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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

Email: [email protected]

Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

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  1. Florida education news: Makeup days, graduation honors, sex education and more

    Blog

    MAKEUP DAYS: Hillsborough County schools will eliminate four early release days to meet minimum state time per course, after missing seven days because of Hurricane Irma. • Indian River County schools are exploring canceling three vacation days, TC Palm reports. • Brevard County schools will not need to make up any missed days, Florida Today reports. • Lake County schools cancel one day off and eliminate several early release days, the Daily Commercial reports. • Collier County students return to school after 2-1/2 weeks off, the Naples Daily News reports....

    School classrooms are back up and running after Hurricane Irma. Districts are now setting makeup schedules for time missed.
  2. Top graduation honors won't be final until March 12 for Pasco County high schools

    Blog

    Months after a contentious rollout of Fivay High School's 2017 valedictorian and salutatorian, Pasco County school district officials have set forth strict class ranking procedures aimed at avoiding a similar mess.

    The message to high school leaders, sent Sept. 22, details a month-long review of grade-point averages that culminates in an official mid March reveal.

    "It is important that during the school year when administration and school counselors meet with students to discuss their GPA and class rank, that students understand the class rank is unofficial until it is announced on March 12th," Teaching and Learning supervisor Samantha Del Valle wrote in her memo. "Schools should follow FERPA guidelines when discussing GPA and class rank information. This information should never be shared with other students, parents or media outlets."...

  3. Pasco schools director of instruction sent to assistant principal post

    Blog

    Rayann Mitchell, the Pasco County school district's director of Teaching and Learning, has taken a reassignment as assistant principal at West Zephyrhills Elementary School.

    Mitchell had been in her post since April 2016. During her time leading the department, she had dealt with some controversial issues, such as how to change grading models. ...

    Rayann Mitchell
  4. Florida education news: Shelter duty, charter schools, teacher pay and more

    Blog

    ON THE JOB TRAINING: Michael Vasallo learns how to run an evacuation shelter on his 21st day as principal of Dunedin Highland Middle School.

    CHARTER SCHOOLS: A new Hillsborough County charter school opens inside a shopping mall. • The Duval County School Board begins hearing improvement plans from struggling charter schools, the Florida Times-Union reports. • A Duval County charter school principal returns to work after a suspension over controversial social media comments, WJXT reports....

    First year principal Michael Vasallo, right, got called into hurricane shelter duty one month into his job.
  5. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Sept. 17, 2017

    Blog

    Florida was one of the first states to implement a test-based accountability system, and government leaders still supports its efforts wholeheartedly. When they filed their federal Every Student Succeeds Act plan this week, they made that clear, proposing a model that doesn't change the status quo much and doesn't always meet the federal rules. Catch up on this story and other highlights of the week's Florida education news below....

    President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Success Act into law in 2015.
  6. Only one Hernando County school needs schedule adjustment after Irma

    Blog

    Hernando County public school students missed seven days of classes because of Hurricane Irma.

    With the exception of those attending one school, they won't need to make up any of that time away.

    District officials announced Friday that the schools' master calendars included enough minutes going forward to meet the state's rules for instructional time. Education commissioner Pam Stewart eased the mandate Tuesday, waiving two days (or 10 hours) of the 180-day requirement....

    Challenger K-8 School served as a Hernando County shelter during Hurricane Irma. Students returned to classes Monday, and won't need to make up any missed time.
  7. Florida lawmaker again proposes ending third grade retention law

    Blog

    A court challenge of Florida's third-grade retention law may have failed, but that isn't stopping one state House member from continuing his effort to rewrite the rules.

    Rep. John Cortes, a Kissimmee Democrat with no education committee assignments, has refiled legislation seeking to end the practice of holding back third graders who don't earn a passing score on the state reading test or receive a good cause exemption. His effort last year did not get a hearing in its first committee of reference....

    A Florida lawmaker wants to stop mandatory retention of third graders who do not pass the state's reading test.
  8. Florida education news: Makeup days, accountability, charter schools and more

    Blog

    MAKEUP DAYS: The Pasco County school district alters the daily schedule of 11 schools to make up teaching time missed because of Hurricane Irma, avoiding the need to cancel vacation days. • The Collier County school district, which missed more time from the storm, will consider converting five non-student days to class days, the Naples Daily News reports. • Lee County school officials are looking at adding six days of classes to the calendar, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. • Polk County schools cancel early release days to account for the missed time, the Ledger reports....

