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 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."...

  2. 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....

  3. 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.
  4. 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....

  5. Voters in one School Board race face a choice: A seventh term or a new face?


    ST. PETERSBURG — Linda Lerner is here, at Maximo Elementary, one of the lowest-achieving schools in the state. She is going from classroom to classroom. She is looking at penguins cut out of paper. She is looking at a boy wrapped in a blanket. She is watching little girls dance on a rug, and she is starting to dance herself. She is taking down notes as a little boy tells her what he found in a bird feeder. "Thank you," she is saying. "Thank you for letting me know that."...

    Linda Lerner
  6. Special needs aides to fill in where needed as Pinellas shifts them away from classrooms


    More than 100 aides who are trained to help teachers in special-needs classrooms will instead do clerical work or assist in other Pinellas County classrooms this fall, part of a special education reorganization that has not gone as planned.

    Pinellas eliminated 212 positions held by exceptional student education associates this year, with administrators saying that more people was not the solution to bolster the performance of students with disabilities....

  7. Pinellas school board candidates talk Common Core, engagement


    The issues at stake for the candidates to replace Robin Wikle on the Pinellas school board became clearer this week as the three contenders sat down with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board.

    Ken Peluso, a recently retired chiropractor from Palm Harbor, and Beverley Billiris, a school teacher and former mayor of Tarpon Springs, have considerably different backgrounds. John Nygren, a math teacher and coach who retired from Pinellas schools in 2011, is also seeking Wikle's seat....

  8. Pinellas teachers union endorses Ken Peluso


    The Pinellas teachers union is throwing its support behind the incumbent member in all four school board races in which a sitting board member is running.

    But perhaps a little more surprising is the union's endorsement in the District 4 race, which has no incumbent.

    The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association and the Pinellas Educational Support Professionals Association are backing Ken Peluso, a retired chiropractor from Palm Harbor....

  9. Pinellas: Don't ignore special speed limits for school zones


    The Pinellas school district is responding to a television report that questioned why school speed limit signs were still flashing even though it's summer.

    The signs tell drivers to slow down to 15 miles per hour when flashing. A report suggested that a flashing sign in Gulfport may be an error on the part of Pinellas and that drivers may be able to exceed 15 mph.

    That's not the case, said district spokeswoman Donna Winchester....

  10. Pinellas: new schools will have iPads on time


    There were concerns last week, at a training for teachers at Pinellas's new technology schools, that the iPads students will learn on would not arrive by the start of the school year.

    Kings Highway Elementary in Clearwater and Gulf Beaches Elementary in St. Pete Beach plan to utilize the iPads daily to teach students, who are expected to each receive a device....

  11. In St. Pete Pride firsts, a mayor joins in, a parade lights up

    Human Interest


    It was hard to see, as the sun set, but if you squinted hard and put your hand to your brow, you could tell it was Rick Kriseman, about to jaywalk across 31st Street.

    One of the St. Petersburg mayor's feet left the curb before he thought better of it. He turned and walked with his wife, son and chief of staff to Third Avenue N.

    Then he crossed the street into the madness: the body paint and glitter and screaming smiles of St. Pete Pride. Kriseman reached behind him for his wife's hand. "Wow," he said as a shirtless man passed on stilts. "That must be hard to walk in."...

    The Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County wave to the crowd as they cruise down Central Avenue in the St. Pete Pride night parade on Saturday. The nocturnal party brought out a younger, more raucous crowd.
  12. Plans are revealed for new Largo High School


    Largo High School is all set to be demolished this Friday, meaning students will now be educated in highly-concentrated shark tanks. Gradebook kids, of course. The architects building the new Largo High unveiled their plans this week at the school board workshop.

    "It has a collegiate feel," said Jeffrey Cobble, president of Harvard Jolly, a St. Petersburg-based firm.

    Drivers will enter the new Largo High at a traffic light on Missouri Avenue. The front entrance to the school will be more visible to a new visitor than in the past, Cobble said....

  13. More dollars for Summer Bridge in Pinellas


    Summer Bridge kicked off with more than 11,000 kids, Superintendent Mike Grego said this week, well beyond the 6,630 who showed up for the first week last year.

    Surely much of the credit can go to advanced planning. Last year, district staff had just three or four months to pull together the six-week, academic summer camp for Pinellas students in an effort to curb the summer learning loss that can set already struggling students back....

  14. Pinellas PTA board returns for second year


    All eight of the elected Parent-Teacher Association executive board members won re-election in Pinellas this spring, and President Michelle Alfred says this is the year of action.

    "You have a learn year, a do year, and a train year," Alfred told Gradebook on Thursday. (PTA board members can serve up to three one-year terms.)

    Alfred said the Pinellas PTA plans to focus on building diversity in local chapters and on the county PTA's own board. The PTA treasurer, Harold Copeland, is the one man on the county executive board. Alfred said she is encouraging local chapters to get more men and people of color involved in their organizations....

  15. Plato Academy to open a second charter school in St. Petersburg


    Another charter school is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Plato Academy, which runs a series of high-performing charters throughout Pinellas, received approval from the Pinellas School Board on Tuesday to open a seventh school in the district.

    Plato Academy East St. Petersburg, a K-8 school, likely will be located near the intersection of Interstate 275 and Gandy Boulevard, said Dot Clark, the Pinellas administrator who oversees charter applications....