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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. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of April 23, 2017


    The Florida Legislature is nearing end of session, and activity is fast and furious on bills and budgets. Meanwhile, districts deal with finances, special education, safe schools and more. Catch up on the week's highlights 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

    The Florida Senate
  2. Senate committee stymies bill to limit job guarantees to highly-rated Florida teachers on annual contract


    A bill to bar Florida school districts from guaranteeing teachers on annual contract an additional year of employment if they earn a strong evaluation unexpectedly stumbled Friday in its final committee before full Senate consideration.

    The Senate Rules Committee voted 6-6 against the measure, casting doubt on SB 856 as it otherwise appeared headed to approval. The Florida House adopted a companion measure (HB 373) three weeks ago....

    Sen. Jack Latvala questions the need for a bill to limit school districts' ability to guarantee teachers on annual contract an added year if they earn a strong evaluation rating. He voted against it.
  3. Gradebook podcast: Classroom diversity, charter school expansion, prom dresses and more


    News of a Pinellas County elementary school principal's directive to ensure the few white students in her school be placed in classes together next fall drew community outrage and national attention this week. Reporter Colleen Wright talks with editor Tom Tobin and reporter Jeff Solochek about the situation that led to the principal's removal. Also in this week's podcast, a discussion about a controversial $200 million charter school plan moving through the Legislature, the latest U.S. News and World Report high school rankings, and more....

    Campbell Park Elementary in St. Petersburg lost its principal over her directive to make sure white students are placed in classes together next fall.
  4. Pasco County school district sets new student registration rules


    Pasco County schools this week toughened their proof of residency requirements for enrolling students, amid criticisms that it failed to root out children using false addresses to attend popular but overcrowded campuses....

  5. Florida education news: Sunshine law, 'schools of hope,' superintendents and more


    SUNSHINE LAW: The Florida House considers allowing two members of a school board or other elected body to privately discuss official business.

    'SCHOOLS OF HOPE': State lawmakers near a compromise on the controversial charter schools proposal. • Teachers and activists protest the proposal in a Tampa rally, Florida Politics reports. • A conference committee on the concept is coming, WFSU reports....

    Two members of a school board with 5 or more members would be able to meet privately under legislation moving through the Florida House.
  6. Administrative judge rejects parent challenge to east Pasco County school rezoning


    Second verse, same as the first.

    State administrative law judge D.R. Alexander on Thursday upheld the Pasco County School Board's recent redrawing of east-side middle and high school attendance zones, rejecting a parent complaint that the process was flawed. ...

    Parent Doug Wood testifies during a March hearing on the validity of the Pasco County School Board's attendance boundary revision process.
  7. Pasco School Board plans calendar workshop after Good Friday flap


    Stung by criticism after holding classes on Good Friday, the Pasco County School Board wants to talk about whether to repeat the scenario in 2018.

    The board already has approved its 2017-18 calendar with March 30 as a class day. Spring break is set for the week before....

    The Pasco County School Board will discuss whether to hold classes on Good Friday in future years.
  8. Florida education news: Secrets, contracts, constitution and more


    BUDGETS: Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron cut deals on education and other issues in private, after pledging "unprecedented openness." • Many details remain to be seen, the News Service of Florida reports. More from Politico Florida. • Meanwhile, some education observers worry about the fate of Title I funding in a House spending proposal....

    Senate President Joe Negron and Senate Appropriations chairman Jack Latvala are in the midst of final budget negotiations as the legislative session nears its end.
  9. Pasco committee recommends school impact fee increase tied to sales tax hike


    LAND O'LAKES — The question never was whether a committee of Pasco County builders and parents would back higher school impact fees for new homes.

    The need, they said, was clear.

    The issue as the panel debated the fee Wednesday was how much the increase would be, and if it would provide enough revenue on its own.

    School Board members had proposed a near doubling of the charge, from $4,828 per single-family home to $9,028. Their goal: to generate money to build new schools made necessary by the onslaught of new home construction....

  10. Committee recommends impact fee increase, added sales tax for Pasco County schools


    A committee of Pasco County builders and parents is recommending higher school impact fees on new homes, plus more, for new school construction. 

    Committee members contended a fee hike alone would not meet the district's school building needs. And they further worried that the School Board might not have the political will to seek other solutions.

    Hoping to generate some "incentive" to act, the group split the difference....

    A 10-member committee of parents and home builders discusses Pasco County school impact fee proposals Wednesday.
  11. Pasco County school district, employees reach contract deal


    A nearly yearlong contract dispute between the Pasco County school district and its employee union ended amicably Wednesday, with the sides reaching agreement on the key points that separated them.

    "We've been able to sign language to bring an end to impasse," district employee relations director Kathy Scalise said just after 1:30 p.m.

    The United School Employees of Pasco declared negotiations with the county's largest employer had reached a point of no return in November. The sides have talked sporadically since, and recently sat through hearings before special magistrates who recommended resolutions....

    The United School Employees of Pasco declared impasse in contract talks in after a bargaining session in November 2016.
  12. Pasco County school district to seek more funds for magnet programs


    Hoping to expand academic options for children, the Pasco County school district recently turned to magnet schools as a new set of choices.

    First came Sanders Memorial Elementary, followed by Centennial and Bayonet Point middle schools....

    Pasco County's magnet schools have had more applicants than available seats since opening.
  13. Florida educators wary of Title I provisions in House proposal


    As Florida House and Senate leaders arrive at compromises over education funding for the coming year, worries remain among school district leaders and consultants about a proposal to change the way they use millions of dollars in federal Title I funds....

    Hernando County elementary school students participate in a summer school program paid for by Title I funds.
  14. Florida education news: Budgets, classroom computers, kindergarten restaurant and more


    BUDGET DEAL: Florida House and Senate leaders compromise on spending priorities, agreeing to the Senate plan for higher education in exchange for the House position on charter schools and school district property tax rates. The Senate Appropriations Committee kept "schools of hope" and Best and Brightest award legislation alive for the conference discussions. More from Politico Florida....

    Florida House and Senate leaders have outlined an agreement for state spending in 2017-18.
  15. Florida Senate keeps Best and Brightest, 'schools of hope' alive for conference


    With limited debate, with minutes remaining in a 4-hour meeting, the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved two controversial education measures that have been the subject of scorn from some corners.

    The panel reported favorably SB 1552 to expand the Best and Brightest award to include more teachers and, for the first time, school principals. It also moved HB 796 to establish a "high-impact" charter school model and granting priority to certain charters seeking approval. The latter is related to the House "schools of hope" plan....