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Claire McNeill, Times Staff Writer

Claire McNeill

Claire McNeill covers higher education for the Tampa Bay Times. She joined the paper in 2014 and covered general assignment news in Pasco and Pinellas counties.

She grew up in a one-square-mile town in South Jersey and graduated from the University of North Carolina, where she studied journalism and political science. She has worked for The Boston Globe and The Charlotte Observer. She lives in St. Petersburg.

Phone: (727) 893-8321


Twitter: @clairemcneill

  1. Veto community college budget cuts, St. Petersburg College leader urges Gov. Scott


    The president of St. Petersburg College is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to veto a proposed budget cut that slashes community college funding in a time of declining enrollment and tuition revenue.

    State lawmakers cut funding for the Florida College System’s 28 community colleges by $25 million. SPC stands to lose $1.8 million.

    The could mean fewer class offerings for students and fewer support services like tutoring and career advising, SPC said in a news release. It could mean students take longer to graduate....

    Dr. Bill Law of SPC
  2. Eckerd grad presses for answers after closure of Program for Experienced Learners


    ST. PETERSBURG — It’s not unusual for colleges to end programs or discontinue majors that suffer from low enrollment.

    Eckerd College’s Program for Experienced Learners met that unfortunate fate after the number of new students dropped to just 20 in fall 2016, despite efforts to boost enrollment....

    Eckerd College
  3. Police: Two dead in Tampa Palms apartment shooting, man in custody


    TAMPA — The man waved a gun and told them they couldn't leave.

    He ranted to those inside the Green Planet Smoke Shop in north Tampa on Friday evening that he had killed two people and wanted to end up on cable news.

    When police arrived and took the man into custody for his erratic behavior, Devon Arthurs, 18, repeated his assertion of homicide. He led officers to his apartment, just a quarter mile from the smoke shop inside the Hamptons at Tampa Palms subdivision, where they found two dead males. Both appeared to have died from gunshots, police said. It was unclear if they lived at the home with Arthurs....

    Devon Arthurs, 18, of Tampa faces murder charges.
  4. Could Tampa reach 100 degrees for the first time ever? Another record heat day begs the question


    TAMPA — May's unrelenting heat wave has shattered another record temperature at Tampa International Airport, this time hitting 97 degrees on a day when the previous record was 93.

    The airport also tied a temperature record the day before, with a high of 98 on Wednesday. The previous record had been set in 1975.

    "Ninety-eight degrees for May, that's crazy," said 10Weather WTSP meteorologist Bobby Deskins. "That's one degree from the warmest we've ever measured at Tampa International Airport — ever."...

    The sun burns through the sky Thursday morning over Clearwater, a day in which Tampa Bay would see another heat record shattered. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  5. Questions about equity persist as a proposed boost in Bright Futures aims to help top grads


    TAMPA — Sometimes, as Kareem Elgendi stared down a tough SAT question, a tendril of anxiety wound its way into his head.

    If I don't get the score I need, will I be able to pay for college?

    He had lugged home SAT books his sophomore year at Blake High School, already practicing, hoping to win Florida's Bright Futures scholarship.

    With a score of 1290, he would qualify for Bright Futures' top tier, securing about $3,090 a year — a big dent in the $6,000 tuition and fees that Florida's public universities charge on average. He took the SAT once, twice, three times, with mounting fear....

    University of South Florida freshmen, from left, Kareem Elgendi, 19; Shahir Kamil, 18; and Hozaifa Tabbaa, 20, study for a physics exam at the USF library in Tampa. Elgendi, a Blake High graduate, needed a Bright Futures scholarship to attend college. Finally getting his qualifying SAT score “was the best feeling ever,” he says.
  6. It hasn't been this hot in Florida to start the year since 1895, report says


    Florida is hot.

    This may sound obvious, but it's never been more true. Well, at least for the past 122 years.

    Florida recorded its hottest average temperatures for the first four months of the year since 1895, according to a climate report by the National Centers for Environmental Information....

    Children cool off at the Curtis Hixon Park  fountains in Tampa.
  7. John O'Hearn helped steer Times through growth and tumult

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first time John O'Hearn took a job at the then-St. Petersburg Times, it didn't go so well.

    "He started as a punk teenager," said his daughter, Shannon O'Hearn Downing. "He even got fired when he was young because he went to the beach instead of showing up for work."

    The second time, he quickly left to finish his bachelor's degree.

    The third time, the job stuck — for more than three decades. The punk teen put on a suit and tie and rose through the ranks of the Times' business side, eventually becoming its general manager and executive vice president....

    John O’Hearn worked at the then-St. Petersburg Times for more than three decades. He rose through the business ranks, later becoming its general manager and executive vice president.
  8. Man shot to death in St. Petersburg's Jordan Park area


    ST. PETERSBURG — A 34-year-old father of six was shot and killed Monday evening in St. Petersburg's Jordan Park neighborhood, police said.

