Make us your home page


Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

New principals appointed for three Pasco County elementary schools

Three more Pasco County elementary schools will be getting new principals, with another round of shifts announced Monday.

The changes come as a result of superintendent Kurt Browning's decision to replace Charlene Tidd at low-performing West Zephyrhills Elementary with Scott Atkins from Sand Pine Elementary.

Christine Twardosz is recommended to move from Centennial Elementary to Sand Pine, and Gretchen Rudolph-Fladd to Centennial Elementary from Veterans Elementary.

"We would advertise Veterans Elementary School seeking a candidate for next school year," assistant superintendent David Scanga advised the School Board.

All of the transfers would take place in late May or early June, allowing the principals to complete the current academic year at their existing campuses.

About a dozen other schools got new principals during this spring, as well, due to a mix of promotions, demotions and one unexpected death. Browning has said he is attempting to better match leaders' skills with the needs of each school.

Full Story

Campbell Park principal will leave campus

Christine Hoffman, principal of Campbell Park Elementary school in south St. Petersburg, has been called on to resign for sending an email to staff instructing classroom teachers that "white students should be in the same class."

Times files

Christine Hoffman, principal of Campbell Park Elementary school in south St. Petersburg, has been called on to resign for sending an email to staff instructing classroom teachers that "white students should be in the same class."

Christine Hoffman, the embattled principal of Campbell Park Elementary will leave campus while an "administrative review" is conducted, district officials said Monday.

Hoffman created an uproar last week when she sent an email to her school staff about classroom rosters for the coming year and said "white students should be in the same class" with no explanation or context. She later sent out a second email to staff apologizing for "poor judgment," and a letter went home to parents Friday with an invitation to meet with parents Monday morning and afternoon.

Hoffman requested the transfer off campus and will not return, said Lisa Wolf, a district spokeswoman. In her absence, an assistant principal will take over, assisted by a member of the school district's Transformation Zone team. Hoffman will be at district headquarters. It's unclear if she'll be reassigned to another school. 

Parents and community activists have been calling for Hoffman to resign. Pressed by parents to do so Monday, two eyewittnesses said that Hoffman refused and said "I am the best thing that has happened to Campbell Park." …

Full Story

Two Florida school districts, two rulings on teacher annual contract renewals

Florida teachers protested when state lawmakers eliminated the option of a continuing contract.

Times file photo

Florida teachers protested when state lawmakers eliminated the option of a continuing contract.

As Florida lawmakers debate how flexible school districts may be in awarding teachers annual contracts, some school district leaders are pushing for clarity.

They have pointed to two special magistrate opinions on the issue that arrived at differing takes on the 2011 law that did away with continuing contracts for any newly hired teachers.

Teachers in St. Johns and Pasco counties went to impasse in contract negotiations over demands that educators who received evaluation ratings of "effective" or better receive guarantees of another year's employment. District officials in each case insisted that the Legislature mandated annual contracts, without strings attached.

Magistrate Louis Imundo Jr. ruled in favor of the St. Johns teachers' request. Magistrate Mark Lurie sided with the Pasco County school district against the demand.

Each cited the law in his finding. …

Full Story

Florida House bill on testing becomes latest education train

Like its counterpart in the Senate, the Florida House bill on state testing -- once 8 pages long -- has become its chamber's vehicle to push forward a patchwork of education policy initiatives found in a variety of other measures working their way through the legislative process.

HB 773, which goes before the House Education Committee on Monday afternoon, would balloon to 76 pages with a strike-all amendment filed over the weekend by sponsor Rep. Manny Diaz.

If adopted, the proposal would include much of the original language, plus provisions added into HB 549 last week. Those included the elimination of the Algebra II end-of-course exam, a return to paper-based testing for third through sixth grades, a move of the state testing window, and the publication of certain state tests, among other items.

This latest amendment would bring in recommendations from several other bills, as well. Among those: …

Full Story

Interview dates set for St. Pete College president search

St. Petersburg College

Times files

St. Petersburg College

ST. PETERSBURG — Now that the pool of potential St. Petersburg College presidents has been narrowed to five, the college’s board of trustees will bring each finalist to campus for interviews.

The board’s four members plan to make their final decision at a special meeting on June 9.

The candidates will replace outgoing president William Law Jr., who is retiring this summer after seven years at the helm. A search committee was tasked with sifting through more than 50 applications to settle on the final five for the board to consider, but some tension emerged during that process.

