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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. Letter from 'many' St. Petersburg High faculty, staff to Pinellas School Board pushes for assistant principal to be next principal

    Blog

    A St. Petersburg High teacher sent a letter on the behalf of "many" school faculty and staff to the Pinellas County School Board and school district superintendent Mike Grego in support of appointing their assistant principal, Darlene Lebo, as principal.

    The letter, which you can read here, was dated April 25, almost a month before Northeast High assistant principal Robert J. Gagnon had been selected for the coveted position pending School Board approval at a board meeting held Tuesday, but it was not sent to the school district until May 21. Grego pulled the recommendation Monday, citing "new information shared with me" regarding Gagnon's experience in Lake County nearly 20 years ago. He promised to review the matter  "to gain a full understanding before proceeding with a personnel recommendation for this position." ...

    Darlene Lebo, an assistant principal at St. Petersburg High, is supported by "many" school faculty and staff to be the school's next principal, according to a letter sent to the Pinellas County School Board.
  2. Pinellas School Board approves plan that aims to close achievement gap

    K12

    After months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan that aims to tackle the achievement gap in 10 years and settles a long-running lawsuit over the education of black students.

    "I'm an optimist. I think this is going to work," board member Linda Lerner said. "I like things that are clearly put. And I think we have the sustainability and continuous quality improvement."...

    “I’m an optimist. I think this is going to work,” Pinellas School Board member Linda Lerner said Tuesday after the board was presented with a plan to address the achievement gap. 
  3. Controversial pick for next principal of St. Petersburg High put on hold

    Blog

    Robert J. Gagnon was all set to be the new principal at St. Petersburg High, a plum position in the Pinellas County school district. His name was on a list of top administrative candidates to be approved at a special School Board meeting Tuesday. The job starts July 1.

    On Monday, however, superintendent Mike Grego pulled his recommendation of Gagnon, saying in an email to board members that the action came "in light of new information shared with me" regarding Gagnon's experience in Lake County....

    Robert Gagnon, who currently serves as an assistant principal at Northeast High in St. Petersburg, was tapped to lead St. Petersburg High next year pending School Board approval. The recommendation for his appointment was pulled from the School Board agenda by school district superintendent Mike Grego on Monday in light of "new information shared with me" regarding Gagnon's administrative experience in Lake County, according to an email sent to Pinellas County School Board members.
  4. Victims in Tampa Palms apartment shooting were suspect's roommates, police say

    Crime

    TAMPA — They came from Massachusetts two weeks ago for a change of pace, spending their first few days as Floridians fishing, swimming, basking in the sun.

    But within a week, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk knew something was off with their roommate, Devon Arthurs, who invited them to live in his apartment at the Hamptons at Tampa Palms subdivision, said Himmelman's sister Lyssa Himmelman....

    The shootings took place at the Hamptons at Tampa Palms complex Friday evening. The suspect then went to a smoke shop and did not let those inside leave.
  5. New Pinellas schools plan touted as 'turning point' that would tackle achievement gap in 10 years

    K12

    After more than a year of negotiations, the Pinellas County School District has reached a new agreement in a 16-year-old state lawsuit that accused it of shortchanging black students, unveiling a plan Friday to "greatly narrow" or close the achievement gap within a decade.

    District officials and the plaintiffs in the case crafted the agreement behind closed doors, with a mediator, after informal talks yielded little progress....

    Students gather outside Campbell Park Elementary, one of several schools that would stand to benefit if the Pinellas County’s school district’s new plan to eliminate or narrow the achievement gap is successful. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  6. New Pinellas schools plan touted as 'turning point'€™ that would tackle achievement gap in 10 years

    Blog

    After more than a year of negotiations, the Pinellas County School District has reached a new agreement in a 16-year-old state lawsuit that accused it of shortchanging black students, unveiling a plan Friday to “greatly narrow” or close the achievement gap within a decade.

    District officials and the plaintiffs in the case crafted the agreement behind closed doors, with a mediator, after informal talks yielded little progress. ...

