Make us your home page

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. Pasco report cards may come out later for second quarter


    Pasco County students are supposed to get their second quarter report cards on Jan. 16.

    The only problem is, the School Board recently rejected a proposed change to the district's testing schedule that would have allowed that date to work. Board members argued that students should be testing through the end of the semester, not wasting the final day of the term just so teachers can get grading done....

  2. A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly


    LAND O'LAKES — Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco sat together several times in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving break, trading contract proposals amid (mostly) amicable conversation.

    They came closer to terms, giving and taking on pay and related matters, but couldn't land a deal by the holiday as everyone had desired.

    The numbers bandied about as possible raises hovered at less than 2 percent, below the district's offer of 2.65 percent a year earlier....

    Representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco, left, hold contract talks Nov. 9, with district negotiators. The sides are nearing an agreement.
  3. Pasco's 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High


    River Ridge High School senior Connor Beckman has been named Pasco County's 2018 Outstanding Senior.

    Commander of the school's Air Force JROTC program, Beckman is also an Eagle Scout mentor, National Honor Society president and swim team captain.

    Beckman also has been active in volunteer work, organizing fund-raising races for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, and teaching youngsters about ecosystems with the Pasco Environmental Adventure Camp Experience, among other activities....

    River Ridge High School senior Connor Beckman has been named Pasco County’s 2018 Outstanding Senior.
  4. Pasco school district proposes future changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones


    Plans to erase the attendance boundaries for Ridgewood High School have grabbed all the attention.

    But the Pasco County school district also has proposed changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones for consideration this fall.

    They're just much smaller in comparison.

    For middle schools, the administration has recommended undoing a planned reassignment from River Ridge to Gulf middle of children living between Little and Rowan roads, north of Old County Road 54 and south of Plathe Road. ...

    In a letter to Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning, the Florida Department of Education accepted the Pasco district’s findings that concerns about Trinity Oaks Elementary’s 2017 fourth-grade math tests were unfounded.
  5. Ridgewood High to be converted to technical school, Pasco board decides


    LAND O'LAKES — Say goodbye to Ridgewood High School as you know it.

    Next fall, the school, in New Port Richey, will focus on technical and career education. Its attendance zones will be erased, its students reassigned to nearby traditional high schools.

    Even its name might become a memory.

    Facing the state's heavy hand demanding change for schools that perform poorly on annual tests, and hoping to provide different educational options to students, the Pasco County School Board agreed on Tuesday to convert Ridgewood to a magnet technical school....

    Ridgewood High School no longer will be a traditional high school. It will reopen next fall as a magnet technical school, the Pasco School Board decided on Tuesday.
  6. School district changes process for redrawing school boundaries


    A prolonged legal battle with some dissatisfied parents has prompted the Pasco County School District to revamp its process for redrawing school attendance boundaries.

    Parents still will have opportunities to speak their mind on any proposals coming to the School Board. But advisory committees comprised of parents and principals, which the district had used for several years, will no longer be part of the streamlined model....

    The new system for redrawing school boundaries in Pasco will begin with district planners preparing maps that will be considered by superintendent Kurt Browning.
  7. With a focus on careers and 'sneaky academics,' technical high schools are on the rise


    TEMPLE TERRACE — Sophomore Tommie Johnson sat amid a sea of computers, creating a 12-month calendar, each page featuring his own superhero artwork.

    Hoping to become a comic book designer, but short on formal lessons, Johnson figured Tampa Bay Technical High School's commercial arts program would be "the perfect place to start" — even if it meant not going to the neighborhood school his whole family had attended....

    Ayo ILesanmi, 15, works on a housing model design during his architecture 1 class at Tampa Bay Tech. Nearly 80 percent of the school's graduates continue to some form of post-secondary education. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  8. Details of plan to convert Ridgewood High to tech school begin to emerge


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Heading into their Nov. 7 meeting, Pasco County School Board members said they harbored concerns about superintendent Kurt Browning's proposal to transform Ridgewood High School into a magnet technical school.

    Before voting, they said, they wanted more details about attendance zones, admission standards, program offerings, athletics and other issues. Their questions echoed those of many Ridgewood parents, who worried how any change would affect their children and community....

    The Pasco School Board is scheduled to take up the superintendent’s recommendation to convert Ridgewood High School to a technical magnet school at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 7.
  9. Florida proposal seeks to clear the way for public funding of private schools


    The chairwoman of the State Board of Education, charged with supervising Florida's system of free public education, has proposed amending the state Constitution to permit funding of some private schooling.

    Marva Johnson, a Gov. Rick Scott appointee to the state board and the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, filed a proposal Tuesday to exempt education from the state's constitutional ban on using public funds for religious organizations....

    Marva Johnson, who chairs the State Board of Education and is a member of Florida's Constitution Revision Commission, has proposed changing the Constitution to make it easier for public money to flow into private schools. [The Florida Channel]
  10. State commission considering change in way superintendents are picked


    Pasco County has the largest school system in the nation that is run by an elected superintendent. Voters have insisted it remain that way, most recently in 2006, when even some School Board members recommended a change.

    Now, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission is considering a proposal that would change Pasco's model. One of the commissioners, who also sits on the Collier County School Board, has proposed amending the constitution to require that superintendents be appointed....

  11. Should Florida school board members have term limits?


    Current Florida law limits the length of service for lawmakers, governors and even State Board of Education members.

    School Board members face no such restrictions. But Erika Donalds, a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, thinks they should.

    Donalds, who sits on the Collier County School Board, has filed a proposed constitutional amendment to allow board members to serve no longer than eight consecutive years. That length would include the amount of time a member would have served on a board if they resign early, as well....

    Linda Lerner is serving a record seventh four-year term on the Pinellas County School Board. Her term ends in 2018.
  12. Florida education news: Gifted education, turnarounds, superintendents and more


    GIFTED EDUCATION: In Pinellas County schools, as elsewhere, most children in gifted programs are disproportionately white and wealthier. To broaden the diversity, the Pinellas district has begun testing all second graders to determine whether they qualify for gifted services....

  13. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Oct. 22, 2017


    With lawmakers in committee weeks, and the Constitution Revision Commission in full swing, Florida is hopping with education policy debates. But there's just something about Marlene Sokol's story about some sophomores who gave up their cell phones for a day as part of a class lesson that speaks to everyone, whether in school or out. Could you do it? Catch up on this story and other highlights of the week's Florida education news below. You can keep up with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone else who'd like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to

  14. Should Florida's school superintendents be elected or appointed?


    When it comes to selecting school district superintendents, Florida stands apart from most of the nation by allowing voters to choose.

    Forty-four of the state's 67 districts have elected superintendents, with most of the large, urban systems opting for a school board-appointed leader instead. To put that in context, only Alabama and Mississippi also have elected superintendents, and Mississippi recently passed a law ending that practice....

    Kurt Browning celebrated his 2012 election victory to become Pasco County superintendent. Pasco is the nation's largest district to have an elected superintendent.
  15. Are Florida school board members paid too much?


    In most school districts around the nation, school board members do not get paid.

    That's not the case in Florida. And Collier County board member Erika Donalds wants to put a change to that, using her post on the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to push the issue.

    With the deadline for member-sponsored amendments arriving Tuesday, Donalds has proposed asking voters to end salaries for Florida's school board members. The board members would still be eligible for per diem and travel reimbursements under her plan....

    Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds has proposed ending school board member salaries statewide.