    Timothy K. Davis Jr. was pronounced dead after responding officers attempted CPR in the minutes after the 6:30 p.m. shooting. His body remained in the street within the public housing complex near 11th Avenue S and 23rd Street late Monday while police collected evidence....

    Timothy K. Davis Jr., a father of six, was shot and killed in St. Petersburg on Monday night.
  9. 2017 Hurricane Season: How to protect your documents, home, boat


    Longtime Floridians know the drill. Each year, as the heat and humidity build, forecasters begin their warnings: Hurricane season is upon us, and you'd better take it seriously.

    Sure, it was easy to tune out the advice when, year after year, storms skirted past Florida. The Tampa Bay area hasn't had a direct strike in almost a century.

    Let the 2016 storm season serve as a warning: Destructive hurricanes lashed both Florida coasts. The bay area also endured flooding, especially in Pasco County....

  10. Take a look at the future of student housing at USFSP


    As plans for a new 550-bed housing complex take shape, USF St. Petersburg hopes to increase its residential foothold downtown and evolve beyond its “commuter campus” image.

    After hours of deliberation, a university committee settled on a proposal from EdR, favoring the developer’s design. At this point, all plans for the lot at Fifth Avenue S and Third Street S are pending trustees’ approval....

    A rendering of the planned 550-bed housing complex at USF St. Petersburg, which is pending approval.
  11. Despite Bull backlash, lawmakers pass bill that costs USF millions

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — An outraged USF "Bull Nation" could not stop the Legislature from passing a bill Monday that makes it harder for the school to become the state's third "preeminent" university and reap many millions of new dollars each year.

    In a one-day extra session, lawmakers voted to require 60 percent of a university's students to graduate in four years as a condition of preeminence....

    Sen. Darryl Rouson, D- St. Petersburg, said Monday he and other Tampa Bay legislators are getting besieged with texts, emails and phone calls over a bill that tooks some funding away from USF. "It's a real hornets nest," Rouson said.  The bill had the full support of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R- Land O' Lakes. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  12. St. Pete College board of trustees grows to five members


    ST. PETERSBURG — As St. Petersburg College trustees prepare to interview candidates for SPC president, the board has quickly grown from three to five members.

    On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott re-appointed Bridgette Bello to the board of trustees, where she previously served from 2013 to 2015.

    Bello, 46, of Seminole is the president and first female publisher of the Tampa Bay Business Journal. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate....

    Bridgette Bello
  13. Interview dates set for St. Pete College president search


    ST. PETERSBURG — Now that the pool of potential St. Petersburg College presidents has been narrowed to five, the college’s board of trustees will bring each finalist to campus for interviews.

    The board’s four members plan to make their final decision at a special meeting on June 9....

    St. Petersburg College
  14. Pinellas college notebook: USFSP celebrates Pulitzer winner, Eckerd presents its 'Human Library'


    USFsp honors Pulitzer-winning alum

    An alumnus of the journalism program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg was named a Pulitzer Prize winner in Investigative Reporting this month. Eric Eyre, who got his master's degree in mass communication at USFSP in 1998, won journalism's top award for his work chronicling the opioid drug crisis and overdose deaths in West Virginia. His report in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, where he is a statehouse reporter, found that drug wholesalers pumped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills into the state in just six years, while more than 1,700 West Virginians overdosed and died. "It's really a testament to years of grinding it out as a beat reporter doing investigative projects on the side over the course of 25-plus years," Eyre said in a university news release. He thanked his USFSP professors for shaping his reporting. Department founder Mike Killenberg said Eyre's work has long been excellent. "When he applied to our program, I was very impressed by his interest in stories that impact ordinary people," Killenberg said. "I've been following his career, and I'm not surprised that he's reached the highest level of accomplishment for a journalist." Eyre, 51, is also a former St. Petersburg Times intern and an Ethics Fellow at the Poynter Institute, which owns the Tampa Bay Times....

  15. Hillsborough college notebook: USF hosts writer Jeffrey Toobin, UT holds human rights conference


    Analyst, writer Jeffrey Toobin to speak at USF

    To shed light on the secret workings of the U.S. Supreme Court and discuss how the Trump administration could shape its future, legal expert and longtime New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin will deliver a free, public lecture on April 27, hosted by the University of South Florida. Toobin, also the senior legal analyst for CNN, has covered some of the biggest legal battles in the modern era, including the nominations of four justices and the trials of Michael Jackson and George Zimmerman. A best-selling author and former assistant U.S. attorney, he will bring a deep knowledge of the field to his talk at the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Join him at 7:30 p.m. in Ferguson Hall. No tickets necessary. ...