The one-hour interviews will all take place at 4 p.m. in the St. Petersburg/Gibbs campus music center, located at 6605 5th Ave. N. They are all open to the public. Here’s the schedule:

May 4 —  Edward Bonahue, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Santa Fe College (Gainesville)

May 9 — Stan Vittetoe,  provost, St. Petersburg College (Clearwater)

May 16 — Tonjua Williams, senior vice president, student services, St. Petersburg College

May 22 — James Henningsen. president, College of Central Florida (Ocala) …

Full Story

Florida education news: Classroom diversity, science lessons, education funding and more

Campbell Park Elementary School

Campbell Park Elementary School

DIVERSITY? The principal of Campbell Park Elementary in Pinellas County, a school with mostly black students, lands in hot water over a directive to place the school's few white students in the same class when possible.

LOVING SCIENCE: A Pasco County teen becomes the first home-schooler to win the NSTA's best female middle school science student award.

STALEMATE: Senate President Joe Negron deems education funding the Florida Legislature's most vexing problem of the session, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

SHAKEUP: Marion County's superintendent changes principals at almost half the district's schools, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

EARLY EDUCATION: Manatee County schools see an increase in prekindergarten students with special education needs, the Bradenton Herald reports.

SICK SCHOOL? Manatee County officials examine whether the old Bayshore High School building caused cancer in former students in staff members, the Bradenton Herald reports. …

Full Story

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of April 16, 2017

Times file photo

It's not all about the Legislature in Florida education news. We've seen a principal tell her staff to place all white children together in classes, a district ban D and F grades for its youngest students, and school board members say they welcome charter schools to help deal with crowding. Read all about it below.

You can keep up with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone else who'd like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to

Legislature vows transparency on negotiating education policy. History says otherwise., Kristen M. Clark
"Conference is a common annual process for the budget, but lawmakers in recent years have shied away, in most cases, from using it as a vehicle to pass drastic policy reforms that are otherwise amended, debated and voted on on the House and Senate floors. By comparison to the day-to-day legislative process, conference committee proceedings typically are not transparent and are more unabashedly a display of a preordained outcome." …

Full Story

Northeast High's principal is a finalist for Principal of the Year

The principal of Northeast High School is a finalist for Florida's 2017 Principal of the Year award, state officials announced Friday.

Kevin Hendrick, who has been Northeast High's principal for eight years, is one of three finalists for the honor. Other finalists include: Earl Johnson, principal of Matanzas High School in Flagler County and Rachel Shelley, principal of Booker High School in Sarasota County. The winner will be announced during a ceremony June 21. 

Hendrick is credited with developing a finance academy at the school, which allows students to earn industry certifications. Under his leadership, Northeast High also has increased the number of Advanced Placement classes, seen an increase in the number of students who enroll in college, and an uptick in the average ACT score.

The 2017 Principal of the Year will get a $5,000 cash prize and $1,000 for their school. 

Candidates for the awards were nominated by their superintendents.

Full Story

Sides closer to contract agreement in Pasco County schools, union rep says

Pasco County school district and union officials continued to negotiate in December even after declaring impasse in contract talks.

Times file photo

Pasco County school district and union officials continued to negotiate in December even after declaring impasse in contract talks.

Special magistrate recommendations in hand, representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco and the county school district met this week to determine whether they could reach a final agreement on pay and other outstanding issues.

With significantly different interpretations of the district's finances coming from the two magistrates, the need for a compromise became more clear. The one who heard the school related personnel case sided more closely with USEP, while the officer who reviewed the teacher contract took the district's position.

USEP operations director Jim Ciadella acknowledged to the School Board that the goal was to avoid asking the board to make the final determination.

"That may come to you guys at some point," Ciadella told the board Tuesday. "We are hoping it doesn't come to that point."

On Friday, Ciadella said the sides are "very close" to getting things worked out. "We're trying to work out the final details," he said, without offering any specifics. …

Full Story

White students at Campbell Park Elementary 'should be in the same class,' principal emails staff

Campbell Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg.


Campbell Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg.

ST. PETERSBURG - Principal Christine Hoffman emailed her staff at Campbell Park Elementary a detailed set of instructions on what classroom rosters should look like in the coming school year.

Among her requirements: students with a mix of reading levels, an equal number of boys and girls, no more than two students who frequently misbehave per class and this: “white students should be in the same class.”

That email, sent Tuesday, was forwarded to the NAACP Florida State Conference. It soon wound up in the inbox of Maria Scruggs, president of the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP.

“I’m not usually at a loss for words, but I can tell you when I saw that email for the first time, I thought it was a joke,” Scruggs said on Friday.

