1. Education

Pinellas education news: charter schools, Peace Corps volunteers, Odyssey of the Mind and more

Pinellas families are invited to tour Midtown Academy on May 7. The new magnet school at 1701 10th St. S in St. Petersburg has two programs, one for cultural arts and another for gifted studies. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times]
Published Apr. 17

Plato charter schools sever ties with management company

The Plato Academy charter school system — with nine schools in the Tampa Bay area, including seven in Pinellas County — has terminated its contract with management company Superior Schools. Letters sent to families by Plato principals in recent days suggest the quality of the company's services had diminished since June, when its CEO Steve Christopoulos died at age 59 while vacationing with family. Superior officials did not return calls and emails requesting comment. Plato board member Dagmar Ortiz said the agreement between Superior and Plato "was not followed" and there were multiple breeches. A letter posted to a newsletter website by Plato Pinellas Park principal Tonia Cunningham told parents not to worry. Families and students will see "very little change, if any at all," she wrote. Plato has the largest presence of any charter school operation in Pinellas. It also has one school in Pasco County and another in Hillsborough. Enrollment in the Plato system this year is 3,122, up from 1,988 in 2014, according to the Florida Department of Education.

Peace Corps ranks Eckerd College as a top source of volunteers

Eckerd College is ranked No. 9 this year among small schools on the Peace Corp's list of top volunteer-producing colleges and universities, the agency announced. Twelve students from the school are currently volunteering in countries around the world. Last year, Eckerd ranked No. 13. More than 160 Eckerd alumni have served abroad as volunteers since the Peace Corps' founding in 1961. In addition, Florida ranked No. 6 among Peace Corps' top volunteer-producing states in 2017. There are 311 volunteers from the Sunshine State currently serving worldwide.

Morgan Fitzgerald Middle goes to 'Odyssey' finals

A team from Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Largo will represent the Pinellas County school district in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals May 22-25 at Michigan State University. The group was selected for its Structure Toss performance at the Florida Odyssey State Tournament early this month. For their creativity they received a special award called the Ranatra Fusca Award. In the Structure Toss competition, teams design and build structures made only of balsa wood, then test them in a performance using a device to toss them for score. Morgan Fitzgerald's project was accompanied by a performance with original music. Odyssey of the Mind is an international program that provides problem-solving opportunities for students in kindergarten through college. About 800 teams will be at the World Finals.

Families invited to tour Midtown Academy

Families interested in the cultural arts or gifted studies programs at Midtown Academy are invited to explore the school during a student showcase from 5-7 p.m. May 7. The event will kick off with a question and answer session for interested families at 5 p.m., and children will have opportunities to engage in educational games and arts activities. The school is at 1701 10th St. S in St. Petersburg.

Honors and awards

St. Petersburg High School's ethics team finished third at the 2019 National High School Ethics Bowl hosted in early April by the Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina's College of Arts and Sciences. Team members were Arielle Noah, Camille Luong, Kasha Tyranski, Victor Xie and Jack McKyton. Teacher Kiya Broughton led the team. … Stefanie Frump, who teaches honors biology and marine science at Largo High, was chosen as a Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow in recognition of her commitment to geographic education. She is one of 45 educators from the U.S. and Canada selected for the opportunity. … Roy Harrison from Pinellas Park High and Nathan Hamilton from Lakewood High's Center for Advanced Technology program are among 100 high school seniors across the country to be awarded an Amazon Future Engineer scholarship. Each will receive $10,000 per year for four years to study computer science in college. … Pedro Garcia-Zaragoza, a senior at Pinellas Park High, was named a member of the 16th class of Dell Scholars. He will receive $20,000, a laptop, textbook credits, tutoring and other direct support during college. He is one of 500 scholars selected across the country. The program recognizes students who have overcome significant obstacles to pursue their educations.

Elementary school lunches

Monday: Chicken and waffle, cheesy bread, fruit and yogurt plate, bologna and cheese sandwich, peas, green beans, marinara cup, fresh veggie dippers.

Tuesday: Home-style meatloaf with gravy and roll, corn dog, Farmers' Salad or Apple-A-Day Salad, PBJ Jamwich Kit, au gratin potatoes, baked beans, romaine salad.

Wednesday: Chicken drumstick with hush puppy, pasta with meatballs and sauce, ravioli and roll, yogurt and fruit parfait, ham and cheese croissant, steamed broccoli florets, sliced cucumbers.

Thursday: Beef Rib-B-Q sandwich, cheese stick and toasted ravioli boat, chef salad, chicken caesar wrap, marinara cup, sweet potato waffle fries, side salad.

Friday: Fish nuggets with roll, chicken caesar salad, turkey and cheese ciabatta sandwich, mashed potatoes, fresh veggie dippers.


  1. Hillsborough Community College solicited "non-binding letters of interest or intent” last month from developers interested in purchasing the Dr. Gwendolyn W. Stephenson District Administration Center on Davis Islands. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Developers have eyed the 3.7 acre waterfront parcel for years, but recent interest has prompted the college’s trustees to finally start the conversation.
  2. Cotee River Elementary student Darrell Jones waves his American flag during the school's Veterans Day program.
    The School Board is scheduled to vote on the calendar next week.
  3. Pasco eSchool principal JoAnne Glenn is surprised by school district officials who announced she is their 2020 Principal of the Year. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    A discussion with Pasco County Principal of the Year JoAnne Glenn.
  4. An investiture ceremony is set for Thursday at 2 p.m. inside USF’s Yuengling Center in Tampa. Currall and other USF leaders will speak about the school’s future.
  5. Experts are recommending the flu shot as outbreaks pop up in Hillsborough County schools.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. The Pasco County school district is considering an increase in substitute teacher pay to combat its low fill rate for the jobs.
    District officials say more competitive wages could help fill vacancies, which have been rising.
  7. JoAnne Glenn is cheered by her staff as deputy superintendent Ray Gadd and other district officials surprise her with the announcement that she is Pasco County's 2020 Principal of the Year. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    JoAnne Glenn next will be entered for the statewide honor.
  8. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning briefly blocked a critic from his social media accounts. He has since restored access to the person but says he would rather they have a conversation, “like two grown adults.” [Times (2016)]
    Kurt Browning restored his online nemesis as a Twitter follower and Facebook friend after staffers told him that blocking people was a no-no.
  9. Shawn Tye, left, applies fiberglass to a boat console as Dustin Pirko looks at Marchman Technical Education Center. Hernando’s business development manager says that in creating a technical school an effort would be made not to duplicate Marchman.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. Sen. Travis Hutson presents his Job Growth Grant Fund legislation to the Senate Education Committee on Nov. 12, 2019. The Florida Channel
    The original version would have targeted charter schools only.