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Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writer

Jeffrey S. Solochek

Jeffrey S. Solochek writes about schools and education for the Tampa Bay Times. Solochek has covered the school districts in Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco counties since joining the Times in 2000. He also oversees The Gradebook education blog.

Phone: (813) 909-4614


Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

  1. Is a Florida charter school a public school, or not?


    Florida lawmakers have taken great pains to include charter schools in the pantheon of the state's public education system.

    But the state Ethics Commission saw things a bit differently in a draft advisory opinion offered to a Lake Wales city commissioner who also serves as legal counsel to the Lake Wales charter school system.

    In Robin Gibson's case, highlighted in a Politico Florida story that's behind a paywall, the city is considering whether to sell or donate property to the charter school system. Gibson wanted to know whether he could participate in the transaction, or if he had a conflict of interest....

    A first grade teacher works on a bulletin board outside her classroom at a southeast Hillsborough County charter school.
  2. Gradebook podcast: On HB 7069, with Palm Beach schools superintendent Robert Avossa


    After months of discussion, several Florida school districts filed suit against the Legislature over the contentious HB 7069, calling parts of it unconstitutional. At the same time, some of them also sought grant funding established in the same measure. The Palm Beach County school district did both. Superintendent Robert Avossa talks with reporter Jeff Solochek about his district's views on the legal challenge, the grant program and other aspects of the omnibus education bill that was among the most controversial of 2017....

    Palm Beach superintendent Robert Avossa
  3. Florida education news: Lawsuits, lawyers, school board pay and more


    IN COURT: A former Hillsborough County school district top administrator sues the School Board and its chief of staff, alleging board member corruption and intimidation. District officials say the suit contains inaccuracies, with superintendent Jeff Eakins saying he made the decision to fire former HR director Stephanie Woodford in April. "Character and ethics are extremely important to me," Eakins said....

    Hillsborough School Board member Susan Valdes is the subject of several allegations in a former employee's scathing lawsuit.
  4. Pasco County school district puts two charter schools on notice


    The Pasco County school district this week notified two troubled charter schools that they have just weeks to work out problems district officials have identified.

    One of those schools, Florida Virtual Academy of Pasco, could face closure if it cannot comply....

    The Pasco County School Board has told warned two charter schools to improve.
  5. Florida lawmaker renews push for alternative paths to high school graduation


    Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Citrus County Republican, has filed legislation for the second straight year aiming to ease the path to a high school diploma for Florida students who aren't necessarily headed to college.

    With HB 311, Massullo again aims to establish "alternative pathways" to a standard diploma for the teens who have completed their course credits but fell short on the state's mandated tests for Algebra I and 10th grade language arts....

  6. Florida education news: Free speech, Schools of Hope, student voices and more


    FREE SPEECH: The University of Florida reluctantly hosts white nationalist activist Richard Spencer for a rally officials are encouraging students to ignore. Campus president Kent Fuchs, who tried to prevent the activity from taking place, talks about his views of free speech, student safety and other concerns. Some background, and a live blog if you want to follow the day's goings-on....

    Troopers prepare for Richard Spencer's speech at the University of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott has declared a State of Emergency for Alachua County ahead of the event.
  7. Eleven Florida turnaround schools awarded 'Schools of Hope' grants


    Eleven schools from four Florida counties will receive state "Schools of Hope" grants of up to $2,000 per student to help them implement improvement plans.

    State lawmakers set aside about $52 million to support as many as 25 district schools required to turn around their low performance on state tests. The Legislature added the money to HB 7069 to offset criticism that the measure would set aside millions to establish charter schools to compete with those same struggling district schools....

    Florida Board of Education chairwoman Marva Johnson said she would like to see more Schools of Hope grants awarded to struggling district schools such as Robles Elementary in Tampa.
  8. Florida Board of Education continues to set computer science as a priority


    Citing the need to fill thousands of computer science-related jobs throughout the state, the Florida Board of Education on Wednesday reiterated its stance that the state needs to expand computer science and coding education offerings in the state's middle and high schools.

    Board members noted their top legislative priority remains to get a coding bill through the Legislature that also increases teacher training for computer science/coding, including bonuses for teachers who get or already hold certification in the field. It further aims to support added resources to bring such courses to high-needs districts....

  9. Let sixth graders play sports, Pasco County School Board member says


    Pasco County middle schools offer students the chance to play competitive football, soccer, basketball, volleyball and track.

    Just not sixth graders.

    Unlike other area county districts, Pasco limits its middle school athletics to older students (though sixth graders are welcome to serve as team managers). School Board member Steve Luikart wants to consider changing that practice.

    "We don't have any policies or procedures that are against it. We just haven't done it," Luikart told his board colleagues Tuesday evening. "It is something that I think is worthy of looking at, and getting sixth graders more involved at the middle schools they are in."...

    Paul R. Smith Middle School football team
  10. Florida education news: Start times, scholarships, school choice and more


    START TIMES: Hillsborough County schools get new bell schedules for 2018-19, with high schools starting an hour later than in the past. Officials said the move is necessary to save money and ensure that all children arrive at school on time. The current schedule has not given bus drivers enough time to complete all their routes....

  11. Pasco students get opportunity to tackle big-picture issues


    LAND O'LAKES — At first, Krysten Hart wasn't sure what she was getting herself into.

    The River Ridge High School senior had accepted her principal's invitation to join students from across Pasco County for a meeting — officials were calling it a "student congress" — to talk about how they might improve their schools and the district.

    But when do adults really listen to kids, right?...

    Wesley Chapel High senior Emily Prengaman discusses ways to improve graduation rates with Sunlake High principal Michael Cloyd and other teens from around the school district during Pasco County’s first student congress.
  12. Superintendent will ask Pasco School Board to convert Ridgewood High to magnet


    LAND O'LAKES — It's all but official for Ridgewood High School.

    Superintendent Kurt Browning announced Tuesday his plan to formally ask the Pasco County School Board on Nov. 7 to approve transforming Ridgewood into a magnet technical high school for 2018-19.

    And board members, though they harbored some concerns about the timing, did not sound opposed as they reacted to the superintendent's move....

    Anclote High School quarterback Tim Dallaire throws the ball during warm up before the Anclote at Zephyrhills football game on Friday, October 6, 2017, in Zephyrhills, Fla.
  13. Florida Department of Education explores testing questions


    Following a legislative mandate, the Florida Department of Education has hired an independent contractor to determine whether the SAT or ACT tests could replace the state 10th-grade language arts Florida Standards Assessment and Algebra I end-of-course exam.

    Lawmakers included the requirement in HB 7069, after two years hearing some educators advocate using the national assessments that many students already take to get into college....

  14. Florida school districts file formal challenge to constitutionality of HB 7069


    Just to get it on the record here, thirteen Florida school boards including Pinellas County filed suit Monday in Leon County court, challenging the constitutionality of several provisions within the law created by HB 7069.

    The lawsuit comes as no surprise. ...

    Gov. Rick Scott held a signing ceremony for HB 7069 in June at an Orlando private school. Several school districts are now challenging the law in court.
  15. Florida education news: Constitution changes, #HB7069, school security and more


    NEW RULES: Once every 20 years, Florida convenes a commission to examine whether the state constitution needs amending. Education — Article IX — can play a pivotal role, and this time around the subject appears to be coming into focus for possible change. Members of the public already have submitted their proposals, and the commission has begun discussing where it wants to go next. Voters will get the final say, with approval harder to come by than before....