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Cara Fitzpatrick, Times Staff Writer

Cara Fitzpatrick

Cara Fitzpatrick is a senior education reporter at the Tampa Bay Times. In 2016, she and Times reporters Lisa Gartner and Michael LaForgia won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting for Failure Factories, a five-part investigation that traced the rapid decline of five elementary schools after the Pinellas County School Board abandoned integration efforts. The series also was honored with the George Polk Award for Education Reporting, the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism, the Investigative Reporters and Editors Medal, and the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, among other awards. 

Fitzpatrick joined the Times in 2012. She grew up in Washington State and graduated from the University of Washington and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in St. Petersburg with her husband and two children. 

Phone: (727) 893-8846


Twitter: @Fitz_ly

  1. 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. ...

  2. Employee at Lake St. George Elementary receives state honor


    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....

    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.
  3. Grego makes principal moves at John Hopkins, Oak Grove and Bayside High


    Superintendent Mike Grego walked in some principal changes Tuesday during the regular meeting of the Pinellas County School Board.

    Barry Brown, principal of John Hopkins Middle School, will transfer to Oak Grove Middle School. Dawn Coffin, the current principal of Oak Grove, will move to Bayside High School, where she's replacing Patricia Fuller. Fuller is retiring at the end of the school year....

  4. Pinellas 'Transformation Zone' schools showing signs of progress, officials say


    At eight of the lowest performing schools in Pinellas County, district officials see promising signs: academic growth, reductions in suspensions and discipline referrals, better teaching and improved attendance.

    The question is whether the improvements will translate into stronger academic performance and higher test scores.

    "We're seeing continued growth in these schools, which gives us hope," Dan Evans, the district's head of accountability and research, said this week during a community meeting in south St. Petersburg, where six of the eight schools are located. Two other schools are in Clearwater....

    A third-grade class at Fairmount Park Elementary, one of eight “Transformation Zone” schools in Pinellas County. A new draft report details signs of progress in the schools as they head into the spring testing season. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times (2015)]
  5. Pinellas School Board approved $10.5 million for first technical high school


    The Pinellas County School Board approved Tuesday a $10.5 million project to turn Career Academies of Seminole into a technical high school, expected to open in the 2018-19 school year.

    Hundreds of students currently commute to the school for two periods of technical classes. The project will make it into a comprehensive high school.

    Superintendent Mike Grego said he was “very excited about this project.”...

  6. School on Saturday? Pinellas sees it as another way to reach struggling students


    ST. PETERSBURG — Sitting in the school library on a brisk and breezy Saturday morning, Cadi Moorehead proudly held up two sheets of paper.

    "I wrote a two-page story about Nate the Great," she announced.

    Cadi, 9, could have slept in. She could have played outside. But she wanted to be in school. So here she was on a Saturday morning at Fairmount Park Elementary, doing math on an iPad, reading aloud from Nate the Great, a children's series about a boy detective, and writing a story about what she read....

    Third-graders Isabelle Mercado, left, 9, and Kaylee Dunning, 9, talk while working during Saturday Academy on Jan. 28 at Fairmount Park Elementary.
  7. Voters see School Board candidates through a new lens: Trump versus Clinton


    Carol Cook came to the polls Tuesday prepared to talk about issues.

    The good things happening in struggling schools, an improving graduation rate, Hispanic student achievement and more career education options. The 16-year Pinellas County School Board incumbent could expound on them all.

    Instead, many passers-by avoided her gaze or sidestepped away. When voters did talk to Cook, they weren't focused on education. They didn't ask about her opponent, Eliseo Santana. They wanted to know: Are you for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Are you a Republican or a Democrat?...

    Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook, right, greets early voters Richard Adolphson, 85, left, and Barbara Adolphson, 82, of Seminole, on Nov. 1, 2016 at the Supervisor of Elections Office in Largo. Cook, who has been on the board for 16 years, fell short of sweeping the Aug. 30 primary and faces Eliseo Santana in the general election. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  8. Third Bridging the Gap forum draws more than 100 people


    More than 100 people turned out Tuesday night at the third public forum to receive input about the Pinellas County School District's plan to close the achievement gap.

