06/26/15 Special Topics
Federal court documents made public this week have linked the Church of Scientology to a private investigator convicted of illegally culling personal information from dozens of email accounts.
The investigator, Eric Saldarriaga, 41, was sentenced Friday to three months in prison for conspiring to engage in computer hacking. He pleaded guilty earlier this year in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York....
So much of the discussion around school budgets centers on teaching and learning costs such as salaries and books that it's easy to forget about the other things school districts spend money on. We're talking about hard costs like new buildings, renovations and computers.
Pinellas County officials plan to spend $445 million on those items over the next six years, according to a long list of capital projects to be discussed at Thursday's School Board workshop....
Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego reported to School Board members this morning that the Florida House and Senate are just 34 cents apart as negotiations continue over the state education budget. The Senate is pushing to spend $7,097.49 per student this coming year while the House is at $7,097.15 per student, Grego said.
He said the information came from the district’s Tallahassee lobbyist, Steve Swartzel. Based on the closeness of the numbers, Grego predicted the two sides would have an agreement by lunch time....
Twenty-three students from the Tampa Bay area were announced this week as winners in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Competition.
They were among 2,500 winners nationwide chosen from 15,000 finalists. Each will receive a $2,500 scholarship.
The winners were selected by a panel of college admissions officers and high school counselors who examined several factors, including high school grades, the difficulty of classes taken, standardized test scores, involvement and leadership in the school, and an essay. Here is a list of the local winners:...
How should a public school district balance the safety of its students against the desire to recruit as many volunteers as possible, realizing that some people who want to help out don't have the cleanest records?
After grappling with this issue in recent months, Pinellas County officials now appear to have reached agreement on a revised school volunteer policy that aims to "increase volunteer participation without jeopardizing the safety of the students."...
Graduation season kicks off today and through the weekend with University of South Florida ceremonies on both sides of Tampa Bay.
It's also the beginning of a new Tampa Bay Times feature inviting readers to share their graduation photos at tampabay.com as dozens of college and high school ceremonies take place in May and early June across the region.
Make tampabay.com your place to share photos and shout-outs from this year's commencement ceremonies at Tampa Bay area colleges, universities and high schools. Find our coverage of the Class of 2015 graduations at tbtim.es/grads15 . You can post your Instagram and Twitter photos there using hashtag #tbgrads2015. The celebrations begin Friday and through the weekend with ceremonies at the University of South Florida in Tampa and USF St. Petersburg....
Is there a buy-in problem when it comes to the Common Core State Standards in Pinellas County Schools? The answer may be yes if you believe the results of a recent survey of Pinellas teachers.
Conducted at the beginning of this school year, it said only 45 percent of the Pinellas teachers surveyed believe Common Core will "help prepare our students for college or career." Only 44 percent agreed that students at their schools "support their answers and explain their thinking," a major facet of Common Core. Just over half (53 percent) said the training they've had on Common Core "will help me improve my practice."...
04/09/15 Special Topics
When two police officers in West Allis, Wis., stopped the man who was walking around the neighborhood — surveying one resident's yard, peering through another home's front door, looking to neighbors like a drug dealer — he told them only part of the truth.
Dwayne S. Powell said he was looking around for a house to buy.
He had a fake Florida driver's license, a large knife in his front pocket and a black SUV loaded with so many weapons and other belongings that police towed it to their storage garage. They counted two rifles, four handguns, a homemade silencer, a brown leather whip and 2,000 rounds of ammunition, some of them already loaded into magazines....
03/26/15 Special Topics
Eight minutes and 13 seconds into his much-talked-about documentary on the Church of Scientology, writer-director Alex Gibney hits a sweet spot, going right at one of the key questions he sets out to answer.
What is Scientology's allure?
Jason Beghe, an actor who lasted 13 years in the church, is describing his first Scientology service — a drill that made him confront another person face-to-face, eyes closed. He says it made him "go exterior," or out of his body....
The University of South Florida has been on a roll in recent months when it comes large donations, and that trend continues today with announcement that Jordan B. Zimmerman, a USF trustee and one of the nation's most successful advertising execs, has donated $10 million to the School of Mass Communications.
See our story here. Of particular note is how Zimmerman became involved in the school a decade ago after noticing that its advertising curriculum hadn't changed since he was a student. You may know him as the guy who came up with the "Just Say No" antidrug campaign while still an undergrad at USF....
IN THE 15-YEAR HISTORY of Florida's school accountability movement, it is difficult to recall a moment quite like this.
Parents have never been more militant about overtesting, and more of them are voicing their disdain every day.
District superintendents fear many of their students won't be ready for brand-new state tests — the Florida Standards Assessments — that roll out this week. ...
Half have been teaching less than eight years. The other half, for the most part, have been in the classroom 30 years or more. The 10 finalists for 2015 Outstanding Educator of the Year in Pinellas public schools bring a wide mix of talent and experience to the recognition program. The winner will be announced at the annual "Evening of Excellence" Tuesday at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
The event is presented by the Pinellas Education Foundation. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door and are available at pinellaseducation.org or (727) 588-4816. ...
LARGO — Florida's system for testing students, grading schools and evaluating teachers is broken and state officials need to fix it, the Pinellas School Board says in a resolution approved Tuesday.
The action, approved unanimously, made Pinellas the third local district and one of many across Florida to formally call on lawmakers and education officials in Tallahassee to overhaul the system, even as the state prepares to roll out new tests this spring....
The Pinellas County School District is mostly a system of traditional neighborhood schools where students are assigned based on where they live.
But you can feel a distinct shift over the past two years in favor of families who want to look beyond their zoned school. Their options are expanding as the district hurries to match the growth of charter schools, private schools and a state voucher system that pays private school tuition for low-income students....