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Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writer

Thomas C. Tobin

Tom Tobin is the education editor at the Tampa Bay Times. He has worked at the Times since 1988, serving much of that time as a government reporter. He also has reported on the Church of Scientology periodically since 1996.

As the Times' state reporter, he covered the 2000 presidential recount in Florida and wrote about subsequent efforts to retool the state's election machinery. From 2003 to 2009, he covered education, focusing on school board issues, school finance, the achievement gap and desegregation.

Born in St. Louis, Mo., he lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Kathleen, and their three children.

Phone: (727) 893-8923


  1. Tampa Bay area has 23 National Merit Scholarship winners


    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:...

  2. Pinellas getting close on new volunteer policy


    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."...

  3. Beginning today: Graduation ceremonies at USF


    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 as dozens of college and high school ceremonies take place in May and early June across the region.

    Find our coverage of the Class of 2015 at — or at our education page at . Post your Instagram and Twitter photos there using hashtag #tbgrads2015. ...

  4. Times invites grads, families, friends to share commencement memories online


    Make 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 . 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....

  5. How do Pinellas teachers feel about Common Core?


    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."...

  6. Police report: Scientology leader spied on his dad 'no matter where he went'

    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....

    David Miscavige [Times files (1998)]
  7. HBO documentary 'Going Clear' tackles the question: Why Scientology? (w/video)

    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....

    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. "It was a transcendent experience for me," Beghe recalls in Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on HBO. "And that made me go, 'Holy (expletive), this is - wow!'" [Photo by Richard Shotwell | Invision via AP]
  8. Another big gift for USF


    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....

  9. Testy about all that testing


    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. ...

  10. Pinellas Outstanding Educator finalists bring a blend of talent


    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 or (727) 588-4816. ...

     This year’s Outstanding Educator for Pinellas public schools will be announced at the annual “Evening of Excellence” Feb. 14 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. The event is presented by the Pinellas Education Foundation. We look at the 10 finalists with bios that include handout mugs provided by Pinellas County Schools.
  11. Pinellas School Board calls on state to fix testing system


    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....

  12. Families get more choices as Pinellas broadens its school options


    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....

    Thomas C. Tobin
  13. Feds relent in standoff over testing students still learning English


    Federal education officials have backed down in a dispute with Florida over how the state should test thousands of new students who are still learning English in public schools.

    The government will allow Florida to wait two years before counting those students' test scores toward a school's grade instead of the federally required one year.

    The decision affects a quarter-million Florida students considered "English-language learners," often referred to as ELLs in education circles. More than 30,000 of them go to school in the Tampa Bay area, where Hills­borough County ranks third among Florida districts in the number of ELL students....

  14. Florida says it will review standardized testing in schools


    Florida education Commissioner Pam Stewart announced Monday that her department would conduct an examination of standardized testing in public schools, following months of criticism from school boards, teachers and parents across the state.

    In a statement, the Department of Education said Stewart will "work closely with districts to gather complete and accurate information on the tests being administered to meet federal, state and local requirements."...

    Florida education chief Pam Stewart is gathering information from school districts.
  15. New chairman at Pinellas Education Foundation


    Cathy Collins, a veteran member of the Pinellas Education Foundation’s board of directors, this week became the organization’s new chairman.

    She replaces Jim Myers, president of Crown Automotive Group, who will remain on the foundation’s board. Her term will last two years.

    Collins, who has worked in the clinical research industry for more than 20 years, has been a member of the foundation’s board since 2008, serving in several leadership roles....