    The forum, which was held at Gibbs High, followed the same format as the first two, held at Largo High and Boca Ciega High. Superintendent Mike Grego spoke for about 20 minutes and then asked audience members to write their suggestions on sticky notes....

  9. Plaintiffs in desegregation case suspend negotiations with Pinellas County Schools


    The plaintiffs in a Civil Rights-era desegregation lawsuit announced Monday that they are suspending informal negotiations with the Pinellas County School District.

    In a letter emailed to the district, Enrique Escarraz and Roger Plata, lawyers for the plaintiffs, said that after more than a half-dozen meetings, progress has been “extremely slow and uneven.”

    Instead of continuing to meet as scheduled, they are giving the school district two weeks to provide detailed plans related to black student achievement....

  10. Pinellas students transfer out of four low-performing elementary schools


    Dozens of students transferred this year out of four low-performing elementary schools in south St. Petersburg, taking advantage of a long-standing state law.

    According to the Pinellas County School District, 88 students opted to transfer to higher-performing elementary schools. The transfers include: 26 students from Fairmount Park to Bauder; 22 students from Campbell Park to Cross Bayou; 22 from Lakewood to Azalea; and 18 from Melrose to Fuguitt, Curlew Creek and Pinellas Central. (Most of the students from Melrose went to Fuguitt.)...

  11. Second 'Bridging the Gap' forum draws large crowd


    More than 100 people turned out Tuesday night at a public forum to get input about the Pinellas County School District's plan to close the achievement gap.

    The gathering, held at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport, was the second of four scheduled by the school district. Superintendent Mike Grego first unveiled the "Bridging the Gap" plan in 2013, but district officials have updated it, as well as the district's overall strategic plan. ...

  12. Before you go: Review the Pinellas Bridging the Gap plan


    The Pinellas County School District is holding four public forums to solicit community feedback about an update to its 2014 Bridging the Gap plan.

    The first forum starts at 6 p.m. tonight at Largo High School. District officials have posted information about the plan online that you can review before attending. (Don't let that stop you from going, though. There also will be a presenation at the forum.)...

  13. Friction mars talks in legal battle over Pinellas black students


    For the second time since settling 16 years ago, the plaintiffs in a 50-year-old desegregation case have forced the Pinellas County School District back to the table to try to ensure that black children get an equal education.

    The meetings, which started in August, have been tense, even hostile.

    So much so that the lawyers for the plaintiffs, Enrique Escarraz and Roger Plata, said Friday that they were considering going to the next step in the legal process and calling in a mediator....

    Roger Plata, co-counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, listens during a March meeting of an education advocacy group.
  14. Tony Dungy tells Pinellas students: 'Think about your future'


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tony Dungy, a bestselling author and the first black head coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl win, told students Wednesday at Gibbs High School that the key to having a bright future is simple: Get good grades, get a high school diploma and go to college.

    In other words, "keep your options open," he said.

    Dungy's father gave him that advice. But Dungy, a former head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, told students that he didn't get it when he was a teenager. At that point in his life, the future was about six hours later that day. It was "what was going to happen that night." Sports was everything to him....

    Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy waits backstage at Gibbs High, where he spoke at a "Dads Take Your Child to School Day" event on Sept. 28, 2016. "Think about your future," he told an audience of several hundred students and their fathers. "Where do you want to be when you're 60 years old, like I am?"
  15. Incumbent Ken Peluso loses to teacher Eileen Long in close race for Pinellas School Board


    The Pinellas County School Board lost one incumbent during Tuesday's primary election, while two other races will be decided in runoff contests in November.

    Ken Peluso, 59, narrowly lost his District 4 seat to 55-year-old Eileen Long, a veteran teacher. Long earned 51.1 percent of the vote, while Peluso earned 48.9 percent, according to preliminary results.

    Long said she was nervous about the close race but excited. She said she kept looking away from the results at a watch party at the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association headquarters in Largo....

    Teacher Eileen Long, 55, narrowly defeated Ken Peluso for the District 4 School Board seat.