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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

E-mail: cwright@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Colleen_Wright

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  1. Largo police: Pinellas school teacher arrested on child pornography charges

    Crime

    LARGO — A sixth-grade social studies teacher was arrested Tuesday after police said they found child pornography on his computer.

    The pornography, which police said was found on the personal laptop of Robert James Plotkin, was downloaded from the Internet and included images of children ages 3 to 17. But none of the teacher's students were included in those images, said Largo police Lt. Joe Coyle....

    Robert James Plotkin, a 57-year-old teacher at Clearwater Intermediate, was arrested Tuesday on 10 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of tampering with physical evidence, according to Largo police. [Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Pinellas applies for grant to strengthen, expand magnet programs

    Blog

    The Pinellas County school district has applied for a $15 million, five-year federal grant through the Magnet Schools of America program to enhance and expand existing magnet programs.

    If awarded, the schools would begin accepting additional students in the 2018-19 school year. School district officials don't expect to hear back from the program until later this year or early 2018.

    Bill Lawrence, the district's director of student demographics, assignment and school capacity, said the application's strength lies in making feeder program pathways from Kindergarten to 12th grade. For example, grant dollars would be used to enhance the "tech triangle" between Bay Point Elementary, Bay Point Middle and Lakewood High....

  3. Catapult Academy, a school for at-risk students, may open in Pinellas

    Blog

    Another school option for Pinellas County's at-risk youth may be available beginning in August.

    School district officials broached the idea at a School Board workshop on Tuesday of opening a Catapult Academy campus in St. Petersburg for up to 200 over-age middle school students, high school students at risk of dropping out and students returning from Department of Juvenile Justice programs. The school would offer a blended learning model of in-person and online instruction in two, five-hour sessions daily....

  4. Family says continued bullying of their daughter led to them suing St. Petersburg school

    Civil

    ST. PETERSBURG — When a student falls victim to a bully, the problem usually can be handled at school. But one family says they were forced to go to court after a girl kept bullying their daughter and school officials could not keep her safe.

    Tracy and Jared Samon say the girl their daughter identified as the bully has gone unpunished for repeated assaults and taunting, and they are suing Lutheran Church of the Cross Day School as well as the girl's parents, Russell and Blythe Holecek....

    Lutheran Church of the Cross Day School in St. Petersburg, the site of a dispute over bullying that has landed in court. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Pinellas sheriff: Search continues for two missing men swept into Gulf of Mexico

    Public Safety

    ST. PETE BEACH — It was supposed to be a spring break cruise along the Gulf of Mexico for 15 international students visiting Florida. But the waters were so rough Tuesday that the boat they chartered didn't get that far.

    After leaving Maximo Marina, the choppy surf forced captain Todd Davis to anchor the Jaguar, a 71-foot Sea Ray boat, before it could make it past Shell Key. The students, all from China, asked if they could jump into the water....

     A boat from Eckerd College searches for two missing boaters off of Pass-A-Grille Beach, in choppy Gulf waters,  on Wednesday, March 15, 2017.
  6. Rapper Pitbull gives shoutout to Hillsborough charter school

    Blog

    This past weekend, a Times reporter (spoiler alert: it's me) embarked on a three-night music festival cruise out of Miami with the city's self-proclaimed ambassador: the rapper Pitbull.

    While Mr. Worldwide (Armando Christian Perez) is known for a lot of things, like his collaborative party anthems and his signature catchphrase ¡Dale!, he's quickly making a name for himself in the education sector....

    Pitbull performs at 93.3's Jingle Ball at Amalie Arena in Tampa in December 2016.
  7. Pinellas nationally recognized as model district for teachers

    Blog

    Pinellas County is one of eight school districts nationwide that were recognized in a new program that awards districts for going above and beyond to support and encourage teachers.

    The announcement for the Great Districts for Great Teachers winners was made Tuesday at the South by Southwest EDU conference in Austin, Texas. Pinellas was honored for its professional development practices -- particularly its Deliberate Practice Plan -- and supporting new teachers....

  8. Review: Netflix's millennial rom-com 'Love' grows up a little in Season 2

    Blog

    The sophomore season of Netflix's millennial rom-com Love picks up right where Season 1 left off, in a gas station where a defeated Gus is hauling junk food to eat his feelings until Mickey heroically shows up for what may be her deepest scene - and a turning point: her raw confession that she's an addict.

