that the state limit consequences for students and schools as it transitions to new tests and standards....

  4. Eckerd president blames college sexual assaults on excess drinking, casual sex


    ST. PETERSBURG — Amid a national discussion about how colleges and universities respond to campus sexual assaults, Eckerd College president Donald Eastman III is urging students to "do your part."

    How? By drinking less and abstaining from casual sex, he said in an email to students Sunday to underscore a campus awareness campaign.

    "Virtue in the area of sexuality is its own reward, and has been held in high esteem in Western Culture for millennia because those who are virtuous are happier as well as healthier," Eastman wrote to Eckerd's 1,800 undergraduate students. "No one's culture or character or understanding is improved by casual sex, and the physical and psychological risks to both genders are profound."...

    Eckerd president Donald Eastman III sent an email to students.
  5. For FSU shooter, strong start followed by mental unraveling


    WEWAHITCHKA — There was a knock on the door of the home in this tiny town not 75 miles from Tallahassee, and at the doorstep stood the man who, in a few weeks time, would open fire on students in the library at Florida State University.

    Myron May, a 31-year-old alumnus, had returned to the state that had raised him.

    He had driven to Wewahitchka from New Mexico, where things had not been going so well. He told Abigail Taunton, a long-time family friend whose boys he had run cross-country with, that he was considering declaring bankruptcy....

    The gunman who shot three people at Florida State University's library early Thursday before being killed by police was Myron May, a lawyer who graduated from the school, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press. []
  6. Science lesson at Pinellas Park Elementary saves a student's life (w/video)



    He pressed two fingers to his neck, where the blood branching through his body bumped against bone, and felt for the thump, thump, thump, proof that Tashawn Roberts was alive.

    It was October, and his fifth-grade teacher at Pinellas Park Elementary was leading a lesson on the circulatory system. She told her students to feel for their pulse, first in their wrist, then in the hollow of their necks....

    Pinellas Park Elementary fifth-grader Tashawn Roberts, 10, of Pinellas Park shows where an incision was made in his neck during a recent surgery as his mother, Teyosha Pippen, looks on. When Tashawn's teacher, Michelle Digman, had students check their pulse in class he found a lump in his neck that turned out to be an aneurysm. Surgery saved him before it could burst. [SCOTT  KEELER   |   Times]
  7. Eckerd College event teaches students the randomness of hunger


    ST. PETERSBURG — "Welcome to the good life," said the butler, pulling out a chair from the table covered in red and cream linens, flowers at the center, the silverware set. "Sit down wherever you'd like."

    Henry Sadler, 20, would have liked to have done that. The smell of garlic bread was a case study in saliva. A basket of sugar varieties accompanied the ice tea selection, and he'd never have to fill his own water glass....

    Eckerd College freshman Jonathan Zieg, 18, begs for donations from the 1% group as its members eat spaghetti and garlic bread Wednesday at the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet.
  8. Wikle says goodbye to Pinellas School Board


    Today marked Robin Wikle's last meeting with the Pinellas School Board.

    The District 4 rep was teary-eyed at the morning meeting, where Superintendent Mike Grego and other board members - as well as Wikle's brother - wished her well.

    Wikle announced in February that she'd resign in the middle of her second term; she was elected to the board in 2008, narrowly defeating Ken Peluso, the man who will now take over her seat....

  9. Pinellas School Board sells off school building in St. Pete


    North Ward Elementary school, tucked into Old Northeast off St. Pete's 4th Street corridor, was sold Tuesday at a meeting of the Pinellas School Board.

    North Ward Holdings LLC, helmed Jonathan Daou,  purchased the land for $1.7 million. In a letter to the school board, St. Petersburg Preservation said Daou indicated he will reuse, not tear down, the old elementary school....

  10. Boy with Asperger syndrome finds calling as weatherman calming (w/video)



    If there had been clouds in the sky, he would have wanted them to be cirrus clouds, because cirrus clouds look like blankets, and Ben thinks blankets are nice. But it was a bright blue sky hovering above Lake St. George Elementary that morning, sweater-weather unspooling into a bronzy-warm afternoon, the kind of day Ben Fain was excited to tell everyone about. The 10-year-old with Asperger syndrome is the weatherman for the school's morning news show. And it was his cue....

    Ben Fain reads off a teleprompter during Monday’s broadcast. Lake St. George Elementary has made strides in learning about autism and working with students diagnosed with the disorder.
  11. Peluso ekes out a win, Flowers dominates in Pinellas School Board races


    It was the battle of north county, and it was close.

    But retired Palm Harbor chiropractor Ken Peluso narrowly bested former Tarpon Springs Mayor Beverley Billiris on Tuesday to become the newest member of the Pinellas School Board.

    With 50.4 percent of the vote — and fewer than 700 votes more than his opponent — Peluso claimed the District 4 School Board seat representing Tarpon Springs, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Dunedin and parts of Clearwater....

    Ken Peluso talks with voters on Tuesday in Palm Harbor. He won the Pinellas County School Board District 4 seat.
  12. Others will, but Brevard won't discuss student discipline


    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?...

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


    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
  14. Pinellas might ease school policy blocking felons from volunteering


    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....

  15. Pinellas schools returning M-16 assault rifles


    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. []