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Cara Fitzpatrick, Times Staff Writer

Cara Fitzpatrick

Cara Fitzpatrick is a senior education reporter at the Tampa Bay Times. In 2016, she and Times reporters Lisa Gartner and Michael LaForgia won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting for Failure Factories, a five-part investigation that traced the rapid decline of five elementary schools after the Pinellas County School Board abandoned integration efforts. The series also was honored with the George Polk Award for Education Reporting, the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism, the Investigative Reporters and Editors Medal, and the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, among other awards. 

Fitzpatrick joined the Times in 2012. She grew up in Washington State and graduated from the University of Washington and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in St. Petersburg with her husband and two children. 

Phone: (727) 893-8846


Twitter: @Fitz_ly

  1. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system


    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    Statewide, the number of schools earning A's and B's jumped 20 percent, to 1,834, while those receiving F's dropped 61 percent, to 43. Among schools that earned an F a year ago, 79 percent improved by at least one letter grade, according to results announced Wednesday....

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  2. Principal changes in Pinellas


    The Pinellas County School Board approved a couple principal changes at its meeting Tuesday.

    Anthony Francois, assistant principal at John Hopkins Middle School, will become principal of Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School, effective Saturday. He has worked in the school district since 2010. Kristina Bauman, principal of Bay Vista Fundamental Elementary, will take over Sandy Lane Elementary. The change also is effective Saturday....

  3. New Pinellas schools plan touted as 'turning point' that would tackle achievement gap in 10 years


    After more than a year of negotiations, the Pinellas County School District has reached a new agreement in a 16-year-old state lawsuit that accused it of shortchanging black students, unveiling a plan Friday to "greatly narrow" or close the achievement gap within a decade.

    District officials and the plaintiffs in the case crafted the agreement behind closed doors, with a mediator, after informal talks yielded little progress....

    Pinellas superinten-dent Mike Grego says the plan is ‘‘compre-hensive and thorough.’’
  4. New Pinellas schools plan touted as 'turning point'€™ that would tackle achievement gap in 10 years


    After more than a year of negotiations, the Pinellas County School District has reached a new agreement in a 16-year-old state lawsuit that accused it of shortchanging black students, unveiling a plan Friday to “greatly narrow” or close the achievement gap within a decade.

    District officials and the plaintiffs in the case crafted the agreement behind closed doors, with a mediator, after informal talks yielded little progress. ...

    Students gather outside Campbell Park Elementary, one of several schools that would stand to benefit if the Pinellas County school district's plan to eliminate or narrow the achievement gap is successful.
  5. Antonio Burt, the high-profile leader of Pinellas' school turnaround effort, resigns


    Antonio Burt, who was hired to lead an aggressive effort to turn around eight of Pinellas County's lowest-performing schools, has resigned and will leave at the end of June.

    Burt has been on the job for about a year and a half and was the first director of the school district's new Transformation Zone. He built a reputation as a "turnaround leader" after improving struggling schools in Memphis. Superintendent Mike Grego said Friday that he was grateful to Burt for his work in Pinellas and credited him with creating a stronger foundation in the eight schools in the zone. ...

    Antonio Burt, who started in Pinellas in December 2015, will leave at the end of June.
  6. Amid investigation, Pinellas officials bemoan racially charged incident at Campbell Park Elementary


    LARGO — In his first public comments on the issue, Pinellas County schools superintendent Mike Grego spoke out at Tuesday night's School Board meeting about the decision to transfer former Campbell Park Elementary principal Christine Hoffman after an email in which she made a racially insensitive directive to her staff.

    Grego confirmed that Hoffman is under investigation by the district's Office of Professional Standards. Hoffman on Monday requested a transfer to school district headquarters until the investigation is complete. In an email sent April 18, she told her staff to cluster white students together as the predominantly black school took on the task of setting classroom rosters for next year....

  7. Northeast High's principal is a finalist for Principal of the Year


    The principal of Northeast High School is a finalist for Florida's 2017 Principal of the Year award, state officials announced Friday.

    Kevin Hendrick, who has been Northeast High's principal for eight years, is one of three finalists for the honor. Other finalists include: Earl Johnson, principal of Matanzas High School in Flagler County and Rachel Shelley, principal of Booker High School in Sarasota County. The winner will be announced during a ceremony June 21. ...

  8. Employee at Lake St. George Elementary receives state honor


    A food service manager at Lake St. George Elementary was named the 2017 School-related Employee of the Year, beating four other finalists for the honor.