    With students back in school after Hurricane Irma, schools across Florida begin scheduling makeup days for missed classroom time.
  9. 11 Pasco County schools get schedule changes to make up missed time from Irma

    Blog

    First, the good news. Pasco County families won't see their Thanksgiving break shortened to make up time missed from school during Hurricane Irma. 

    Nov. 20-21 had been on the school district calendar as potential hurricane makeup dates.

    In fact, the district won't be canceling any planned days off at all. Still, some but not all schools must add extra time into their schedules, even after the Florida Department of Education waived two of the required 180 days of instructional time for 2017-18....

    Pasco County teachers welcomed back their students on Monday, after six days off for Hurricane Irma.
  10. A little more on Florida's ESSA plan

    Blog

    After Florida submitted its ESSA plan late Wednesday, it quickly became clear that the waivers the state Department of Education planned to seek were no longer there....

    U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
  11. Pasco school rezoning Sunshine case set for trial

    Blog

    Having failed to reach a deal in mediation, lawyers for the Pasco County school district and the parents challenging a recent revision of west-side attendance zones went to court this week to schedule a trial.

    They scheduled four days -- Dec. 4-7 -- to argue the case, which focuses on whether some advisory committee members violated the state's open meetings law by privately discussing items they would later vote upon as their recommendation to the superintendent....

    Pasco school district attorney Dennis Alfonso questions superintendent Kurt Browning during a February administrative hearing over west-side school rezoning. That case remains on appeal.
  12. Gradebook podcast: The 'Is Hurricane Irma finally over?' edition

    Blog

    Schools across Florida began preparing for Hurricane Irma long before it ever arrived, its veering path creating anxiety for just about every Floridian at one point or another. Cafeteria workers, teachers, custodians, bus drivers, administrators and others jumped into action, often putting civic duty ahead of personal needs. District officials took no time in letting the public know of their important role. Reporters Jeff Solochek and Marlene Sokol discuss the districts' marketing effort, the complaints that surfaced over the part charter schools played (or didn't) in hurricane relief, and other issues that spun off the storm that tormented the state for more than a week. To see the video Marlene talks about, click here. Plus, conversations about Lee Elementary School after its fire, and the HB 7069 lawsuit: Who's in? Who's out? Who won't say? Welcome to the Gradebook podcast....

    The Hillsborough County school district created a video celebrating its employees as heroes of Hurricane Irma.
  13. Florida education news: Accountability plan, post-Irma, turnarounds and more

    Blog

    ACCOUNTABILITY: The Florida Department of Education submits a revised Every Student Succeeds Act plan without the waiver requests it had originally proposed. Experts and advocates are reviewing the latest version to see what's in it.

    AFTER IRMA: A Pinellas County middle school teacher returns to her classroom after it was used as a hurricane shelter to discover several books and games are missing. • Pinellas County schools announce part of their plan to make up missed days. Manatee County schools might use part of Thanksgiving break to account for the missed time, the Bradenton Herald reports. Volusia County schools set their makeup days, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • The Pasco County school district hires a consultant to help prepare its reimbursement claim to FEMA. The Flagler County school district has estimated its costs at about $500,000, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • Collier County schools are ready to reopen Monday, the Naples Daily News reports....

    High Point Elementary teacher Kristen Bierman works with English language learners on their reading skills. The state wants to test all students in English, saying it's Florida law.
  14. Florida submits its Every Student Succeeds Act plan

    Blog

    After months of planning and feedback, the Florida Department of Education submitted its federal Every Student Succeeds Act accountability plan on Wednesday.

    The plan had been due Monday, but the state won an extension because of Hurricane Irma.

    Originally, the department had intended to request waivers relating to percentages of students tested, assessment exemptions for English learners and the use of demographic subgroups to differentiate accountability....

  15. Pasco School Board approves budget with money for pay raises

    K12

    LAND O'LAKES — With no public input, the Pasco County School Board adopted a $1.19 billion budget Tuesday that officials have for months said would barely cover growth.

    In reviewing the spending plan, though, superintendent Kurt Browning revealed that the administration had set aside "an amount" for pay raises he previously suggested would not be coming.

    The documents didn't reveal the amount. Browning said later the item is subject to contract negotiations....

    School chief Kurt Browning said the amount for raises is subject to negotiations.