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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: jsolochek@tampabay.com

Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

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  1. 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.
  2. 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....

  3. 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.
  4. Manatee County School Board won't join HB 7069 lawsuit

    Blog

    While the Pinellas County School Board was voting unanimously Tuesday to join the constitutional challenge of HB 7069, its neighbor to the south was taking a decidedly different stance.

    The Manatee County School Board narrowly defeated a proposal to give $6,000 to the yet-to-be-filed suit, calling it a waste of time and money....

    Manatee County School Board member John Colon
  5. Pasco School Board suggests moving slowly with Ridgewood High

    K12

    LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County School Board members appeared Tuesday to put the brakes on an aggressive plan to transform Ridgewood High School into a technical education campus by next fall, suggesting that even if it is a good idea, slowing down will make it better.

    "I'd like to see us maybe move toward it," board member Colleen Beaudoin said of the concept, calling for a longer phase-in to allow the district to better gauge student interest....

    School Board member Steve Luikart, right, discusses options for Ridgewood High as member Alison Crumbley looks on. Trying to make changes by next year is “jumping the gun,” he said.
  6. Pasco County school district to hire consultant to help with FEMA claim

    Blog

    During Hurricane Irma, the Pasco County school district opened 22 schools to more than 22,500 residents and 2,000 pets. District staff worked the shelters, fed the evacuees, transported home those who needed a ride, then cleaned up afterward.

    The employees who volunteered to work during the storm earned 1.5 times their regular salaries for their effort, which residents and officials alike roundly praised....

    Custodians wiped down the walls at all Pasco County schools that served as shelters as part of the storm cleanup. All staff that worked during Irma got paid time and a half.
  7. Permanent pay raises key for future success, Pasco school officials argue

    Blog

    With the Florida Legislature's committee meetings less than a month away, Pasco County school district leaders set forth the priorities they'll be pushing during the 2018 session.

    Improved pay for teachers and staff was high on the list.

    "I think we ought to be increasing teachers' salaries, and I think we need to do that with the state's help," superintendent Kurt Browning told the School Board on Tuesday....

    Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning
  8. Florida education news: Irma makeup days, HB 7069, charter schools and more

    Blog

    MAKEUP DAYS: Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart waives two of the required 180 days of instruction to help districts complete the academic year after missing several for Hurricane Irma. District leaders say they are reviewing their calendars to determine how to make up the rest of the time. They could add days back to the calendar, or adjust the daily schedule to add minutes. Some districts, such as Escambia and Santa Rosa, won't have to make changes at all, the Pensacola News-Journal reports. More from the Gainesville Sun, Fort Myers News-Press, Orlando Sentinel • Some Monroe County schools will remain closed for the foreseeable future, the Miami Herald reports. More from the Keynoter. • One Palm Beach County school cancels classes midday as power fails, the Palm Beach Post reports....

    Education Commissioner Pam Stewart
  9. Education commissioner Pam Stewart offers Florida schools two days for Irma

    Blog

    Florida school districts that closed before, during and after Hurricane Irma received some slight relief Tuesday from the state Department of Education.

    Commissioner Pam Stewart advised superintendents that she would waive two days from the state requirement that districts hold 180 days of classes.

    Read her full letter for more details....

  10. Florida Supreme Court tosses Palm Beach case on charter school approvals

    Blog

    With a simple two-sentence memo, the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the state Board of Education's power to overturn school board denials of charter school applications.

    The court declined to accept juridsiction over the Palm Beach County School Board's case, which challenged the state's authority, and instead left intact the January ruling of the Fourth District Court of Appeal that affirmed the state's role....

  11. How are Florida school boards able to hold budget hearings tonight?

    Blog

    Several Florida school boards, including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, have set their final budget public hearings and votes for after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

    They had been scheduled to act on Sept. 12. Hurricane Irma interfered.

    The quick turnaround did not allow school districts to provide what generally might be considered adequate public notice. How can that happen?

    In this case, Gov. Rick Scott anticipated the probable need to alter the plans, and made provisions for it in his Sept. 4 executive order regarding Irma. Scott granted the Department of Revenue executive director the authority to waive the timing requirements of state law with regard to the setting of non ad valorem tax rates....

  12. Florida education news: Free lunch, school routines, spending cuts and more

    Blog

    FREE LUNCH: Hurricane Irma caused many families to go without income for a week. Many also lost power, and along with it the food in their refrigerators and freezers. Making matters worse, replacing it isn't so easy, as grocery stores have limited supplies. Hoping to ease the burden, the state has asked for and received permission for 48 counties including those in the Tampa Bay region to provide free meals to all students through October 20. If families will continue to need assistance after that date, they will have to apply....

  13. Time to get 'back to routine' as much as possible in Florida schools

    Blog

    Principal Teresa Love greeted her Odessa Elementary staff back to work Monday with a smile and a cheerful "good morning," so everyone could get right into the business of the day.

    Students would soon return after six class days away, and Love wanted to get her Pasco County school -- which days earlier had housed 950 Hurricane Irma evacuees and their 125 pets -- back to learning as soon as possible....

    Odessa Elementary fifth grade teachers Jennifer James and Scott Ortolano review math lesson plans Monday for their students, who would arrive an hour later.
  14. Florida revises fall testing schedule for storm-impacted students

    Blog

    Hurricane Irma might have interrupted student testing. But it won't put an end to it.

    The Florida Department of Education has posted a revised schedule for this month's end-of-course exam retakes in biology, civics, U.S. history, algebra I and geometry, allowing the assessments to begin Sept. 18 but extending the final date until a time to be set in the future. It did the same for the 10th grade language arts retake....

  15. Florida education news: Hurricane Irma, teacher evaluations, Baker Act and more

    Blog

    AFTER THE STORM: Children and teachers across much of Florida return to school Monday after a week or more away because of Hurricane Irma. Getting back to normal will — and should — take some time, experts say. • Hillsborough school district officials are conducting a survey to help determine how to make up the lost time. Palm Beach County officials also are looking at makeup planning, the Palm Beach Post reports. • Marion County school employees helped guide their county's shelter operations, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. • Many Miami-Dade County schools face obstacles to reopening, the Miami Herald reports. • The severity of the storm might lead lawmakers to reconsider building standards for charter schools, WLRN reports. • Monroe County schools aggressively target Sept. 25 as their reopening date, the Keynoter reports....