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Marlene Sokol, Times Staff Writer

Marlene Sokol

Marlene Sokol has worked at the Times as a reporter, editor and columnist since 1988. After launching North of Tampa in 1996, she served first as its editor and later as a general assignment reporter specializing in the suburbs. She now covers education in Hillsborough County.

Phone: (813) 226-3356

  1. A new principal in Sulphur Springs K-8


    Who will fill Julie Scardino's shoes at Sulphur Springs K-8 School?

    The Hillsborough district went all the way to Chicago to replace her.

    Chantel Angeletti comes from Byrne Elementary School, where she has worked since 2015.

    Before that she worked as a lead teacher, instructional support leader and assistant principal at schools in Chicago.

    Scardino is now the principal of Egypt Lake Elementary...

  2. Robert E. Lee Elementary Take II


    Near the end of Tuesday's 3 p.m. School Board meeting, there could be another discussion of Robert E. Lee Elementary, a predominantly African American school in Tampa Heights that is named for a Civil War Confederate general.

    The school renaming issue is on the agenda as an information item. The applicable district policies - including the one that makes renaming a school an 18-month process -- are here....

    This gentleman did not speak at the last Hillsborough County School Board meeting, just observed as others debated the suitability of Robert E. Lee as a name for an elementary school.
  3. Gibson, what it means so far


    In response to questions asked at last week's Hillsborough County School Board budget workshop, the administsration issued this report on what it has done so far to implement recommendations from the Gibson Consulting Group.

    The three reports covered a lot of ground, and some areas show more progress than others....

  4. Teacher hiring freeze is lifted in Hillsborough


    Teachers, come work in Hillsborough County!

    A teacher hiring freeze, imposed eary this month so the district could take stock of which vacancies it needed to fill, has been lifted, effective Tuesday, Superintendent Jeff Eakins said Monday.

    But that only goes for classroom vacancies. Vacancies outside the classroom are still frozen. And bus driver hiring never stopped.

    About 500 jobs are affected by Monday's decision. "We want to ensure we are focusing on the classroom and that our students have the best teachers in front of them on the first day of school," Eakins said....

  5. Charter schools and where they get their students


    If you were listening at the beginning of Tuesday's day-long Hillsborough County School Board budget workshop, you heard district leaders say they project 21,626 charter school students when classes resume in Aug. 10.

    That's a huge jump from the past year's 17,723, and about one tenth of all students.

    But charters are all the rage, and cutbacks in bus service for middle and high school students might be a game-changer for some families....

    Students eat lunch at Kids Community College in Riverview
  6. Hillsborough schools' budget woes were worse than we knew


    TAMPA — Two years after a financial meltdown that Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins refused to call "a crisis," he told a roomful of district employees just how bad things were.

    The main reserve account lost $83.6 million between 2014 and 2015. And that was after the district transferred $55 million in, much of it from a workers compensation fund.

    The nation's eighth-largest school district, it turns out, was on track to lose another $130 million or more the next year. "That would have put us below zero dollars," Eakins said Tuesday....

    Hillsborough schools superintendent Jeff Eakins told the School Board that he has outlined steps to prepare for the coming year.
  7. Speaker Richard Corcoran to Hillsborough schools: Stop blaming the Legislature while you waste money


    TAMPA — As it attempts to put its financial house in order, the Hillsborough County School District is being made a poster child for runaway public school spending.

    The accuser: Richard Corcoran, the Republican state lawmaker from Land O'Lakes and a driving force behind this year's sweeping public education bill.

    His message: The bill (HB 7069) is not why district officials are struggling to pay their expenses. Rather, Corcoran told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday, "It's their bloat, inefficiency and gross over-spending. Their problem is their mismanagement."...

    Richard Corcoran said much of his criticism referred to the prior adminis?tration.
  8. Budget woes force the Hillsborough school district to rethink its role as a job provider


    TAMPA — At one time or another, five members of Carrie Williams' family have worked for the Hillsborough County School District.

