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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:msokol@tampabay.com

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  1. Phil Jones steps down as Hillsborough Education Foundation chief

    Blog

    Barnie Philip “Phil” Jones, who led the Hillsborough Education Foundation for three years after a successful career in retail coffee, has retired, the organization announced Friday.

    A search committee will seek a new president while senior marketing director Virginia McGrath serves as interim president. 

    Jones founded Barnie's Coffee & Tea Shop Inc. in 1980 and later sold it to the Sara Lee company....

    Phil Jones is retiring as president of the Hillsborough Education Foundation
  2. Union endorses three in Hillsborough School Board races

    Blog

    The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association is backing an incumbent, a political leader and a retired administrator in this year's Hillsborough County School Board races.

    The union, representing nearly 20,000 district employees including teachers, teaching assistants and school counselors, is endorsing Cindy Stuart, who is running for re-election in north Hillsborough's District 3....

    Alan Clendenin, vice chairman of the Florida Democratic Committee, is running for the Hillsborough County School Board in countywide District 7.
  3. Hillsborough schools will survey students about sex

    K12

    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School Board wants to ask students about sex.

    Citing alarming rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitting disease, Chairwoman April Griffin proposed including questions about sexual behavior in a survey the district will conduct about high-risk behavior.

    The Youth Risk Behavior Survey already is given to middle and high school students in many school districts, including some in Florida, said Alberto Vazquez, the district's chief of staff....

  4. New principals, ESE chief in Hillsborough

    Blog

    Robert Bhoolai will be the new principal of Robinson High School, replacing Johnny Bush; and Jennifer Sparano will become the new principal of Brandon High School, replacing the retiring Carl Green.

    Bhoolai, 33, joined the district in 2007 as a teacher at Turkey Creek Middle School. He was then a teacher and administrator at Mann Middle, Spoto High and, most recently, Williams Magnet Middle School....

    Robert Bhoolai is the new principal of Robinson High School.
  5. Two high school principals and an ESE chief will be named Tuesday in Hillsborough

    Blog

    Three high profile appointments are expected at Tuesday's Hillsborough County School Board meeting -- two high school principals and a general director for exceptional student education.

    Replacements will be named for Brandon High School principal Carl Green, 62, who is retiring this year after 19 years with the district; and Robinson High School principal Johnny Bush, who was named recently as the district's general manager of professional standards. Bush, 53, has also been with the district since 1997.  ...

    MaryAnn Parks, General Director for Exceptional Student Education, is retiring.
  6. Tampa's Richardson Montessori charter school will close after nearly two decades

    K12

    TAMPA — One of the oldest but smallest charter schools in Hillsborough County will close its doors at the end of the school year.

    Richardson Montessori Academy, which has served students in north and central Tampa since 1997, raised its state grades in recent years but struggled financially. It had just 27 students at one point this year.

    "We look forward to a smooth transition," said a brief letter from chairman Anthony R. Mack, Sr., surrendering the school's charter, or contract, with the school district....

    Juliana Leech practices with a hula hoop on the playground of the Richardson Montessori Academy Tuesday in Tampa. The school, which has served students in north and central Tampa since 1997, will close its doors at the end of the school year. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times (2012)]
  7. Clendenin makes school board run official

    Blog

    Alan Clendenin, first vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party, has filed to run for the Hillsborough County School Board in countywide District 7.

    With five weeks remaining before the June 24 qualifying deadline, candidates have been entering and leaving some of the races with this lineup as of now:

    William Person will challenge incumbent Susan Valdes in west Hillsborough's District 1....

  8. Democratic leader joins crowded race for Hillsborough school board

    Blog

    Alan Clendenin, first vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party, has filed to run for the Hillsborough County School Board in countywide District 7.

    With five weeks remaining before the June 24 qualifying deadline, candidates have been entering and leaving some of the races with this lineup as of now:

    William Person will challenge incumbent Susan Valdes in west Hillsborough's District 1....

