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Michael LaForgia, Times Staff Writer

Michael LaForgia

Michael LaForgia is a reporter on the investigations team at the Tampa Bay Times.

He has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting — in 2014 for exposing problems in a Hillsborough County homeless program and in 2016 for a series on Pinellas County's neglect of five schools in black neighborhoods.

He joined the Times in 2012.

Phone: (727) 892-2944.

Email: mlaforgia@tampabay.com

Twitter: @laforgia_

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  1. How Donald Trump bought a chunk of the Sunshine State as his second home and became a Florida man

    State Roundup

    A Tampa Bay Times special report

    Donald J. Trump has a story he liked to tell early in his campaign to win Florida.

    The first time he told it, he had 144 days to go before the Florida primary. He was in front of hundreds of people at a rally at Trump National Doral, which was fitting because the story is all about how he bought the South Florida golf resort in the summer of 2012....

    An oil portrait of a young Donald Trump can be seen on the wall of the his Mar-a-Lago estate and club in Palm Beach.
  2. Donald Trump, Florida man

    Blog

    Donald J. Trump has a story he liked to tell early in his campaign to win Florida.

    The first time he told it, he had 144 days to go before the Florida primary. He was in front of hundreds of people at a rally at Trump National Doral, which was fitting because the story is all about how he bought the South Florida golf resort in the summer of 2012.

    The story goes that he and his daughter Ivanka walked into closing with a contract to buy Doral for $170 million. But when it came time to do the deal, Trump told the crowd, he got the sudden urge to show off....

    A bar area and room can be seen in the historic Mar-a-Lago Estate in Palm Beach. An oil painting of its owner, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, can be seen at left.
  3. Agencies blocking access to records of Orlando killings

    Crime

    Government agencies are refusing to release basic public records about Omar Mateen and the deadly Orlando shootings.

    In the days after the nightclub attack, news gatherers across the country who requested documents about the shooter and the police response, and have been told many of those records -— even those created years before the killings — are confidential because they are part of an official investigation....

  4. Before Orlando massacre, killer Omar Mateen visited parents one last time

    Public Safety

    PORT ST. LUCIE — Hours before Omar Mateen attacked an Orlando nightclub on Sunday, leaving 49 dead and 53 wounded, he did something not out of the ordinary for him:

    He stopped by his parents' house to visit with his father.

    In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Seddique Mateen, 59, said nothing about his son seemed amiss during that Saturday visit.

    "It was just a normal day of life for him," the father said Monday. "I didn't notice anything. Not a single thing wrong."...

    Omar Mateen, authorities say, killed dozens of people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on Sunday. The gunman opened fire inside the crowded gay nightclub before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said.
  5. Omar Mateen: Angry, pious 'lost soul' driven to kill

    News

    FORT PIERCE — Inside the humble little mosque where Omar Mateen regularly came to pray, a handful of worshipers gathered Sunday evening and struggled, along with the rest of the world, to understand what had driven him to kill.

    On Friday, Mateen had faced east with the other regulars at the Islamic Center and bowed to a God who prizes justice and peace above all else, said Imam Shafeeq Rahman, who leads prayers at the center....

    This undated image shows Omar Mateen, who authorities say killed dozens of people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on Sunday, June 12, 2016. The gunman opened fire inside the crowded gay nightclub before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said. [MySpace via AP]
  6. In move to reignite school desegregation case, plaintiffs say Pinellas has failed black students

    K12

    Despite promises made 16 years ago to settle a Civil Rights-era desegregation lawsuit, the Pinellas County School Board still isn't spending enough money to ensure black children catch up to their peers in reading and math, the plaintiffs said Friday.

    The allegation was one of 30 contained in a legal document delivered to the school district — the first step in a process that could land the 50-year-old case back in front of a federal judge....

    Shadows line the walkway as students line up in the courtyard at Lakewood Elementary in St. Petersburg, one of five schools highlighted in the Tampa Bay Times' "Failure Factories" series. Citing problems at Lakewood and other Pinellas schools, the plaintiffs in a 50-year-old desegregation lawsuit are invoking its provisions to push the district to take more drastic action. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  7. Black leaders skeptical about district plan to fix 'Failure Factories'

    K12

    ST. PETERSBURG — Black leaders on Wednesday vented frustration at being left out of new proposals to aid St. Petersburg's black students and failing schools, but said they welcomed the spotlight that has been cast on the problem.

    They said that a revolving cast of district officials have come before, with promises and plans but little change.

    "We've had conversations with people who preceded you and here we are having it again," said Goliath Davis, a former police chief and deputy mayor, during a packed meeting of the Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students. ...

