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Colleen Wright, Times Staff Writer

Colleen Wright

Colleen Wright covers Pinellas County Schools since joining the Times in 2015. Florida born and bred, she was raised in Miami and graduated from the University of Florida.

Phone: (727) 893-8643

E-mail: cwright@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Colleen_Wright

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  1. At St. Petersburg High, alums push to complete private funding for home field improvements

    K12

    ST. PETERSBURG — The athletic facilities at St. Petersburg High are just like Bob Carter remembers from 50 years ago.

    He recalls it all fondly: The concession stands, ticket booths and bathrooms are still the same. The track is still outdated asphalt, nicknamed I-75. The field house still lacks central air.

    "It was one of the happiest times of my life," said Carter, who played baseball and graduated with the class of 1965....

    St. Petersburg High alumni on Tuesday announced a drive to complete a $2 million campaign to pay for new athletic facilities, including an artificial turf field, a rubberized track, home and visitor concession stands and other features. [Rendering courtesy of Bob Carter]
  2. Student burned in High Point Elementary fire had a lighter

    Fire

    CLEARWATER — A High Point Elementary student who was airlifted with burn injuries Wednesday had a lighter at school, district officials say.

    Pinellas County Schools spokeswoman Lisa Wolf on Thursday said the student was burned while in possession of the lighter and described it as an "isolated incident involving one student and was not part of a classroom activity."...

    The entrance of High Point Elementary, 5921 150th Ave. N, where a student was burned Wednesday and taken to Tampa General Hospital. Officials said Thursday the student had a lighter at school. [Pinellas County Schools]
  3. Student burned in fire at High Point Elementary, airlifted to Tampa General

    Fire

    CLEARWATER — A High Point Elementary student was airlifted with burn injuries after a fire broke out at the school Wednesday afternoon.

    The Largo Fire Department responded to the call around 2:20 p.m. and is still investigating the cause of the fire, said spokesman Terry Tokarz. A boy was transported by Bayflite to Tampa General Hospital's burn center.

    Tokarz said the boy's father was on the scene and that the boy was "alert and talking to us."...

    The entrance of High Point Elementary, 5921 150th Ave. N, where a student was burned in a fire at the school Wednesday and airlifted to Tampa General Hospital. [Pinellas County Schools]
  4. FSU suspends all fraternities, sororities following death of a pledge

    College

    Florida State University president John Thrasher has indefinitely suspended all fraternities and sororities following the death of a fraternity pledge and another student's unrelated drug arrest over the weekend.

    The pause was necessary to "review and reflect on the loss of a young life," the university said in a statement Monday.

    "For this suspension to end, there will need to be a new normal for Greek life at the university," Thrasher said at a news conference. "There must be a new culture, and our students must be full participants in creating it."...

    The Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house is at 423 West College Ave. in Tallahassee. A 20-year-old pledge at the fraternity, Andrew Coffey, was found dead on Nov. 3, 2017. Three days later, Florida State University president John Thrasher announced that all fraternities and sororities at the school would be indefinitely suspended. [Joe Rondone | Tallahassee Democrat]
  5. Hurricane Maria evacuees start over in the Tampa Bay area

    K12

    CLEARWATER — After two weeks of no work, no income, no cell phone signal and no power, Bianca Vazquez decided it was time to leave her home in Humacao, Puerto Rico and move to Florida — permanently.

    She booked the first one-way flights she could find for herself, her 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son. Her 2-year-old, Bryan, would stay behind with her parents until she got everything settled....

    Puerto Rican evacuee Shamira Melendez, 4, watches "Finding Dory" on a tablet while her mom Ivana Reyes, 22, talks to representatives from local agencies while her son Jezel Garcia, 1, snoozes in his stroller at the Hispanic Outreach Center Thursday 11/2/2017. -  Pinellas County government hosted a bilingual panel Thursday featuring community organizations providing help for local Hurricane Maria evacuees from Puerto Rico.  Afterwards a relocation clinic with agencies including Pinellas County Schools, Florida Dept. of Health, Head Start, YMCA, RCS, FEMA, Pinellas County Govt. and others took place Thursday at the Hispanic Outreach Center in Clearwater to provide evacuees a central place to get the information and contacts they needed to help them get settled. Ivana Reyes eventually wants to return to Puerto Rico.
  6. Letters and emails show strife as Canterbury School's board resigns

    K12

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Canterbury School of Florida has been gripped in recent weeks by strife and bruised feelings over a back-and-forth tussle over who will lead the private institution over the next few years.

    School spokeswoman Heather Lambie confirmed this week that a new board of trustees plans to renegotiate the contract of Canterbury's longtime head of school, Mac H. Hall, and "hopes to reach an amicable resolution with him." ...

    Mac Hall’s contract as Head of Canterbury School of Florida is up for renewal.
  7. Pinellas to host bilingual panel to help Hurricane Maria evacuees

    Blog

    Pinellas County government is hosting a bilingual panel Thursday featuring community organizations providing help for local Hurricane Maria evacuees.

    The informational panel in English and Spanish will begin at 9:30 a.m. at St. Petersburg College's Clearwater campus, 2465 Drew St. Participating agencies include Hispanic Outreach Center, the Pinellas County school district, the Supervisor of Elections, the Salvation Army and RCS Food Bank....