    Three still do, all at Shaw Elementary School in North Tampa.

    Ashley Williams, 28, is a secretary. Savon Williams, 23, is an assistant teacher. Their mother, 47, is the principal's secretary.

    "I trained them not to call me 'Mom' at work," said Williams, a school district employee since 1999....

    With 26,000 people on its payroll, the Hillsborough County school district takes pride in its role as the area’s top employer. But budget woes are forcing the district to take a hard look at reducing its workforce. []
  9. Sunshine notice


    IMPORTANT: Anyone attending the Hillsborough school board workshop on the budget, a day-long event, will need to head east to the district's Silo Bend facility just east of Brandon.

    The board also is doing some of its business in committees and, since these groups have multiple board members, they are open to the public under the Sunshine law.

    Here's this week's lineup:...

  10. No quick thaw for Hillsborough hiring freeze


    The Hillsborough County School District continues to comb through its payrolls in trying to determine where it must hire, and which vacancies it can absorb.

    In other words: The hiring freeze continues.

    This notice went out to principals at the end of the work week:...

  11. New principals in Hillsborough


    These principal appointments were approved Tuesday by the Hillsborough County School Board:

    Brandon EPIC3 Center: Cornelius Bobo, 49. Bobo joined the school district in 1993 and worked last as principal of the North Tampa EPIC3 Center.

    Cahoon Elementary School and Van Buren Middle School: Ovett Wilson, 38. This move was widely expected, as Wilson has earned rave reviews since taking over as principal of Van Buren in late 2015. Wilson joined the school district in 2002 to teach at Middleton High School. He became an assistant principal at Chamberlain High in 2007 and then held administrative posts at Ferrell Middle and Van Buren, which he joined in 2014. ...

    Cornelius Bobo is the new principal of the Brandon EPIC3 Center
  12. The who, the where, the why, and who's upset about it


    The Hillsborough County School Board approved 39 administrative appointments at its meeting Tuesday.

    Seven were adopted unanimously.

    The other 32, listed on two pages, were approved 6-1 with board member April Griffin dissenting.

    Her reason: Not enough transparency in the decision to staff the area offices with principal coaches who will also assume some duties of a deputy area superintendent, at a time when finances are forcing the district to pare down its workforce....

    Superintendent Jeff Eakins said he has saved millions by paring the school district's downtown bureaucracy, and that his appointments Tuesday represented a savings of $650,000.
  13. As Confederate monuments fall, Tampa's Robert E. Lee Elementary could get name change


    TAMPA — Add the Hillsborough County School District to institutions that are being asked to reconsider their monuments to the Old South.

    Robert E. Lee Elementary School might get a new name.

    But that process, something that is already happening in school districts around the country, will take at least 18 months, according to a district policy designed to avoid frequent name changes....

    Robert E. Lee Elementary School was given its name in 1943. Supporters of a name change want to rename it Woodson Elementary, after a historian who lobbied for Black History Month.
  14. Teacher hiring freeze in Hillsborough could impact disadvantaged students the most


    TAMPA — With classes starting in under two months, the Hillsborough County School District has frozen teacher hiring as it takes stock of its needs.

    But depending on how long the freeze lasts, filling hundreds of jobs could create a scramble with a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable students.

    An analysis of 588 instructional vacancies listed on the district website last week showed more than 20 percent are in special education jobs, teaching students with autism, emotional behavioral disabilities and other classifications....

    Six teacher vacancies were posted last week at Lockhart Elementary School. That number, though, might not be exact.
  15. Hillsborough's rankings in the FSA race


    Sifting through the mountain of FSA and End of Course data that was released on Thursday, Hillsborough district officials found some bright spots worth showcasing, including gains at some of their more difficult schools.

    The results included a 27 point improvement, measured by the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 or above, in 4th grade math at Edison Elementary, one of seven high-needs Elevate schools; and sharp jumps in fourth grade English language arts (19 points) and math (24 points) at Gibsonton Elementary, a state turnaround school....