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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. Mother of two, 42, identified as casualty after Port Richey boat fire

    Public Safety

    PORT RICHEY — As the boat disappeared in smoke and flames Sunday, as people leapt into the cold waters below, the neighborhood rallied. Residents helped the survivors ashore, gave them blankets and opened their homes to keep them warm.

    The neighbors of Harborpointe Drive felt good that they were able to save about 50 lives.

    Their joy ended Monday when they learned that one of the passengers died that night....

  2. Florida lottery winner, 20, thanks well-wishers on Twitter: 'This is only the beginning'

    Human Interest

    Shane Missler logged on to social media Friday as a richer man.

    The 20-year-old sole winner of the fourth-largest Mega Millions jackpot in history — $451 million — was met with a frenzy of well-wishers, financial advisers and those hoping for a handout. His follower count grew by the minute.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Florida man, 20, claims $450M Mega Millions jackpot...

  3. A first: Graduation rate tops 80 percent for all four Tampa Bay area school districts

    K12

    Graduation rates in Florida and the Tampa Bay area continued their steady rise last year, with three local school districts surpassing the state average and all four of them reporting rates over 80 percent.

    The latter statistic provided something of a landmark moment for the region. It appears from available state records that this is the first time the Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas county school systems have together eclipsed the 80 percent mark. ...

  4. Results are concerning as Pinellas launches plan to bridge achievement gap, but it's early

    K12

    The Pinellas County school district has released a new glimpse of how black students are faring, the first report on a new plan that aims to tackle the achievement gap by 2027.

    The takeaway: Black students as a group are still performing poorly on English and math tests, but the advocates who are pushing for better results say it's early and they are pleased with the district's efforts so far....

  5. Epilogue: Pat Archibald was the force behind Perkins Elementary's renaissance

    Obituaries

    When Pat Archibald first arrived at Perkins Elementary in the early 1990s, 150 students were no-shows.

    In that time of desegregation, white families from Woodlawn and Pinellas Park refused to have their children bused to Perkins, a neighborhood school in the heart of south St. Petersburg.

    Now, as the Center for the Arts and International Studies, Perkins is among the most popular magnet programs in Pinellas County. Families apply in droves because of the lasting work of Archibald, an assistant principal who was the program's founding coordinator....

  6. Pinellas School Board chairwoman files for re-election

    K12

    Pinellas County School Board chairwoman Rene Flowers is the first incumbent board member to file for re-election in August.

    Flowers, who filed her election paperwork Tuesday, said she wanted to wait until the new year -- and after her work wrapped up on St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's campaign -- to announce her candidacy.

    "I like what I'm doing," she said Wednesday. "I want to see our progress continue with our students. I want to see relationships continue to grow with students and staff. ...I love where I am."...

  7. Pinellas schools try a "restorative'' approach to deal with student issues

    K12

    LARGO — Gather 23 sixth-graders in a circle and things can get silly.

    Add a stuffed rabbit toy to pass around, which gives the floor to anyone holding it to talk about what animal they would want to be and why, and it gets awkward.

    But Morgan Fitzgerald Middle guidance counselor Lori Taylor knew what she was doing. She used the icebreaker to segue into deeper questions: How have you changed since fifth grade? What's your goal for next semester? ...

  8. A familiar Hillsborough face now leads the Pinellas Education Foundation

    K12

    LARGO — Nine months into the job, Stacy Carlson's office is still coming together.

    The newest addition is now the room's centerpiece: a stately wooden desk that once belonged to Gus Stavros, the founder of the Pinellas Education Foundation.

    The desk is now hers, as is the role she inherited from Terry Boehm, her predecessor who spent 16 years as president of the foundation. Boehm was also her boss at her first job out of college at the Hillsborough Education Foundation across the bay....

  9. Pinellas finds no racial discrimination at Pinellas Park Middle following NAACP complaint

    Teachers

    The Pinellas County School District has determined that no racial discrimination occurred at Pinellas Park Middle after two black teachers requested transfers in October, alleging that the work environment became "hostile and racially charged."

    The district's Office of Equal Opportunity investigated the complaint submitted by the Upper Pinellas and St. Petersburg branches of the NAACP. They said problems began when nine minority teachers banded together over the summer to develop an after-school tutoring program primarily for black students, who scored the lowest on this year's state English language arts exam. Aside from academics, the program included mentoring and cultural competency elements....

  10. Pinellas schools sheltered thousands during Irma. Here's what it cost

    Education

    Three months later, the Pinellas County school district has totaled up the costs of operating 16 schools as shelters for 25,000 evacuees during Hurricane Irma.

    The district is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for a reimbursement of $2.65 million.

    Payroll was the district's largest expense, costing $2.1 million. Designated school administrators and school staff, such as maintenance crew and cafeteria workers, are contractually required to work during a hurricane....

  11. Love of science is the goal, now that every Pinellas elementary school has a lab

    K12

    SEMINOLE — It was hard for the second-graders at Orange Grove Elementary to resist the urge to rush into the school's science lab and tinker with the colorful objects neatly arranged on each table.

    Thursday was just their second time in the lab this year, so before they got to place weights on a balance scale and watch it bob, they needed a primer on lab procedures and a refresher on measurement. ...

  12. Lakewood High on lockout after report of weapon on campus

    Crime

    Lakewood High in St. Petersburg was placed on lockdown Monday morning following reports of a weapon on campus, but the threat was later downgraded and the school was placed in lockout status instead.

    St. Petersburg Police spokeswoman Sandra Bentil said the police received a report of a weapon at 9:37 a.m. She said police are searching for it. A lockdown was called around 9:45 a.m., meaning students and staff were required to stay at their locations within the school....

  13. A mysterious boom baffles Tampa Bay, with a possible supersonic source

    Bizarre News

    Whatever it was, the boom shook walls and swayed chandeliers.

    "It sounded like a plane had crashed," said Fred Krauer Jr., 43. The noise rattled every room in his home north of State Road 52 and west of Hicks Road. "I felt it in my feet in the shower."

    He rushed outside. There were no flames or smoke, just another overcast day in Hudson.

    A massive boom shook homes across Pasco, Hillsborough and Polk counties around 1:45 p.m. Saturday. Residents called government hotlines, and theories swirled online. Could it be military operations? An explosion? A meteor?...

  14. High school start times: Could they be a talking point in the 2018 Pinellas election?

    K12

    It's been years since the Pinellas County School Board addressed high school start times.

    But if the issue isn't resolved in the next few months, it could fall to voters as they decide on who should fill four out of seven School Board seats up grabs in the 2018 election.

    A petition to scrap the 7:05 a.m. start time has racked up 5,000 signatures, including those of three announced candidates....

    A school district's bus schedule is the primary factor affecting school start times. A Pinellas County petition to make high school start times later has attracted 5,000 signitures, including three from announced candidates for School Board next year. [Times files]
  15. After evacuations and lockdowns for bomb threat, three Pinellas schools all clear

    Crime

    Two Pinellas County schools were evacuated and another was placed on lockdown after a bomb threat was called in Friday morning.

    East Lake High and East Lake Middle schools, which share the same campus off of East Lake Road South and Bryan Lane, were evacuated for about two and a half hours until the schools received the all clear around 1 p.m. Normal school operations resumed.

    Tarpon Springs High School was put on a lockdown for about one hour. ...

    Pinellas County Sheriff's Office deputies swarm East Lake High and East Lake Middle schools late Friday morning after a bomb threat was called in. Both schools were under lockdown and evacuated until around 1 p.m. when they were given the all-clear. [Courtesy of the Alexis family]