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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. Florida education news: Transgender students, school boundaries, food trucks and more


    GENDER ISSUES: Tampa Bay area school district officials say the Trump administration's latest rule on treatment of transgender students won't change their actions protecting students. The same holds true in south Florida, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Central Florida, too, the Orlando Sentinel reports....

  2. Florida lawmaker seeks to make it easier to challenge school instructional materials


    Every few years, a Florida lawmaker fixes on the topic of school materials that might offend, and how to root those out.

    Three years ago, Sen. Alan Hays proposed removing the state from the book selection process, so local leaders could better control the books read in area classrooms....

  3. Parents' challenges to Pasco school rezoning decisions to be heard next week


    When it comes to rezoning her Country Walk neighborhood to different schools, Larondar Stone doesn't worry too much about her freshman daughter, Niah.

    Niah is an advanced student, Stone said, and she's survived moves in the past.

    What troubles Stone more is the way the Pasco County School District approached its Jan. 17 rezoning decision.

    Officials set forth guidelines but didn't follow them, she said. They spoke of reaching conclusions based on numbers the public never saw, she added. Some advisory committee members appear to have discussed issues privately, too, Stone alleged....

    The Pasco County School Board heard from members of the public before redrawing school boundaries in January. [Photo by Jeffrey S. Solochek]
  4. Hearing dates shuffled for Pasco County school rezoning complaints


    East Pasco County parents fighting their school district's vote to redraw area attendance zones will have to wait a little longer to make their formal case.

    A similar case stemming from a west Pasco rezoning will get heard first. And because all involved anticipate the testimony will take longer than the one day set aside for a Division of Administrative Hearings session, the east side arguments will be delayed at least a week....

    Meetings on Pasco County school rezoning proposals drew large and often upset crowds from the outset in fall 2016.
  5. Florida education news: Machetes, tuition, laptops and more


    RENOVATIONS: The Pinellas County School Board pledges nearly $9 million to the renovation of Lakewood High School.

    SCHOOL SAFETY: A Lakewood High School student is arrested after authorities discover a 28-inch machete in his trombone case at school....

  6. Pasco County school workers' contract talks head to special hearing


    Teachers and bus drivers decked out in red filled the Pasco County School Board meeting Tuesday, urging the board to offer better pay raises in advance of scheduled special magistrate hearings on stalled contract talks.

    The session on school-related employee contracts is scheduled for Feb, 28, with the one on teacher contracts set for March 7. Money remains a major sticking point.

    Speaking to the board, the workers made that point abundantly clear....

  7. Florida lawmakers seek reduction of federal Title I, IDEA rules


    For its first bill of the 2017 session, the Florida House Education Committee decided to focus on fighting federal regulations rather than on testing, recess or other matters that have dominated discussion throughout the state.

    "We're going to boldly go where no man has gone before," vice chairman Rep. Bob Cortes said, riffing on the fact that the committee bill number 1701 matched the registry number of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek....

    State Rep. Bob Cortes discusses a bill to urge Congress to convert Title I funding into block grants Tuesday.
  8. Florida education news: School zones, recess, alternative programs and more


    SCHOOL ZONES: The Hillsborough County School Board discusses the need to reexamine all school attendance boundaries and make adjustments to rebalance enrollment. • The Palm Beach County School Board prepares to vote on attendance zone changes, the Palm Beach Post reports....

  9. Pasco County School Board to look into midyear principal transfers


    Some Pasco County parents continued Tuesday to complain about the unexpected, quick removal of principals from their schools this week.

    "Our school has gone from meh to excellent in the past four years," parent Lynn Moses said of Seven Springs Middle School. "I'm terribly disappointed that we've been told the borders of our school would be changing and ... we're losing our very fine principal."...

  10. Pasco County school district ponders student early release days


    Concerns that teachers aren't getting enough time to prepare for tougher academic standards and new instructional shifts have prompted Pasco County school district leaders to explore adding regular early release or late start days to the academic calendar.

    Still in preliminary stages of review, the idea would go into effect in 2018-19 if district leaders find the potential benefits outweigh the detriments. They'll be surveying principals, teachers and parents, as well as studying districts such as Hillsborough and Manatee that already have early release days in effect....

  11. Florida Department of Education looks at tougher passing scores for alternate tests


    High school juniors and seniors who haven't yet passed their exit-level language arts Florida Standards Assessment get another crack at the test at the end of this month.

    Their chance to retake any failed Algebra I end-of-course exam comes in March.

    They might think hard about if and when they want to take one of the state's approved alternate tests, which they can substitute for the state ones as graduation requirements if they score high enough. Because the Department of Education is taking a look at making the passing "concordant" scores higher....

  12. Gradebook podcast: State Rep. Ralph Massullo on compromise and 'legislation that works'


    Even though he's a freshman lawmaker, Rep. Ralph Massullo hasn't shied from taking on some of the biggest education issues facing Florida's public schools. He's filed bills seeking to change high school graduation test requirements and class size calculations, among other tough topics. Reporter Jeff Solochek spoke with Massullo, who sits on the PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee, about his views....

    State Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Citrus County
  13. Pasco students again can opt out of low-performing schools


    After a year hiatus, Florida's program allowing students at persistently low performing public schools to choose higher achieving nearby schools with space is again available.

    This year, children at five Pasco County schools that earned an F or three consecutive D grades from the state are eligible for the Opportunity Scholarships. The district has offered families the option of two C-rated campuses near each school....

  14. Florida education news: Daily recess, lottery funds, school vaccinations and more


    PLAY TIME: A state report shows that not all Florida school districts offer similar access to recess.

    PRESIDENT SEARCH: St. Petersburg College trustees want public input on the traits to seek in their next president....

  15. Most Florida teachers continue to get strong evaluation ratings


    Nearly all of Florida's evaluated public school teachers continued to receive strong reviews in 2015-16, according to newly released data from the state Department of Education.

    As in previous years, about 98 percent of teachers statewide rated either "highly effective" (42.9%) or "effective" (52.0%), with a tiny 0.2 percent receiving "unsatisfactory" marks, 0.7 percent as "developing" in their first three years, and 1.2 percent "needs improvement." Another 28,683 teachers were not evaluated....