    But not just any addict. Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) is a drug addict and a sex and love addict. She tells Gus (Paul Rust) that she wants to swear off a relationship for a year to get back on track.
    Start taking bets on how long that lasts. If you guessed barely an episode, you've clearly seen this show before....

  9. Complaint filed against ousted Pasadena Fundamental principal

    Blog

    The president of the countywide Parent Teacher Association council has filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office against Daniel Brennan, the former principal of Pasadena Fundamental. 

    Brennan, 43, resigned in lieu of termination on Feb. 8 after an internal Pinellas school district investigation found that he mishandled and could not account for more than $5,000 given to him by the school PTA. ...

  10. John Hopkins Middle families sue Pinellas school district for ending reading program

    Blog

    Both of Tracie Boykin’s sons have had trouble reading.

    Her oldest, Jahlon Holland, got help from a reading program called First 25 while he attended John Hopkins Middle. That program is no longer available for her younger son, Jadarius Boykin, a current sixth grader at the school, who is struggling in all of his classes.

    The Boykins, along with John Hopkins classmate Malik Williams and his mother Camille Archie are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Saturday against the Pinellas County school district for allegedly conspiring to end the program that aimed to help disadvantaged black students. The lawsuit also names superintendent Mike Grego, deputy superintendent Bill Corbett and area superintendent Bob Poth as individual defendants....

  11. Woman accused of killing a man who impregnated her girlfriend

    Crime

    Before he was shot dead outside his home in 2015, authorities say, Christopher Wayne Rotenberger was in a longtime relationship with a woman who was carrying their child.

    The girlfriend, Stephanie Dalrymple, also was carrying on an intimate relationship with another woman at the time, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

    Deputies say that in the days before Rotenberger's death, the other woman, Priscilla "Dawn" Houck, obtained a gun and plotted to kill him. They say she carried out that plan about 3:30 a.m. Nov. 11, 2015, outside the home at 8640 Flamevine Ave. near Seminole....

    Priscilla Houck, 38, is charged with first-degree murder.
  12. State redesigns expressway so Showtime Speedway can stay

    Transportation

    PINELLAS PARK — The Showtime Speedway, once thought to be a temporary attraction until a connecting road was built, is here to stay.

    State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and speedway's owner Bob Yoho recently announced that a compromise was made with the Florida Department of Transportation to reconfigure a planned road connecting Interstate 275 to the Bayside Bridge so that it bypasses the speedway. The change will allow the quarter-mile, figure-8 speedway and dragstrip originally named the Sunshine Speedway to continue operating....

    The state Department has reconfigured a road so the Showtime Speedway can stay. Times files
  13. St. Petersburg shooting leaves one man dead, another wounded

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — One man is dead and another wounded after a Thursday morning shooting in Bartlett Park, according to St. Petersburg police.

    Officers said they found Adrian Lee Wilson, 38, wounded and lying in the road, a few feet from a bike, near 720 16th Ave. S. About 70 yards away, in an alley behind 731 Paris Ave. S, officers found 24-year-old Frankie Camacho dead.

    Police received a report of gunshots at 10:24 a.m. Detectives believe both men were involved in the shooting, but did not release any other details....

    St. Petersburg police examine the scene of a shooting in the 700 block of 16th Avenue S. One man was found wounded near a bike and another dead behind homes in a nearby alley. [Sara DiNatale   |   Times]
  14. Palm Harbor pipe break closes outside northbound lane of U.S. 19 at Curlew Road

    Roads

    PALM HARBOR — The outside northbound lane of U.S. 19 north of Curlew Road was closed Tuesday afternoon following a sewer pipe break that caused a depression in the roadway.

    According to Pinellas County officials, the easternmost lane of the highway was shut down while crews assessed the damage. The county asked that drivers move one lane over for the safety of workers fixing the pipe. Businesses in the surrounding area are still accessible....

  15. Principal ousted from Pasadena Fundamental Elementary mishandled school funds, Pinellas investigation finds

    K12

    LARGO — Daniel L. Brennan, who resigned Feb. 8 as principal of Pasadena Fundamental Elementary School, falsified documents to cover up his mismanagement of funds from the school's Parent Teacher Association, a school district investigation has found.

    A 112-page investigative report released this week details how Brennan, 43, changed his story several times and could not account for items purchased with the school PTA's money. The report also says he will pay back more than $2,300 in unaccounted for funds....

    Daniel L. Brennan was principal at Pasadena Fundamental.