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Marlene Sokol - Education Reporter

Education Reporter

I’ve been a journalist since 1983 at newspapers all over Florida. After 15 years as an editor in the Tampa suburbs I was assigned to cover the Hillsborough public school system, the same one that gave my two children a great education. That last part didn't happen by itself. I was an active volunteer and believe schools should accommodate parents' busy schedules. I’m not a fan of the 3 p.m. parent conference or 10 a.m. PTA meeting! On weekends I play tennis and volunteer at a youth soccer program. Call or email me with your tips about the schools. I use Facebook for family and Twitter for self-promotion. But I prefer my conversations one-on-one.

  1. Labor leader Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, second from left, at a 2018 bargaining session with the Hillsborough County school district. She is taking a job with the American Federation of Teachers. Also shown: Teacher Cherie Miller, former union president Jean Clements and Lindsey Blankenbaker, who now works for the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.  [MARLENE SOKOL | Times]
  2. The school district says discussions are still under way. But town hall meetings at Chamberlain and East Bay High were postponed indefinitely.
  3. Oct. 9• The Education Gradebook
    Students arrive at Bay Point Middle in St. Petersburg for the first day of school in August. Cases of COVID-19 in Tampa Bay area public schools are down dramatically from when classes started.
  4. Students arrive at Leto High School for the first day of school for Hillsborough County students, Tuesday, August 10, 2021 in Tampa.
  5. El superintendente escolar del condado de Hillsborough, Addison Davis, podría solicitar un referéndum sobre impuestos a la propiedad como una forma de abordar un déficit operativo en curso.
  6. Oct. 5• The Education Gradebook
    Hillsborough School Board member Nadia Combs is seen on overhead screens during an emergency meeting Aug. 18, when the board imposed a strict mask mandate. On a motion from Combs at Tuesday's meeting, the board relaxed its masking rule, citing lower numbers of COVID-19 cases.
  7. Hillsborough County school superintendent Addison Davis is shown addressing the State Board of Education in July about the district's continuing financial problems. On Tuesday, his administration again proposed a property tax referendum as one way to address an ongoing operating deficit.
  8. Oct. 2• The Education Gradebook
    Pasco County parent Kimberly Cox urged the School Board to implement a mask mandate during its Sept. 7, 2021, meeting. The board took no action. The district's COVID-19 overall case numbers continue to fall, but are higher than other area districts on a per-student basis.
  9. Students are seen during dismissal Friday at Greco Middle School, where recent violence has prompted a teacher to alert the Hillsborough County School Board.
  10. Opponents to mandatory school masking rules demonstrate before a Hillsborough County School Board meeting in May. Nearly 40 parents are now suing the board, saying its Aug. 18 decision to impose a strict mask rule violated state law.
  11. Sep. 25• The Education Gradebook
    Mha’siyah Blake, 12, prepares to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered by USF physician’s assistant student Caroline Cubero at a back-to-school health clinic July 31 at Middleton High in Tampa.
  12. Hillsborough County School Board members Nadia Combs, left, and Karen Perez voted against two proposed Mater Academy charter schools on June 15. The schools on Tuesday will again ask for board approval.
  13. Sep. 18• The Education Gradebook
    A masked student searches for his first-period class at Sunlake High on Aug. 10, the first day of school in Pasco County. Sunlake led the district this past week with 39 reported cases of COVID-19, but school case numbers across the county are headed down.
  14. Seen here at a recent meeting, Pinellas County School Board members Caprice Edmond, left, and Laura Hine, right, failed in their effort Tuesday to get support for a workshop to discuss the district's COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
  15. Estudiantes llegando a  Skycrest Elementary School  en Clearwater.
  16. Meghan Martin hugs her son, Riley, 6, at Denver Park in St. Petersburg on a recent Saturday. Martin, an emergency room pediatrician at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, said her frustration over the lack of understanding about COVID-19 led her to make TikTok videos to get the word about about vaccines and masks. Pictured at right is Avery Martin, 9.
  17. Sep. 11• The Education Gradebook
    Students arrive at Skycrest Elementary in Clearwater on Aug. 11, the first day of school in Pinellas County.
  18. The Hillsborough School Board voted 5-1 Thursday to extend its mask mandate another 30 days, to Oct. 15.
  19. Hillsborough County school superintendent Addison Davis acknowledged he wasn't prepared for the pandemic, the new make-up of the School Board or the district's financial problems. "As superintendent, although these were the cards I was dealt, a lot of pressure was put on the board to hold someone accountable for that process,” he said.
  20. Sep. 4• The Education Gradebook
    St Petersburg High students Sydney Conroy, left, and Toby Lam wear a masks as they arrive on Aug. 11, the first day of school in Pinellas County.
  21. Zachariah Lewis wears a fashionable masks with the Louis Vuitton logo on the first day of classes at Hillsborough High last year. In 2021, the Hillsborough County School District started the year without a strong mask mandate but later required face coverings after COVID-19 cases began to multiply.
  22. Dr. Erin Fougeres, of St. Petersburg, center, joins supporters of a mask mandate outside Pinellas County school district headquarters in Largo on Tuesday. A large group of anti-mask residents demonstrated nearby. Hours later, the School Board voted against a special meeting discuss a mandate.
  23. Aug. 21• The Education Gradebook
    Students arrive at Skycrest Elementary during first day of school on Aug, 11, 2021, in Clearwater. Pinellas County has reported 800 cases of COVID-19 after seven days of school, with more than 500 of them in the past week.