    Wednesday's meeting of the Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students drew a full house as discussion centered around five failing schools in St. Petersburg and a decision by the U.S. Department of Education to investigate whether the Pinellas school district has violated black students' civil rights. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  8. U.S. Education Department opens civil rights investigation into Pinellas schools

    K12

    The U.S. Department of Education on Monday opened a civil rights investigation into whether the Pinellas County School District systematically discriminates against black children, the agency said.

    The review will determine if Pinellas is denying black children access to the courses and special programs they need to be successful in high school and after graduation.

    It also will assess whether the district is denying black children access to quality teachers, school leaders and support staff, an education department official told the Tampa Bay Times....

    Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, right, and John King, who was confirmed last month as Duncan’s successor, talk to reporters during their visit to St. Petersburg in October.
  9. Plaintiffs seek to reopen federal school desegregation case against Pinellas County

    K12

    ST. PETERSBURG — Citing broken promises by the Pinellas County School Board, the plaintiffs in a 50-year-old federal desegregation lawsuit announced Wednesday that they are going back to court in a bid to force school leaders to aid struggling black students.

    Lawyers for the black families who originally sued the Pinellas County School District in 1964, eventually forcing countywide desegregation, are triggering a legal provision to push the case back in front of a mediator, said Roger Plata, a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund....

    Roger Plata (center), co-counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, attends a meeting Wednesday, March 2, 2016, of Concerned Organizations for Quality Education of Black Students at the Enoch Davis Center in St. Petersburg. Plata said the fund will return to federal court to hold the Pinellas County school district to its promises regarding the education of black students. He cited "massive irregularities" by the district. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  10. District rescinded passing grades on suspicious Clearwater High test scores

    News

    The Pinellas County School District uncovered a pattern of suspicious changes to test scores of struggling students enrolled in computer-based credit recovery courses at Clearwater High School late last year.

    The testing irregularities — the subject of a WFTS-Ch. 28 report that aired Friday night — included cases of a teacher or teachers changing failing scores to passing scores on tests that allow students to recoup lost credit....

  11. Pinellas downplays problems at failing schools, but hires leader to fix them

    K12

    LARGO — The Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday aired a video in which local business leaders praised district officials and downplayed the troubles at five failing elementary schools in south St. Petersburg. Minutes later, however, board members voted to hire a new administrator whose job will be to help turn those schools around.

    The moves sent conflicting signals about how board members view the condition of the five schools, even as superintendent Mike Grego works to fix them. ...

    Mike Grego, Pinellas County school superintendent (in background on left), looks on as Pastor Martin Rainey addresses the audience during a workshop evening at John Hopkins Middle School Center for the Arts, Journalism and Multimedia. (November 17, 2014)
  12. Failure Factories: Pinellas suspends black kids more than virtually every other big Florida county

    Education

    Most large Florida school districts are moving away from suspending children for nonviolent misbehavior — part of a nationwide consensus that harsh discipline falls unfairly on black kids and leaves struggling students too far behind.

    The Pinellas County School District is an outlier.

    Its leaders say teachers and principals know best, and they should be free to suspend students as they see fit....

    Black children in Pinellas are suspended at rates seen in virtually no other large school district in Florida. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  13. 'Failure Factories': Duncan blasts Pinellas school system for 'education malpractice' (w/video)

    Education

    ST. PETERSBURG

    U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a stinging rebuke Friday to the Pinellas County School District, calling the rapid decline of five predominantly black neighborhood schools a "man-made disaster" and "education malpractice."

    Standing in Campbell Park Elementary, Duncan said: "What has happened to too many kids, for too long, is unacceptable. It's heartbreaking. Part of me wants to cry. Part of me gets very, very angry."...

    After Duncan spoke, Pinellas schools chief Mike Grego said he didn’t know if he agreed that it was “education malpractice.”
  14. Principals at five failing Pinellas schools claim improvements in teacher turnover, discipline

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — Principals of five failing elementary schools on the city's south side are pointing to a decrease in teacher turnover and a drop in student discipline referrals as evidence that the schools are improving.

    Their comments, made Wednesday at a packed meeting with leaders of the county's black community, were the first in public by the schools' leaders since the Tampa Bay Times published an investigation focusing on their schools....

    Answering questions, from left, are Lakewood principal Cynthia Kidd, Maximo principal LaKisha Falana, Melrose principal Nanette Grasso and Campbell Park principal Robert Ovalle.
  15. Confederate flag punctuates Pinellas School Board discussion on failing schools

    K12

    LARGO — With a dramatic flourish, a longtime education activist unfurled a Confederate battle flag Tuesday in front of Pinellas County School Board members, saying they had failed black students in five neighborhood schools in south St. Petersburg.

    Sami Leigh Scott told the board she was there to represent the 95 percent of students in the schools who failed reading or math last year. ...

    Pinellas County school superintendent Michael Grego listens to the discussion during the School Board meeting Tuesday.