1. Education

Pinellas gets ready to launch a new school, Tech High

Published Oct. 3, 2017

SEMINOLE — The summer camp-like place where generations of high school students escaped to for a few hours of "real world" experience has gone by many names.

The Ag Farm offered three elective classes when it opened on 42 rural acres in 1961: agriculture, cabinetmaking and masonry. It expanded into Seminole Vocational Education Center, or VoTech, in the '70s and was renamed Career Academies of Seminole in 2013 for a 21st century workforce.

The school will soon take on a new identity: Pinellas Technical High School at Seminole, or Tech High, will open in August 2018 as the Pinellas County school district's first full-time technical high school. Tech High students will spend their entire day at the school instead of coming for a few hours a week.

EDUCATION MATTERS: Keep track of news and trends that affect you. Visit the Times education page.

"We just feel like we're the answer for so many students," said Career Academies of Seminole principal Marti Giancola, who will lead Tech High next year.

Construction is about to begin on a $7.9 million building with 16 classrooms for core academic subjects, kitchen and cafeteria space. The School Board in February approved a total project cost of $10.5 million, which includes renovations to other buildings on the campus. That figure has increased to $13.2 million.

The school hopes to take on 150 freshman and 150 sophomores from around the county for its inaugural year through the district's application process for choice programs, which begins in January. No students will be zoned for the school. Part-time students currently attending CAS will be allowed to stay for one more year so they can finish their industry certifications in 2018-19.

District officials are looking to cap enrollment at 600 students to create a smaller environment, but it could be a hard sell for families looking for a traditional high school experience. Tech High, for example, will not offer any sports, though students can play for their zoned school's team.

Dayton Derkovitz, 14, comes to CAS for its commercial and digital arts program from Seminole High across the street. He'd love to enroll at Tech High, but because his mom is a Seminole High alum, it would be a tough tradition to break.

"I'll try to talk them into it," he said. "When I come here, I'm so happy because the day's gone by so fast because you're doing something that you love."

Passionate students like Derkovitz who have a specific interest in one of six programs would thrive at Tech High, said Mark Hunt, Pinellas' executive director of career, technical and adult education.

"If that's what really interests them and all their waking hours are spent thinking about this, that's the kind of kid we're looking for," Hunt said. "That theme is going to encourage their growth and encourage their ability to develop the skills and interests into a career that already interests them."

Students will spend at least 90 minutes every day in their selected program: building trades and construction design technology, commercial and digital arts, electricity, nursing, veterinary assisting, and game or simulation programming. Tech High will offer dual enrollment programs with Pinellas Technical College and St. Petersburg College. And later, after the program gets going, officials plan on requiring that students complete a capstone project to test their knowledge.

THE GRADEBOOK: All education, all the time

Arterial busing will be available for students who live mid-county, including those zoned for Clearwater, Dixie Hollins, Largo, Pinellas Park and Seminole high schools.

Chris Juul, who has been teaching the school's commercial and digital arts program for 20 years, once participated in the program as a student at Largo High.

"It's a long time coming," Juul said. "I've seen the school go from being hidden back here to getting some recognition, which is incredible."

There's still a lot to figure out before August: traffic patterns, uniforms, a mascot. But if Tech High is a success, it could open doors for other technical high schools around the county, Giancola said.

"We hope we do a fabulous job and hope they open up more," she said.

Contact Colleen Wright at or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.


  1. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer]
    The School Board will consider a $2.2 million package at its Dec. 17 meeting.
  2. Osceola Middle School civics teacher Mike Rivera of Largo does his vampire act to teach his seventh-grade students about the Bill of Rights recently.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  3. USF St. Petersburg graduates await their turn to walk the stage during the May 2019 commencement at Mahaffey Theater. This year's fall commencement is set for Sunday, when some 450 USFSP graduates will be receiving degrees. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  4. Pasco County school bus drivers are among the district employees who will be voting on a tentative contract that includes 3.25 percent raises.
    They vote on their contract before leaving for winter break.
  5. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
    The sides have not set a new date for negotiations.
  6. Tony Pirotta, right, meets with his Armwood High Ought to be a Law student club and state Rep. Susan Valdes to talk strategy for the group's latest legislative proposal. They presented their bill to state senators on Dec. 9. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  7. Florida's Baker Act was written in 1971 by Maxine Baker, a 65-year-old grandmother and a freshman Florida legislator from Miami-Dade County, seen here in a 1965 photo. [Associated Press]
    The law was written in 1971 by Maxine Baker, a legislator from Miami-Dade County who pushed for the rights of people with mental illness.
  8. Sarah Henderson with her son, Braden, who was committed under the Baker Act after a joking remark at school. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    A cop car comes. A child is handcuffed and taken to a mental health facility. The scene is all too frequent at public schools across the state.
  9. The government program provides free lunches in schools that qualify, regardless of a student's family income. The idea is to erase a stigma.
    One manager lost her job, accused of taking advantage of the program she oversaw.
  10. Sally Henderson, a Hillsborough County teacher, is one of the few Florida educators to earn National Board certification since 2015.
    The state still has more teachers in the program than all states except North Carolina.