    Alan Clendenin is running for the Hillsborough County School Board
  9. Huddle Touch must get training before returning to Hillsborough schools

    Blog

    Huddle Touch, a central Tampa ministry that is the latest to come under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union, has been ordered into training before it can send volunteers to Hillsborough County public school campuses.

    A meeting took place Friday between the organization's leaders and district staff, including Chief of Staff Alberto Vazquez....

    Middleton High School Principal Kim Moore is seen in this video endorsing the work of Huddle Touch, a central Tampa ministry that seeks to "share the love of Jesus Christ" and wants to assign a missionary to each school, where they would work with administrators.
  10. New plan to replace the historic Meacham school: An urban garden

    K12

    TAMPA — Plans to rebuild the old Meacham school, stalled for nearly a decade, are still on hold as the Hillsborough County School District inks a deal to open an urban garden and kitchen at the site just east of downtown Tampa.

    The School Board on Tuesday approved a lease between the district and the Tampa Housing Authority that designates the site for a planned Encore Urban Farm.

    Encore, a multi-income housing community, is taking form after a slow start during the recession....

    The Meacham school was named for Christina Meacham, who had been the principal of Tampa’s first black school.
  11. Survey shows Hillsborough teachers feel empowered, but there are trouble spots

    K12

    TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County feel empowered to make decisions about testing and other classroom matters, a comprehensive survey shows.

    The survey shows that 95 percent agreed that "teachers are encouraged to reflect on their own practice." More than 90 percent agreed teachers support each other, are encouraged to try new things and can take leadership roles....

  12. Hillsborough school board overturns teacher's transfer

    Blog

    Teacher Laurie Rodriguez won her job back Thursday, almost a full school year after she lost it in a cost-cutting move in the Hillsborough County School District's adult education department.

    Rodriguez, 51, who was transferred from Erwin Technical College in East Tampa, filed a grievance with the district, saying the move had an adverse affect on a small group of educators who were placed in the hiring pool in September. ...

    Teacher Laurie Rodriguez with Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association
  13. Doretha Edgecomb will leave the Hillsborough County School Board in November

    K12

    TAMPA — Doretha Edgecomb, whose career as an educator spanned decades of desegregation and the birth of the school accountability movement, is leaving the Hillsborough County School Board when her third term expires in November.

    There were rumors that Edgecomb, 72, was disillusioned by the politics that cast out Hillsborough's last superintendent and robbed Edgecomb, the board's only African-American member, of her turn as chairwoman....

    Hillsborough County School Board member Doretha Edgecomb will not run for re-election. It will be the end of her four-decade career with the school district. [SKIP O’ROURKE  |  Times]
  14. With Edgecomb leaving, Hillsborough school board race gets interesting

    Blog

    As Gradebook reported late Tuesday, Doretha Edgecomb will step down when her third Hillsborough County School Board term expires in November.

    Edgecomb, 72, ends a 42-year career with the district. Her full remarks are here.

    Her departure, which she said was motivated by neither fear, nor a recent slight in which she was passesd over for the chairmanship, ends an era in which a majority on the board could generally be counted on to support the administration of former Superintendent MaryEllen Elia. Member Jack Lamb was defeated in 2012, Candy Olson chose in 2014 not to run for re-election and Carol Kurdell announced recently that she will not run in November. Edgecomb, despite the vote counts, always resisted being typecast as an Elia supporter. Rather, she said, she voiced her opinions about contentious issues behind closed doors....

    Doretha Edgecomb, shown in 2008, is stepping down when her Hillsborough County School Board term expires in November.
  15. Edgecome will step down. Who will replace her on the Hillsborough school board?

    Blog

    As Gradebook reported late Tuesday, Doretha Edgecomb, a lifelong educator at 72, is ending her career with the Hillsborough County Public Schools when her School Board term expires in November.

    Edgecomb's full remarks are included in the Gradebook post. She told the board that she is not stepping down out of fear, or any other singular event. Not long ago, in a move that offended her supporters, a majority on the board passed her over for the chairwoman position. ...