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

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  1. Hillsborough begins school bus driver training, promises raises

    K12

    TAMPA — The healing for Hillsborough County's ailing school bus system began Monday, a student day off, at King High School.

    Superintendent MaryEllen Elia promised an auditorium full of drivers that, subject to a School Board vote, they will all get pay raises.

    New transportation general manager Jim Beekman spoke of service, quoting Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr....

    School bus driver Anna Brown writes down techniques for correcting student behavior Monday during a transportation training day at Tampa Bay Technical High. More than 1,000 transportation employees met for the sessions at two locations.
  2. Questions and answers with Hillsborough's new school bus chief

    K12

    Jim Beekman, 53, just wrapped up his first week as the head of transportation for the Hillsborough County School District. He has read some, but not all of the media reports about last year's worker complaints. He has ideas for fixing the driver shortage and says kids are far safer on a bus than in their parents' cars. Here are excerpts from a recent interview he gave to Tampa Bay Times education writer Marlene Sokol....

  3. Kemple attacks Snively's Republican, conservative credentials in School Board race

    K12

    TAMPA — Seeking to round up every last conservative vote in his bid for a Hillsborough County School Board seat, Terry Kemple has issued a point-by-point comparison that shows he is farther to the right than insurance agent Melissa Snively, his opponent in District 4.

    She's not even a longtime Republican, Kemple is telling voters. She was a Democrat, then changed parties in 2012, kind of a reverse Charlie Crist....

    Melissa Snively was a Democrat, then changed parties in 2012.
  4. On the School Board campaign trail in Hillsborough

    Blog

    With the elections just over two weeks away, school board primary candidates have been stating their preferences for those who made the runoff.

    Paula Meckley, who got 17,050 votes in countywide District 6, is endorsing Dipa Shah over ...

  5. Hillsborough gets $7.5 million in anti-violence grants

    Blog

    Since early 2013 the White House has been making money available to reduce gun violence, and $7.5 million of it is on its way to Hillsborough County.

    The district was awarded two grants, each totaling $3,750,000 under President Obama's Now Is ...

  6. Hillsborough County School Board: District 2

    Kyc

    School Board | District 2

    Michelle Popp Shimberg and Sally Harris are vying for a seat that will be vacated by longtime member Candy Olson. Both have been active school and community volunteers, and Harris also has experience teaching and running a preschool and child care center. This is Shimberg's first try for public office and Harris' second. By Marlene Sokol, Times staff writer...

    Harris
  7. Hillsborough County School Board: District 4

    Kyc

    School Board | District 4

    Melissa Snively, running for the first time, is up against Terry Kemple, who is running for the third time. Both have business backgrounds, are politically conservative and oppose Common Core. Snively is former chairwoman of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce. Kemple heads up the Community Issues Council and has been at the forefront of Christian conservative issues in Hillsborough. By Marlene Sokol, Times staff writer...

    Kemple
  8. Hillsborough County School Board: District 6

    Kyc

    School Board | District 6

    Brandon attorney Dipa Shah hopes to unseat April Griffin, who is running for her third term. Shah beat out six other contenders in the primary. Originally from India by way of suburban Pennsylvania, she has two school-aged sons and pledges to take an analytical, solutions-driven approach to board business. Griffin, whose passions include career education, prides herself on holding the administration accountable on issues including transportation and special education. By Marlene Sokol, Times staff writer...

    Griffin
  9. New requirement reveals struggles inside some Hillsborough charter schools

    K12

    TAMPA — Half the faculty at New Springs Elementary School are first-year teachers.

    Not a single student tested proficient in math at King's Kids Academy of Health Sciences.

    At Community Charter School of Excellence, a quarter of third-graders could not advance to fourth grade last year. The year before, it was closer to one-third.

    "The numbers don't lie. They show us that the school is sick and it needs help," Community's new principal, Matthew Torano, said....

  10. Q&A with the new head of school transportation in Hillsborough

    Blog

    Jim Beekman, 53, is in his first week as head of transportation for the Hillsborough County school district. He’s read some, but not all of the media reports about last year’s worker complaints. He has ideas for curing the driver shortage and says kids are far safer on a bus than in their parents’ cars. These are excerpts from a question-and-answer session he had on Monday, his first day....

    Jim Beekman, last of Orange County, started his job in Hillsborough on Monday
  11. Principals named for Kimbell, Hunter's Green elementary schools

    Blog

    Dave McMeen is the new principal of Kimbell Elementary School and Gaye Holt is the new principal of Hunter's Green Elementary. The Hillsborough County School Board approved the two appointments at its meeting Tuesday.

    McMeen, 47, is moving over from Hunter's Green. He's been with the school district since 1995. He worked at Palm River, Northwest and McDonald elementary schools before he joined Hunter's Green....

    Gaye Holt, principal of Hunter's Green Elementary
  12. New Hillsborough school bus chief vows to respect employees, students

    K12

    TAMPA — As head of transportation for the Hillsborough County School District, Jim Beekman is taking over a department that in recent months was racked with worker unrest.

    But he's been there before. In Osceola County, there were racial tensions after his assistant was demoted, missing inventory and allegations against him that turned out to be unfounded.

    In Orange County he took over a system that, he said, had a "lack of credibility with the community." But he said Monday, "We got that turned around quite a bit." ...

    Jim Beekman started as a shop foreman in Osceola County.
  13. On the School Board campaign trail in Hillsborough County

    Blog

    If a memo went out saying Hillsborough County School Board candidate Michelle Shimberg has enough money, Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda didn't get one.

    Neither did retired University of South Florida President Betty Castor, Lisa DeBartolo or the real estate industry's political action committee.

    Their combined generosity in just one week brought $8,000 into a campaign that is already beyond healthy, at $136,699.

    Not far behind in what has become a veritable arms race is Dipa Shah with $126,835.

    While seemingly hesitant at first to showcase her Indian heritage, Shah posted an article to her campaign Facebook page entitled: Why Microsoft and Everyone Else Loves Indian CEO's.

    It leads with Satya Nadella, who made headlines of a different kind when he apologized for suggesting publicly that women should not ask for raises....

    Dipa Shah is raising almost as much money and posted an article to her Facebook page about successful Indian CEO's.
  14. On the School Board campaign trail in Hillsborough

    Blog

    Seeking to round up every last conservative vote in his bid for a Hillsborough County School Board seat, Terry Kemple issued a point-by-point comparison that shows he is farther to the right than insurance agent Melissa Snively, his opponent in District 4.

    She's not even a longtime Republican, Kemple is telling voters. She was a Democrat, then changed parties in 2012, kind of a reverse Charlie Crist....

    Melissa Snively says she switched parties because, as a small business owner, she identifies more with the Republican Party. And she's disappointed that Kemple wants to make this a partisan race.
  15. Mailer criticizes Griffin's 'tantrums' on Hillsborough School Board

    K12

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County School Board contender Dipa Shah promises to bring "a professional and respectful manner" to the work of running the nation's eighth-largest school district.

    But incumbent April Griffin says a campaign attack by Shah is anything but.

    A full-color flier features a picture of a crying child, accuses Griffin of having "temper tantrums" and asks voters to send her "to time out."...

    Dipa Shah is challenging April Griffin for a School Board seat.