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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. Here are eight ways Florida's public schools will be different this year

    K12

    As they return to school in August, Florida students will find they have some new rights, courtesy of a state Legislature that was busy this year when it came to education. These range from the ability to speak more freely to the chance to get a little down time. Not all the rules apply to everyone equally. But barring a legal challenge, they'll be in place for the first day of school.

    Freedom of expression...

    When classes begin in August, all elementary schools in Florida must offer 20 minutes of uninterrupted free time each day, one of many changes in state law that will affect education. Charter schools are not bound by the recess law. [LARA CERRI  | Times]
  2. Pasco welcomes new principals for 2017-18

    K12

    The Pasco County school district tends to assign new principals to schools well before the end of the academic year to give them the chance to get to know students, staff and parents before summer break. A handful of the district's newest school leaders took their posts just weeks before vacation began. Those starting relatively fresh in August are:

    Scott Atkins

    New school: West Zephyrhills Elementary...

    Photo illustration. [iStockphoto.com]
  3. Gradebook podcast: Why is Hillsborough County teacher Ryan Haczynski blogging?

    Blog

    Many public school teachers in Florida don't speak out on issues that affect them, saying they fear retribution for their comments. Not so Ryan Haczynski. The International Baccalaureate teacher at Strawberry Crest High School started a new blog and podcast over the summer to talk Florida education, and to encourage activism among his peers. H, as his students call him, spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek about the forces that drove him to get vocal....

    Ryan Haczynski
  4. Incumbent Pasco School Board member declares reelection bid

    Blog

    Cynthia Armstrong, first elected to the Pasco School Board in 2010, has filed papers with the Pasco Supervisor of Elections to seek a third term representing the southwest corner of the county.

    Armstrong, a real estate agent and former teacher, said she intends to pay the filing fee to qualify for the ballot, and not collect petition signatures. She said that way she can spend more time talking to residents about issues the school district faces....

    Cynthia Armstrong first won a seat on the Pasco County School Board in 2010.
  5. Former Pasco schools administrator takes education post in Hillsborough County

    Blog

    Some people just can't get enough of public education. And Ray Bonti appears to be one of them.

    Bonti, a veteran Pasco County school and district administrator, announced this week he will lead the Hillsborough Association of School Administrators, an advocacy group for the county's school and district level leaders. He did it quietly, by setting up a Twitter account using his new executive director title....

  6. Pasco County school district to buy land for new east-side high school

    Blog

    With no signs of growth slowing in eastern Pasco County, the School Board is poised to buy 64 acres in Zephyrhills for a future new high school.

    The site, part of the River Landing community master plan, had been a reserved school site for seven years, after which the district had to decide whether to purchase it or let it go. District officials see the location as valuable to serve additional students moving into new homes along the State Road 56 corridor....

    The Pasco County school district is opening a new high school in Wesley Chapel this fall, and is planning to further expand in the east side.
  7. Pasco School Board to tackle district finals rules

    Blog

    With questions over the use of district-created final exams still swirling, the Pasco County School Board plans to review ideas to improve the system when it meets Tuesday.

    District staff is recommending that the tests, designed to help evaluate teachers using student data, count as 10 percent of students' course grades for the semester in which they take the tests. The proposal is part of Student Progression Plan revisions coming to the board as part of a workshop....

    The Pasco School Board will consider this new model for how district finals count in student grades.
  8. Pasco County commissioners say they'll back 92 percent school impact fee hike

    Blog

    They couldn't vote because the proposal had changed enough to warrant another public hearing.

    But Pasco County commissioners on Tuesday signaled their strong support for a compromise on school impact fees crafted over the past several days by school district officials and area home builders.

    The accord, which would increase the fee on a newly built home by 92 percent, drew praise from the entire commission, including some members who had been hesitant to back anything that builders opposed....

    Assistant county attorney David Goldstein explains a school impact fee proposal to Pasco County commissioners as school district officials look on.
  9. Can Florida students still take the Algebra 2 end-of-course exam?

    Blog

    When Florida lawmakers said they wanted to eliminate the state Algebra 2 end-of-course exam, they meant it.

    The law killing the test went into effect on July 1. When the retake window opened on Monday, students scheduled to sit for the EOC learned it was no longer available.

    "The Algebra 2 EOC has been discontinued effective immediately," Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Audrey Walden told the Gradebook. "There is no statutory requirement for students to obtain a passing score, so it is up to districts as to how to address course grades moving forward."...

  10. Florida education news: Test scores, impact fees, school grades and more

    Blog

    TEST SCORES: When confronted by the argument that Florida's testing system is too "high stakes," officials often note that students have multiple options to get past the gatekeeper exams. This year, the Florida Board of Education is considering changes to the scores students can use to replace their 10th grade reading and Algebra I exams, both of which are graduation requirements. The state's proposed revisions, though, have run into criticism from Florida's superintendents, who have offered an alternative. ...

  11. With new state law, report card delay could worsen in years to come

    K12

    The Fourth of July had come and gone, and the Pasco County School District continued to receive complaints that some parents had not yet received their children's report cards.

    Officials said the report cards were running the week before the holiday, and sent shortly thereafter. They apologized for any problems with the time frame.

    But they also have noted that grades are likely to arrive even later next year....

  12. Hillsborough County schools get another new spokesman

    Blog

    Hillsborough County schools superintendent Jeff Eakins has named the district's fifth communications director in two years.

    Reporter-turned-spokesman Grayson Kamm, most recently of the Museum of Science and Industry, is slated to take the post on July 24, if the School Board approves on July 18....

  13. Pasco County school district, home builders cut deal on impact fees, seek commission approval

    Blog

    After weeks spent butting heads, representatives of the Pasco County school district and area home builders have reached an accord to end objections to a proposed school impact fee increase.

    The agreement, reached after three days of hourly back and forth negotiations, could pave the way to a near doubling over three years of the fee attached to newly built homes in support of needed additional school seats. It still would require a majority vote of the County Commission, which was not party to the talks and has not weighed in on the latest proposal....

    The Pasco Board of County Commissioners left open room to alter its school impact fee ordinance after its first public hearing in June.
  14. Superintendents object to Florida plan for alternate high school reading, algebra tests

    Blog

    Plans to revise Florida high school student options for key state tests have run into some objections from the state's superintendents.

    The Florida Association of District School Superintendents has suggested that the Department of Education's proposal to do away with the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test as an alternative to the Algebra I end-of course exam could have negative consequences for students. The department has recommended using the PSAT as the second option for students who do not pass the Algebra I EOC, which is required for graduation....

  15. Hate late report cards? New Florida law could make them later next spring

    Blog

    As summer rolled into July, some parents across the Tampa Bay area continued to complain that they had yet to receive their children's report cards.

    One of the delays in the area and across Florida was the delivery of state test results, which factor in to several marks. The end-of-course exams for Algebra II, geometry, U.S. history and biology, for instance, count for 30 percent of the course grades. ...

    Sample Hillsborough County report card (2014)