    Patients, from left, Kofi Boateng, Francis Massicott and Joselle Connor await evacuation at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix on Tuesday (9/26/17) in the wake of two category 5 hurricanes back-to-back in just 12 days, with the most recent one, Hurricane Maria, making landfall in St. Croix last Tuesday at 2 a.m. Seven Aeromedical Evacuation members worked with 3 critical care air transport team members, 1 medical attendant and 5 flight crew members to complete the mission using a C-130 airplane out of MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa.
  8. Canterbury board resigns, replaced by four new members following decision not to renew head of school

    Blog

    Nearly two weeks after the board of trustees at Canterbury School of Florida in St. Petersburg decided to not renew the contract for their head of school of 13 years, all board members will resign and be replaced by four new members.

    An email obtained by the Times was sent out to families on Saturday informing Canterbury families of the board's shakeup. The email comes after a contentious town hall meeting held at the school Oct. 16 regarding Mac Hall's departure as head of school at the end of the school year....

    At least 13 board members on Canterbury School of Florida's board of trustees have resigned or agree to resign following a controversial decision not to renew its head of school of 13 years, Mac Hall. Four new members have since been appointed and just one ex-officio member will stay on, according to an email obtained by the Times.
  9. In Pinellas, a push to find where the gifted kids are

    K12

    ST. PETERSBURG — Six third-graders trickled into the media center and began fidgeting with colorful puzzles called tangrams. It's how they wrap their heads around adding and subtracting fractions.

    They have some of the best grades and test scores in the school, and they know it. It's why they were pulled out of their regular schedule to go to "talent development" class at Lakewood Elementary....

    Third-grader Toriana Parker, 8, works on a fraction problem using puzzle pieces in Deborah Davis' class at Lakewood Elementary, where a handful of students complete critical thinking projects with multi-step prompts and play games to challenge high performers. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  10. Pinellas school board member (and mother of a high schooler) pledges to sign petition for later start times

    Blog

    The new online petition pleads with the Pinellas County School Board and superintendent Mike Grego to change the high school start time from 7:05 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., just like neighboring Hillsborough County.

    It says scores would improve, graduation rates would climb and fewer teens would fall asleep behind the wheel. It offers links referring people to research. And it argues that if Hillsborough can do it starting next August, why can’t Pinellas?...

    Pinellas School Board member Eileen Long, a mother to a high school and middle school student, says she will sign a petition to move high school start times up from 7:05 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The online petition has generated nearly 1,900 signatures.
  11. Now that there's daily recess, one school board wants to end required PE

    Blog

    Hordes of moms fought for years to get the Florida Legislature to make a law requiring 20 minutes of daily recess in all traditional public elementary schools. That's on top of 150 minutes of state-mandated physical activity -- time often used for physicel education classes.

    Some of the founders behind the "recess mom" movement were taken aback this week when they saw the Florida School Boards Association proposed legislative platform for 2018. A bullet point suggested eliminating the PE requirement but keeping daily recess for all students, including those in charter schools that are currently exempted....

    Representatives from every Florida school board will meet in Gainesville on Thursday to discuss and vote on their official legislative platform for 2018. Citrus County has proposed repealing the requirement of 150 physical activity minutes a week.
  12. Pinellas sees slight increase in black and first-year teachers

    Blog

    A year after the Pinellas County school district was chastised in a state report for clustering inexperienced teachers in the state's most struggling schools, the district has reported a first look at its teacher corps.

    None of the schools had as much as 30 to 40 percent of staff with three years or less of experience as the report found in the 2014-15 school year, but some schools still skew high percentages of first-year teachers....

    The Pinellas County school district has taken a first look at first-year teachers in struggling schools and minority hiring, both of which ticked slightly upward.
  13. Some teachers allege 'hostile and racially charged' workplace at Pinellas Park Middle

    K12

    PINELLAS PARK — Two black teachers at Pinellas Park Middle have requested transfers out of the school, alleging the work environment there has become "hostile and racially charged."

    In a letter addressed to Pinellas County school district officials, the presidents of the Upper Pinellas and St. Petersburg branches of the NAACP said the problems began when nine minority teachers banded together over the summer to develop an after-school tutoring program primarily for black students, who scored the lowest on this year's state English language arts exam. ...

    Dave Rosenberger, principal at Pinellas Park Middle, said staff members were concerned that the tutoring program for black students would exclude struggling students of different backgrounds or other teachers who wanted to help. "I think most of the angst or stress involved over the program was either a lack of information or misinformation," he said. [Pinellas County Schools]
  14. Canterbury board 'works to regain trust' as head of school to depart

    Blog

    Mac Hall, the head of school for Canterbury School of Florida in St. Petersburg, will leave his role of 13 years at the end of the school year.

    Canterbury spokeswoman Heather Lambie confirmed in an email Thursday that Hall's contract will expire at the end of the school year and will not be renewed.

    "It has been decided that we are going to have a change in the Head of School at that time," she wrote....

    Canterbury School of Florida's graduating class of 2010 walks towards St. Peter's Episcopal Church before their ceremony in downtown St. Petersburg. Their head of school, Mac Hall, will not return to the school next year.
  15. Once again, Pinellas superintendent earns high marks from School Board members

    Blog

    Pinellas County School Board members once again gave school superintendent Mike Grego high marks on his annual evaluation, which was made public Tuesday. 

    Every year, board members evaluate Grego on his performance on seven goals outlined in the district strategic plan. Board members also rate him on impact/rapport, integrity and work standards. They can also write-in comments....

    Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego has once again earned high marks from School Board members on his annual evaluation.