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Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writer

Thomas C. Tobin

Tom Tobin is Assistant Metro Editor / Education, Health & Medicine at the Tampa Bay Times. He has worked at the Times since 1988, serving much of that time as a government reporter. He also has reported on the Church of Scientology periodically since 1996.

As the Times' state reporter, he covered the 2000 presidential recount in Florida and wrote about subsequent efforts to retool the state's election machinery. From 2003 to 2009, he covered education, focusing on school board issues, school finance, the achievement gap and desegregation.

Born in St. Louis, Mo., he lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Kathleen, and their three children.

Phone: (727) 893-8923


  1. Here are Pinellas County's most popular school choice programs


    More than 11,000 students applied this year to enter Pinellas County school choice programs in 2017-18, and the results are in. Once again, the district's fundamental schools were the most popular among families, followed closely by top magnet programs.

    The application process took place in January and February, but the school district didn't release the numbers until this month. In addition to fundamental schools and magnet programs, Pinellas offers career academies on its menu of choice offerings....

    A mother and son walk to Bay Vista Fundamental in St. Petersburg, one of several fundamental schools that are popular with Pinellas County parents, based on recently released application totals for the 2017-18 academic year. More than 11,000 Pinellas familes applied this year for choice programs, which also include magnets and career academies. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  2. One state says no to school grades as school accountability continues to evolve


    Some of the standard features of the school accountability movement are continuing to come into question this year. We're seeing it in Florida with legislative proposals to significantly pare back testing and stop tying tests to teacher evaluations. And today in Michigan, that state's education superintendent Brian Whiston has dropped plans to start an A-F school grading system....

    Students at Classical Preparatory School in Pasco County.
  3. For a Better Florida: An education checklist for the 2017 session includes raising up Florida's universities, reducing testing, fixing teacher bonuses


    Florida spends 51 percent of all the tax revenue it collects on education — which, if you ask folks in the education world, is a blessing and a curse when it comes to the Legislature.

    The amount of money spent commands the lawmakers' attention, and that's the level of interest that education deserves. The curse: Sometimes that attention leads to the kind of ill-advised tinkering that ends up wasting everyone's time and energy. ...

    Just more than half of state tax revenue goes to education, bringing a lot of attention and a tendency to tinker.
  4. A Scientology battle like no other: Miscavige versus Miscavige

    Special Topics

    It says in Chapter 36 that the Church of Scientology is great for families.

    Scientologists communicate more freely, raising "their capacity to love other people." Family bonds "strengthen dramatically." And church members "take deep pride in their record of resolving family problems and conflicts."

    The words come from What is Scientology?, a volume the church first published in 1992 as it sought greater acceptance from a wary public....

    The Miscavige siblings from left: David, Denise, Ronnie and Lori. The photo is from 1975. A few months later, David Miscavige left high school at age 16 to join Scientology's Sea Org in Clearwater. Within months, he was transferred to California to work with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, a move that launched his rise in the church. [Courtesy, Ron Miscavige]
  5. Florida university presidents weigh in on Trump order; noon protest at USF


    The presidents of two of Florida's largest universities have weighed in on President Trump's executive order on immigration as protests over the action moved to college campuses Monday -- including the University of South Florida.

    Tampa Bay Times higher education writer Claire McNeill is at a noon rally on USF's Tampa campus. Follow her at @clairemcneill for updates....

    Kent Fuchs, president of the University of Florida
  6. Florida education news: Catholic school enrollment, a third-grade snafu, useful research and more


    UPSWING: The Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg is bucking national trends with increasing enrollment, and its new school superintendent aims to keep it that way.

    TESTING NEWS: A glitch involving the state's third-grade reading test at a Duval County elementary school puts at least one student in limbo, the Florida Times-Union reports....

  7. Holiday greetings, and some thoughts about the abbreviated summer


    Happy Fourth of July, dear readers. Our daily roundup of Florida education news will resume on Tuesday. But before we go, a few musings as this holiday weekend puts us about halfway through the very short summer of 2016.

    The other day, we stumbled on this page, which contains a spreadsheet titled "2016-17 School District Calendars" published by the Florida Department of Education. It's accompanied by a summary, which says: “Students in 40 of the 75 school districts will begin the 2016-17 school year in Florida as early as August 10, 2016. There are 23 districts that will begin on August 15, 2016, with the latest start date on August 22, 2016.”...

  8. Florida education news: School grading concerns, a rogue charter operator and more


    DOWNGRADED: Educators across Florida are worried that school grades, due out this month, will be lower because of the state's new, tougher rating system, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The paper also reports on a new adult education center in South Apopka and salaries totaling nearly $220,000 for the Orange County school system's new media relations staff....

  9. Florida education news: A hiring scandal, a heated impasse, a busy school board election and more


    MEA CULPA: The University of South Florida fires the leader of its advertising and mass communications school and makes changes after an independent review uncovers a serious lapse in the hiring process.

    AT ODDS: Emotions simmer as the St. Johns County School Board, working into Friday morning, sides with its administration during an impasse hearing. The district and teachers union are headed back to the bargaining table, the St. Augustine Record reports....

  10. Florida education news: UCF's downtown campus, one high school's botched exams and more


    TAKING SHAPE: The University of Central Florida chooses a team to design and construct its $60 million campus in downtown Orlando, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

    FLUBBED: Newly released documents shed more light on a testing mistake last month that caused more than 300 AP exams to be invalidated at Orange County's Lake Nona High School, the Orlando Sentinel reports....

  11. Florida education news: Pinellas changes direction, Hillsborough shakes it up, Broward offers a big new benefit and more


    NEW FOCUS: Pinellas County school officials unveil a strategic plan that puts more emphasis on helping minority students.

    FRESH START: In a milestone moment for his still-new administration, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins announces a major shake-up of the district's top leadership....

  12. Florida education news: Fears of a contentious transgender debate, Alachua's new interim leader and more


    BACKING AWAY: The Hillsborough County School Board, citing fears of a contentious meeting, cancels a scheduled vote on adding protections for transgender students.

    TEMPORARY FIX: The Alachua County School Board appoints a familiar face, Sandy Hollinger, to run the district until its finds a permanent superintendent to replace Owen Roberts, the Gainesville Sun reports....

  13. Florida education news: A Best and Brightest development, search for an interim superintendent and more


    ANOTHER CHALLENGE: An attorney representing the state teachers union says the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating Florida's controversial Best and Brightest bonus plan, the Naples Daily News reports....

  14. Florida education news: Election developments, teacher hiring and more


    FULL SLATE: The school board races take shape in Duval County, where 12 candidates are running for four seats, the Florida Times-Union reports.

    TEACHERS WANTED: Volusia County schools are in a hiring mode even as the teachers union is taking legal action against the district, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports....

  15. Florida education news: Charter troubles, expulsions, a nifty school district app and more


    OUT OF TIME: Pinellas County school officials make a late bid to absorb two troubled charters, but the numbers don't work in the end.

    UPTICK: The Manatee County School Board prepares to expel a middle school student for bringing a BB gun to campus. That will make seven expulsions since August in a district where the last one before that was in 2009, the Bradenton Herald reports....