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Colleen Wright, Times Staff Writer

Colleen Wright

Colleen Wright covers Pinellas County Schools since joining the Times in 2015. Florida born and bred, she was raised in Miami and graduated from the University of Florida.

Phone: (727) 893-8643


Twitter: @Colleen_Wright

  1. 17-year-old stages robbery, slashes pregnant stepmother, Largo police say


    LARGO — A 17-year-old boy was arrested after he stabbed his pregnant stepmother while in disguise and staged a burglary to make it look like someone else committed the crime, police say.

    Nathan Singhavong was arrested on Tuesday on charges of attempted homicide, battery on someone aged 65 or older and tampering with physical evidence. He was taken to the Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center....

  2. Student targeted in 2013 attack at Calvin Hunsinger School sues Pinellas district


    It's been four years since Vanessa Chauvin left Calvin Hunsinger School in an ambulance after a classmate grabbed her ponytail and repeatedly kneed her stomach and face.

    Fourteen years old at the time, she suffered a concussion, broken jaw and cracked eye socket. At the time, her parents vowed to sue the Pinellas County school district.

    Chauvin, now 18, and her parents, LoriAnn and David Chauvin, have made good on that pledge with a lawsuit in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court against the district and the classmate who attacked her. Because the classmate is still a minor, she is being sued through her parents, identified as M.D. and P.D....

    In 2013, Vanessa Chauvin, then 14, was attacked by another student at Calvin A. Hunsinger School. She has filed a lawsuit.
  3. Poynter panel lets Pinellas school officials tell their own story about school turnaround


    Pinellas County school district officials say they want to write their own story.

    In front of dozens of local dignitaries and journalists who traveled across the country to learn about school segregation, they told one Thursday about how their most struggling schools are turning around. It starts with the right leadership, passionate teachers, warm and welcoming learning environments -- and positivity....

  4. Two University of Florida alumni make one last trek from St. Petersburg to their beloved Burrito Bros. Taco Co.

    Food & Dining

    It was a headline we hoped to never read as alumni: "Burrito Bros. to close down Saturday, owner confirms."

    The online story posted Jan. 30 by the Independent Florida Alligator, the student newspaper of our alma mater the University of Florida, clouded our social media feeds.

    Rapid-fire texts, and expletives, ensued.

    "I need to mourn."

    "Oh no."

    "Dude let's go."...

    Kathryn Varn, left, and Colleen Wright, who frequented Burrito Bros. Taco Co. as University of Florida students, made a pilgrimage to the restaurant one last time before it closed on Feb. 4.
  5. Another former student sues Clearwater Central Catholic over wrestling coach's conduct


    A second Clearwater Central Catholic High alumnus is taking legal action against the school and its former wrestling coach, saying the coach abused him.

    According to a lawsuit filed Feb. 2 in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, the plaintiff, identified as "John Doe II," alleges that the coach, Scott E. Stern, required him to take a drug test in the summer of 2011, his first year at the school. When the student tested positive for marijuana, Stern told the student that Stern could either punish him or tell his mother, the lawsuit said....

    Scott E. Stern was Clearwater Central Catholic’s wrestling coach from 2003 to 2014.
  6. Principal at Pasadena Fundamental Elementary resigns amid investigation


    ST. PETERSBURG — The principal of Pasadena Fundamental Elementary has resigned and is under investigation by the Pinellas County School District.

    Officials confirmed Friday that Daniel L. Brennan, 42, who has led the school since 2012, resigned Wednesday. District spokeswoman Melanie Parra would not disclose the reason for the investigation, which is being conducted by the Office of Professional Standards....

    Daniel Brennan
  7. Pinellas' Meadowlawn Middle experimented with no bells, too


    Silence is golden for students and staff at Seminole High.

    Eliminating the use of bells to signal class changes has worked so far for the Warhawks this year, but they weren't alone in experimenting with bell-free school days.

    Meadowlawn Middle in St. Petersburg also did away with bells in August, said principal Claudius Effiom. Like Seminole High principal Tom Brittain, Effiom also mulled over how he could expand tenets of Meadowlawn's personalized learning magnet, a program that gives students "voice and choice" in their learning, to the rest of the school....

