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Marlene Sokol, Times Staff Writer

Marlene Sokol

Marlene Sokol has worked at the Times as a reporter, editor and columnist since 1988. After launching North of Tampa in 1996, she served first as its editor and later as a general assignment reporter specializing in the suburbs. She now covers education in Hillsborough County.

Phone: (813) 226-3356

Email: sokol@tampabay.com

  1. Scholars are named in Hillsborough


    the Hillsborough County Public Schools announced their National Merit, National Achievement and National Hispanic finalists on Friday. They will be honored at a School Board recognition meeting on May 12.

    In all, there were 79 scholars named:

    Blake High School: Derek A. Roura (National Hispanic)

    Bloomingdale: Tanner K. Chastain, Joseph P. Gallagher, Sean P. Monaghan (National Merit)...

  2. It's official: Eakins is Hillsborough's next superintendent


    TAMPA — Years of conflict — in the board room, on the campaign trail and behind closed doors at school district headquarters — officially came to a close Tuesday as the Hillsborough County School Board named Jeff Eakins as its next superintendent.

    Eakins, just shy of his 50th birthday, signed a two-year contract that will pay him $225,000 annually to start.

    "It's a win-win situation for the community and the taxpayers," said board chairwoman Susan Valdes, who clashed with Eakins' predecessor, longtime schools chief MaryEllen Elia....

    Jeff Eakins’ two-year contract will pay $225,000 annually.
  3. New Hillsborough principals


    The Hillsborough County School Board named these new principals at its meeting Tuesday:

    Blake High School: Jesse Salters, 43, was Blake's assistant principal. A district employee since 2009, he also worked as student intervention specialist at Sligh Middle School.

    Hill Middle School: Ronald Mason. 44, is now assistant principal at Smith Middle School. Before that he was a teacher at Town & Country, Carrollwood and Pizzo Elementary; a guidance counselor at B.T. Washington Elementary and Martinez Middle. He joined the district in 1994....

    Delilah Rabeiro is the new principal of Lewis Elementary School.
  4. Stuart wants another term in Hillsborough


    Cindy Stuart has filed for another term representing north Hillsborough's District 3 on the School Board.

    Stuart's seat is one of four up for grabs in the November 2016 election. So far there have been no filings from incumbents Carol Kurdell, Doretha Edgecomb or chairwoman Susan Valdes.

    This would be the second term for Stuart, 48. 

    She joins Tarance Delento LeNoir, a charter school teacher who is opposing Edgecomb in District 5; and Randy Toler, who is challenging Kurdell in countywide  District 7....

    Cindy Stuart is running for re-election for the Hillsborough County School Board
  5. Buffalo needs a superintendent too


    In her next positions as a schools superintendent, MaryEllen Elia could wind up in Buffalo.

    But, if that were to happen, she would face a School Board every bit as quarrelsome as the one that ousted her in Hillsborough on Jan. 20.

    Press reports from Buffalo, where Elia was educated and began her career, mention her as a possible prospect. Elia put in a bid for the post in Palm Beach County but did not make it to the list of finalists. Hillsborough's board, meanwhile, is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a two-year contract for acting superintendent Jeff Eakins. That's expected to happen late in the 3 p.m. meeting, as the district is also naming 11 principals....

  6. Hillsborough proposal for student 'bill of rights' would slow school discipline process


    TAMPA — Slow down, Mr. Assistant Principal, before you suspend those unruly students.

    They have rights.

    Before you question them, they can call a parent or advocate. They can tell their side of the story. And you'll need reasonable suspicion to search their lockers.

    These and other rights would be spelled out to students, parents and staff if the Hillsborough County School Board follows a recommendation to adopt a student bill of rights....

  7. How do Hillsborough middle magnet schools work anyway?


    As the Hillsborough County school district steps up its efforts to market magnet middle schools to children in East Tampa, the question might arise: How will they get in?

    First: A lot of East Tampa students already attend the five middle schools in their community. Young, the science magnet, has 71 students who live in the 33605 zip code right around the school....