    Education Commissioner Pam Stewart presented the award to David Melnick at an awards breakfast in Orlando today. In her comments, she said that Melnick "goes above and beyond for the students" at the Pinellas County school and called him an example of the "tremendous" effect that school support staff have on the entire community....

    David Melnick, a food service manager at Lake St. George Elementary, was named the 2017 School-related Employee of the Year at an awards breakfast in Orlando on Friday.
  9. Grego makes principal moves at John Hopkins, Oak Grove and Bayside High


    Superintendent Mike Grego walked in some principal changes Tuesday during the regular meeting of the Pinellas County School Board.

    Barry Brown, principal of John Hopkins Middle School, will transfer to Oak Grove Middle School. Dawn Coffin, the current principal of Oak Grove, will move to Bayside High School, where she's replacing Patricia Fuller. Fuller is retiring at the end of the school year....

  10. Pinellas 'Transformation Zone' schools showing signs of progress, officials say


    At eight of the lowest performing schools in Pinellas County, district officials see promising signs: academic growth, reductions in suspensions and discipline referrals, better teaching and improved attendance.

    The question is whether the improvements will translate into stronger academic performance and higher test scores.

    "We're seeing continued growth in these schools, which gives us hope," Dan Evans, the district's head of accountability and research, said this week during a community meeting in south St. Petersburg, where six of the eight schools are located. Two other schools are in Clearwater....

    A third-grade class at Fairmount Park Elementary, one of eight “Transformation Zone” schools in Pinellas County. A new draft report details signs of progress in the schools as they head into the spring testing season. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times (2015)]
  11. Pinellas School Board approved $10.5 million for first technical high school


    The Pinellas County School Board approved Tuesday a $10.5 million project to turn Career Academies of Seminole into a technical high school, expected to open in the 2018-19 school year.

    Hundreds of students currently commute to the school for two periods of technical classes. The project will make it into a comprehensive high school.

    Superintendent Mike Grego said he was “very excited about this project.”...

  12. School on Saturday? Pinellas sees it as another way to reach struggling students


    ST. PETERSBURG — Sitting in the school library on a brisk and breezy Saturday morning, Cadi Moorehead proudly held up two sheets of paper.

    "I wrote a two-page story about Nate the Great," she announced.

    Cadi, 9, could have slept in. She could have played outside. But she wanted to be in school. So here she was on a Saturday morning at Fairmount Park Elementary, doing math on an iPad, reading aloud from Nate the Great, a children's series about a boy detective, and writing a story about what she read....

    Third grader Shandreeke Henry, 10, reads her book  during Saturday Academy Jan. 28, 2017 at Fairmount Park Elementary School. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  13. Voters see School Board candidates through a new lens: Trump versus Clinton


    Carol Cook came to the polls Tuesday prepared to talk about issues.

    The good things happening in struggling schools, an improving graduation rate, Hispanic student achievement and more career education options. The 16-year Pinellas County School Board incumbent could expound on them all.

    Instead, many passers-by avoided her gaze or sidestepped away. When voters did talk to Cook, they weren't focused on education. They didn't ask about her opponent, Eliseo Santana. They wanted to know: Are you for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Are you a Republican or a Democrat?...

    Pinellas County School Board candidates Eliseo Santana, right, and Joanne Lentino, left, participate in the Brian Cash Claus Radio Show, on Nov. 3, 2016, on WTAN in Clearwater. School board candidates, who are non-partisan, are increasingly being asked by voters whether they support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  14. Third Bridging the Gap forum draws more than 100 people


    More than 100 people turned out Tuesday night at the third public forum to receive input about the Pinellas County School District's plan to close the achievement gap.

    The forum, which was held at Gibbs High, followed the same format as the first two, held at Largo High and Boca Ciega High. Superintendent Mike Grego spoke for about 20 minutes and then asked audience members to write their suggestions on sticky notes....

  15. Plaintiffs in desegregation case suspend negotiations with Pinellas County Schools


    The plaintiffs in a Civil Rights-era desegregation lawsuit announced Monday that they are suspending informal negotiations with the Pinellas County School District.

    In a letter emailed to the district, Enrique Escarraz and Roger Plata, lawyers for the plaintiffs, said that after more than a half-dozen meetings, progress has been “extremely slow and uneven.”

    Instead of continuing to meet as scheduled, they are giving the school district two weeks to provide detailed plans related to black student achievement....