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Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writer

Thomas C. Tobin

Tom Tobin is Assistant Metro Editor / Education, Health & Medicine 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

Email: tobin@tampabay.com

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  1. Former council member Bill Dudley to vie for Pinellas School Board

    Blog

    Former St. Petersburg City Council member Bill Dudley filed Friday to run for the District 1 seat on the Pinellas County School Board, becoming the third candidate to challenge three-term incumbent Janet Clark.

    Dudley, who left the council after hitting the two-term limit, said he decided on the move in the fall and has since received encouragement from many in the community.

    “I have been a public servant all of my adult life,” he said. “That's where my calling is, and I'm not done yet.”...

  2. Former council member Bill Dudley to vie for Pinellas School Board

    Blog

    Former St. Petersburg City Council member Bill Dudley filed Friday to run for the District 1 seat on the Pinellas County School Board, becoming the third candidate to challenge three-term incumbent Janet Clark.

    Dudley, who left the council after hitting the two-term limit, said he decided on the move in the fall and has since received encouragement from many in the community.

    “I have been a public servant all of my adult life,” he said. “That's where my calling is, and I'm not done yet.”...

  3. A new online tool helps parents braving the Pinellas school lottery

    K12

    Pinellas County families have a new online tool at their disposal as they prepare to meet Friday's deadline to apply for magnet programs, fundamental schools and high school academies.

    Developed by the Tampa Bay Times, the tool analyzes numbers from previous years' application cycles to help you gauge your student's chances of getting into a program.

    For each program, it reveals the number and percentage of students who got an invitation from their first-choice school last year — key information that can help families make the most of their choices in this year's lottery. These were students who didn't have a "priority" that would have enhanced their chances of getting in, such as a sibling in the school or attendance in a "feeder" program. ...

    Pinellas County parents play a different kind of lottery than the Powerball lottery depicted here. Last year, more than 11,000 students applied for about 7,500 seats for magnet schools and other special programs. But a new online tool developed by the Tampa Bay Times can help families assess their chances. [Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
  4. New data tool helps families sort out the Pinellas school lottery

    Blog

    As the Pinellas County school system begins its application period this week for magnet programs, fundamental schools and high school academies, the Tampa Bay Times is releasing a new online interactive tool to help families gauge their chances.

    Last year, more than 11,000 students applied for about 7,500 seats, leaving thousands on the outside looking in. The school system asks applicants to rank their choices from one to five, and that first choice represents each student’s strongest hand for a seat....

  5. On education, Florida lawmakers enter the 2016 session looking to tweak, not transform

    Perspective

    AS HE OFTEN DOES WHEN DISCUSSING the merits of education bills before the Legislature, state Sen. Don Gaetz is drawing heavily on his days as a school board member and district superintendent from 1994 to 2006.

    "For way too long, children with intellectual and physical disabilities have been pushed to the margins of education," he said during a recent conversation about the upcoming session. "I remember when I became superintendent of schools in my county, Okaloosa County, most children with disabilities were in portables out in the back of the school grounds, and they were ghetto-ized educationally as well as in terms of location."...

    [ CAMERON COTTRILL  |  Times ]
  6. School Search: a starting point in your quest for the right school

    K12

    Welcome to School Search, our annual special section dedicated to helping Pinellas County families find the right schools for their children.

    It's built around the Jan. 6 start of the application period for magnet, fundamental and high school career programs. But it also includes information on the upcoming kindergarten registration process for traditional schools — as well as listings for private and charter schools. The latter two groups are recruiting students with open houses and application deadlines of their own in the next few weeks and months....

    Plato Academy student Ilan Ruiz, 11, reads a brochure during Largo Middle School’s Discovery Night, where school officials highlighted the International Studies Program, one of 70 special programs offered by county schools. 
  7. Playing the school choice lottery in Pinellas

    K12

    Any way you look at them, the numbers can seem daunting.

    Last year, 11,266 students submitted applications in the Pinellas County school choice lottery, each hoping to get into a magnet program, a fundamental school or a high school academy. The system, however, had room for only 7,500 of them.

    From 2014 to 2015, the number of available seats in those programs increased by 389, but the number of applicants shot up by 860. And more than 1,400 students landed on a waiting list for their first-choice school last year, up about 200 from the year before....

  8. For many families, state programs cover private education costs

    K12

    Few education initiatives in Florida are expanding faster than the Legislature's efforts to cover education costs for families who want to send their children to private schools.

    Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship Program for low-income families continues to grow rapidly, aided by 2014 legislation that allowed more families to enroll.

    And the state's Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts program is entering its second year, with individual scholarships that allow families to tailor education services for special needs children and young adults. The money can pay for everything from school tuition to therapists to a college savings account....

  9. Pinellas School Board approves contract with teachers

    Blog

    In a special meeting that began at 1:31 p.m. Friday and ended just five minutes later, the Pinellas County School Board voted 7-0 to approve a new contract with the district's 7,600 teachers, ending a process that proved to be more contentious than in past years.

    The vote will give teachers a 4 percent raise for the 2015-16 school year. The raises on average will range from $1,690 annually to $2,103, and will be retroactive to July 1. In a ratification vote Thursday, 82 percent of the teachers who cast ballots approved the deal....

  10. Wanting recess back, a new chapter, a saucy enterprise and more

    Blog

    PLAYTIME: Florida parents are pushing back against the lack of recess in public schools, StateImpact Florida reports.

    MOVING ON: Manatee County School Board member Bob Gause announces he will not run for re-election next year, the Bradenton Herald and Sarasota Herald-Tribune report....

  11. A fight for neighborhood schools, a tobacco ban and more

    Blog

    CLOSE TO HOME: As many of Pinellas County’s zoned elementary schools lose students to magnet programs, private schools and charters, some parents are trying to revive interest in their neighborhood schools.

    NO-SMOKING ZONE: Effective Jan. 4, the University of South Florida will ban tobacco use on its Tampa campus. That means no e-cigarettes either....

  12. Catching up on cut scores, teacher shortages and more

    Blog

    MAKING THE CUT: The Palm Beach Post takes a look at the debate over passing scores for the state’s new standardized tests.

    RESHUFFLING: A shortage of 70 teacher positions forces Lee County schools into some post-Thanksgiving staffing changes, the News Press reports....

  13. More on Rick Scott's education budget, an FSU official speaks under oath and more

    Blog

    PERSPECTIVE: If the Legislature approved the proposed  education budget that Gov. Rick Scott describes as "historic," Florida still would rank among the nation’s lowest on spending per student, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports....

  14. Thank you

    Blog

     

    “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”

     - Carl Jung

     

    No news roundup today. Just a dash of inspiration and a heaping plate of gratitude for you, our treasured readers....

  15. 'White student union' Facebook pages surface at universities in Florida, elsewhere

    College

    Some Florida universities are among more than 30 schools across the country that have seen "white student union" Facebook pages appear online in recent days.

    Newspapers in Orlando, Tallahassee and Gainesville report that the pages showed up with alleged affiliations to the University of Central Florida, Florida State University, the University of Florida and Florida International University....