    Claudius Effiom has served as the principal of Meadowlawn Middle since 2013.
  8. Pinellas' Summer Bridge registration opens this month


    Registration for Summer Bridge, Pinellas County's method of reducing students' "summer slide," opens Feb. 27.

    The program, which was created in 2013 to catch struggling students of all grades up to speed and keep good students on track, has expanded to 42 elementary school sites, 15 middle school sites and 19 high school sites. Last year, nearly 12,000 students attended the four-day weeks out of 17,000 who enrolled....

  9. Seminole High says goodbye to a schoolhouse staple — the bell


    SEMINOLE — Some stole glances at their cellphones, others peered down at their watches. They just knew second period was coming to an end.

    At 8:43 a.m., two minutes before their blended English and world history block officially ended, 40 or so Seminole High sophomores poured into the hallway, bound for their next class.

    There was no monotone bell blaring from above — the familiar noise that, until this year, had dictated every school day throughout their educational careers. ...

    Students at Seminole High School are seen in this image as they walk the halls Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 in Seminole. Seminole High is the first school in Pinellas County to turn off bells to signal class changes. [COLLEEN WRIGHT   |   Times]
  10. Now-closed Pinellas West Coast Academy High charter school sued by landlord for unpaid rent


    The embattled Pinellas Westcoast Academy High may have closed its doors for good in December, but financial issues still dog the Clearwater charter school.

    The school's nonprofit board is being sued by its landlord, Clearwater Collection 15 and Clearwater Plainfield 15, for unpaid rent for November and December. The lawsuit was filed Jan. 24 in Pinellas County circuit court....

  11. Pinellas Educator of the Year: a math teacher who brings 'a nurturing heart' to the equation


    Vanessa Ko has two types of students.

    The children in her classes at Palm Harbor Middle, and fellow educators in the districtwide training she gives on the college prep program, Advancement Via Individual Determination, known as AVID.

    Ko, 35, received a standing ovation from many of them Tuesday night as she was named the 2017 Pinellas County Outstanding Educator of the Year during a ceremony at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. The recognition from the school district and the Pinellas Education Foundation comes with $2,000, a vacation for two and the traditional limo ride to school this morning, among other prizes....

    Vanessa Ko is the 2017 Outstanding Educator of the Year for Pinellas County Schools. She is a math teacher Palm Harbor Middle. [Pinellas Schools]
  12. Pinellas School Board, Juvenile Welfare Board, County Commissioners meet for joint workshop today


    The Juvenile Welfare Board and Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners will join the Pinellas School Board at a joint workshop today to discuss at-risk youth, school nurses and homelessness.

    The workshop, which begins at 10:30 a.m. at the school district's Largo headquarters, will feature presentations on those four categories.

    Powerpoints posted online show that the Juvenile Welfare Board spent more money on resources in south St. Petersburg in fiscal year 2014-15, spending $9.4 million to serve 4,500 people....

  13. Gainesville mainstay Burrito Brothers closing after 40 years


    For 40 years, locals, students and burrito fiends knew exactly where to find the most popular burrito in Gainesville.

    A wooden door beside a brick church building led hungry customers to an alley that opened up to a patio. Sometimes, long sprawling lines gave away the restaurant's inconspicuous location....

    Burrito Brothers Taco Company owners Randy Akerson and Janet Akerson seen in 2000. They opened the original Burrito Brothers in 1976. [Times files]
  14. Rocco Gandolfo, son of Mike Gandolfo, remains in coma after Jan. 13 crash


    Rocco Gandolfo, the 23-year-old son of Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president Mike Gandolfo, is on his 17th day of being in a coma since he was injured in a car crash earlier this month

    Mike Gandolfo posted a message on his Facebook page Sunday updating friends and family on Rocco's condition. He shared that message with the Times:...

  15. 'Recess moms' want to keep you informed


    There are many education issues that aren't in the presidential election limelight such as testing, recess and school nurses.

    Pinellas County parents Christie Bruner and Stephanie Cox, the self-proclaimed "recess moms" who last year lobbied for mandatory daily recess in elementary schools statewide, have created a website with information on where local candidates stand on school health issues. ...

    First and second graders have recess at Sexton Elementary School in St. Petersburg in December. Pinellas "recess moms" have created a website to keep parents informed on where local politicians stand on school health issues.