Hoffman, who was promoted this year from assistant principal to principal of Campbell Park — a predominantly black school with a history of poor performance in south St. Petersburg — faces disciplinary action from the Pinellas County School District. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits schools from segregating students “on the basis of race, color, or national origin in making classroom assignments.” …

Full Story

Employee at Lake St. George Elementary receives state honor

David Melnick, a food service manager at Lake St. George Elementary, was named the 2017 School-related Employee of the Year at an awards breakfast in Orlando on Friday.

Pinellas County Schools

David Melnick, a food service manager at Lake St. George Elementary, was named the 2017 School-related Employee of the Year at an awards breakfast in Orlando on Friday.

A food service manager at Lake St. George Elementary was named the 2017 School-related Employee of the Year, beating four other finalists for the honor.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart presented the award to David Melnick at an awards breakfast in Orlando today. In her comments, she said that Melnick "goes above and beyond for the students" at the Pinellas County school and called him an example of the "tremendous" effect that school support staff have on the entire community.

Superintendent Mike Grego said that Pinellas County is "fortunate" to employ Melnick.
Melnick started a "Food Patrol Program" that teaches students about healthy habits. The program also has been credited with motivating students to do better in school. District officials said that he "works tirelessly to contribute to the health, well-being and overall education for the students."

Full Story

Gradebook podcast: Legislative trains, crowded schools, joyous classrooms and more


With the Florida Legislative session nearing its end, lawmakers have begun creating education bill trains tying together tangentially related issues such as testing and recess, or school turnarounds and teacher bonuses. Reporter Jeff Solochek and editor Tom Tobin talk trains in today's podcast, along with a discussion on how school districts are coping with growth, and a few other education matters. [Photo link: Vimeo]

Full Story

Florida education news: Testing, classroom efficiencies, religious expression and more

Times file photo

TESTING: The Florida House moves its bill on state testing reforms closer to the Senate version, making compromise more likely.

SEARCH FOR SAVINGS: A consultant recommends changes to Hillsborough County school classrooms to find efficiencies. • The Duval County School Board examines programs and departments for potential cuts, the Florida Times-Union reports.

PLAY TIME: House Speaker Richard Corcoran says advocates pushing a bill for daily elementary school recess should let the legislative process play out. More from the News Service of Florida.

TEACHER BIAS? A religious liberties group accuses a Hillsborough County teacher of denying student rights to religious expression while she promotes an LGBT agenda.

BAD ACTS: A Clay County student is investigated for having a "shoot list" at school, WJAX reports. More from the Florida Times-Union. • A Volusia County student is arrested for making threats against his school, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

CONSTRUCTION FUNDS: The Marion County School Board agrees to not collect impact fees on new homes for the seventh straight year, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. …

Full Story

Could a union be in the cards for USF's part-time teachers?

USF Tampa

Wikimedia Commons

USF Tampa

TAMPA -- Part-time faculty at the University of South Florida filed paperwork today to hold a union election, hoping to bargain for better wages, more stable contracts and health care benefits.

“The time has come,” said Patty McCabe-Remmell, who teaches professional and technical writing at USF. “We are charged with the care and the molding of students’ minds, and I take this responsibility very seriously and totally professionally. It’s only fair that we be recognized for this.”

Universities around the nation have come to rely heavily on non-tenure track, contingent faculty, who offer flexibility and expertise at fairly low costs. Meanwhile, tenure track positions have largely declined, meaning a glut of academics enter the workforce each year with few options for full-time teaching work.

In 2010, 16 percent of USF’s faculty were part-time, according to the Service Employees International Union. Now, the union says, they make up more than a quarter. (Nationwide, that number is much higher: Half of the nation's faculty work as part-time adjuncts, paid per class, often without benefits and job security.) …

Full Story

Religious liberties group files complaint against Hillsborough County teacher

An Orlando-based religious liberties group has filed a complaint against a Hillsborough County high school teacher, accusing her of denying student rights to religious expression while promoting an LGBT agenda.

In a letter to Hillsborough schools superintendent Jeff Eakins, the Liberty Counsel alleges that Riverview High math teacher Lora Jane Riedas barred at least three students from wearing Christian crosses on necklaces in her classroom, claiming they are "gang symbols."

The organization also claims Riedas takes part in LGBT political activism in the classroom.

"Ms. Riedas clearly seeks opportunities to engage in GLSEN-directed classroom activism, which has called on teachers to use its "Educator Guide" to promote GLSEN's views about homosexuality and gender confusion on "Day of Silence," and to do so this Friday, April 21, 2017," Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver wrote in his letter.

He accuses the teacher of violating several district policies and state rules on ethical behavior and political activities. And he demands that Eakins put a stop to the behavior. …

Full Story