  8. Eakins negotiates $225,000, two-year contract as Hillsborough superintendent


    TAMPA — Jeff Eakins would be paid $225,000 a year to start as superintendent of the Hillsborough County Public Schools, according to a proposed two-year contract the School Board will consider Tuesday.

    The board can adjust that amount upward, but it cannot drop below the negotiated amount.

    Eakins will be evaluated every year by May 1. And when it's time to renew the contract in June, the board will be able to extend it by up to three years....

  9. Eakins on new laws, school choice and filling Elia's shoes


    In addition to his remarks about progress at McLane Middle School, Hillsborough acting superintendent Jeff Eakins spoke with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on a variety of topics. He described a study he did on the 26.5 percent of Hillsborough 12th graders who did not earn diplomas this past year. We look forward to reporting on his results in more detail. He also answered questions about the Legislature, his views on school choice and customer service, and what it's like to follow the high-profile MaryEllen Elia as a school district leader....

    Acting superintendent Jeff Eakins is a listener who is analyzing the causes for kids not graduating and hoping to make each school attractive.
  10. Eakins outlines changes to address problems at McLane Middle School


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials hope to place more east Tampa middle school students at magnet schools near their homes, instead of busing them 12 miles to troubled McLane Middle School in Brandon.

    For those who stay at McLane, the district is exploring ways to help them better adjust to middle school and high school.

    Acting superintendent Jeff Eakins announced these steps Thursday to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board. ...

    To reduce busing to McLane, Jeff Eakins wants to place more students at magnet schools.
  11. Task force gets an invitation to McLane Middle School


    The Hillsborough County Public Schools superintendent and School Board have yet to say a word about Bused and Broken, the Tampa Bay Times April 5 report about the long-term effects of busing East Tampa students to Brandon's McLane Middle School.

    But the school and its area leader did respond, in the form of an invitation to a task force that is focused on minority student discipline....

  12. Eakins could be hired ahead of schedule


    The Hillsborough County School Board gave itself until June 9 to reach a contract agreement with acting superintendent Jeff Eakins. That's because MaryEllen Elia officially leaves the job on June 30.

    But it appears Eakins will make it official a lot sooner.

    The final item on Tuesday's meeting agenda says: "Approve the contract for Jeff Eakins for Superintendent."

    Jim Porter, the board's attorney, confirmed via text that the contract is being finalized "and should be ready for the vote."...

    Acting superintendent Jeff Eakins could be named Hillsborough's superintendent on Tuesday, effective July 1. A contract is expected in time for the School Board meeting.
  13. New principals will take over about a dozen Hillsborough schools


    TAMPA — Blake High School will get a new principal Tuesday. And so could at least 10 other Hillsborough County schools.

    Promotions, retirements and transfers are behind appointments the School Board will be asked to approve at Tuesday's 3 p.m. meeting.

    Large numbers of principal moves often happen in the summer, after school grades and teacher survey results are released.

    But sometimes they happen midyear, and changes in school district leadership are factors in some of the moves....

  14. Outgoing Tampa Palms Elementary principal gets Congressional mention


    Outgoing Tampa Palms Elementary principal Kimberly Keenan gets a lot of accolades.

    But it's not every day that she's mentioned in Congress.

    U.S. Rep. Dennis A. Ross, a Republican from Lakeland and the Senior Deputy Majority Whip, spoke of Keenan Wednesday on the House floor.

    "Mrs. Keenan has been both the Assistant Principal and Principal of Tampa Palms Elementary School in the School District of Hillsborough County for 18 years," Ross said....

  15. "Pizza Party" firing is headed to a hearing


    A Ben Hill Middle School teacher who was dismissed after a pizza party went very wrong is taking his case all the way to a termination hearing before the Hillsborough County School Board.

    Adam Reynolds, who taught physical education, invited a group of female students to a pizza party at school in 2014 so they could meet his half-brother, social media sensation Carter Reynolds. Days later his brother, then 17, had sex with a student he met at the party, according to an account by the student. She said the encounter happened at the teacher's house. Carter Reynolds' appearance also caused a disruption at the school....

    Teacher Adam Reynolds with his brother, entertainer Carter Reynolds, in the background on Vine