    Students gather outside Campbell Park Elementary, one of several schools that would stand to benefit if the Pinellas County school district's plan to eliminate or narrow the achievement gap is successful.
  7. Upcoming Pinellas School Board workshop: Transformation Zone, teacher evaluations and lawsuit updates

    Blog

    In what appears to be the briefest workshop agenda in recent history, the Pinellas County School Board will review three hot topics Tuesday before summer break.

    Board members will start the day with an "overview of support" provided to all schools, especially the eight in the Transformation Zone. Then the board will review proposed revisions to the teacher and administration evaluation system for the 2017-18 school year....

  8. Hillsborough tops Tampa Bay with 11 National Merit Scholarship winners

    Blog

    Fourteen talented Tampa Bay high school seniors overcame a stringent, two-year-long process to be selected as National Merit Scholarship winners.

    Out of 1.6 million juniors in 22,000 high schools who took the preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in October 2015, the highest-scoring 16,000 students became semifinalists who entered in the competition. Out of those, 7,500 were named finalists....

  9. Pinellas is looking for its next Transformation Zone director

    Blog

    Do you have what it takes to turn around Pinellas' most struggling schools?

    The Pinellas County school district is looking for its next Transformation Zone leader following the resignation of Antonio Burt, who was hired December 2015 to oversee improvement efforts at eight low-performing schools....

    Antonio Burt resigned as the Pinellas County school district's Transformation Zone director May 5. The district posted a job advertisement Friday to find his replacement.
  10. St. Petersburg Catholic has a new principal, but four of his students will just call him 'Dad'

    K12

    ST. PETERSBURG — Ross Bubolz is a father to nine children. For eight of them, he's been their school principal, too.

    From their hometown in suburban Chicago to most recently the Cathedral School of St. Jude in St. Petersburg, almost all of the Bubolz children, ages 10 to 22 with three sets of twins, were used to seeing their dad in the administration office, until they left for high school....

    Ross Bubolz, 45, far right, will be the new principal at St. Petersburg Catholic High, effective July 1, the Diocese of St. Petersburg announced this week. He is pictured with his family at St. Jude the Apostle Cathedral in St. Petersburg. They are, from left: Anika, age 14; Kennedy, 22; Simon, 16; Sterling, 20; Thad, 10; Salome, 16; Tra, 10; Avery, 14; Micah, 18; and wife, Nicole, 43. Four of the Bubolz children will attend St. Petersburg Catholic starting in August.
  11. Gibbs High sweeps in Walker's Rising Stars scholarship competition

    Blog

    More than 250 juniors and seniors from Pinellas County Schools endured seven months of auditioning to be named a winner in the 14th annual Walker's Rising Starts Scholarship Competition. 

    They learned their fate Tuesday night at the Mahaffey Theater. The Pinellas Education Foundation awarded about $60,000 in scholarships and prizes to deserving students. Here are the winners for each category:...

    Lindsey Collins, a Palm Harbor University senior, took first place in vocal music.
  12. Former Pasadena Fundamental Elementary principal faces criminal charges for mishandling PTA funds

    Blog

    Daniel L. Brennan, the former principal at Pasadena Fundamental Elementary who resigned Feb. 8 after a Pinellas County school district investigation, has been criminally charged, according to Pinellas-Pasco prosecutor Elizabeth Constantine.

    Constantine said Wednesday that Brennan has been charged with scheming to defraud, a third-degree felony. His bond has been set at $5,000. Constantine said the charges would appear on the court docket later Wednesday. The school district's investigation had found that Brennan mishandled and could not account for more than $5,000 from Parent Teacher Association at Pasadena Fundamental....

    Daniel Brennan, who spent five years as principal of Pasadena Fundamental, has been charged with scheming to defraud, a third-degree felony, after a school district investigation in February found that he mismanaged more than $5,000 from the school's PTA. In this photo from 2013, Brennan is being taped to a wall as a reward for third graders who had the highest FCAT reading scores in the county.
  13. Pinellas Educator of the Year a finalist for statewide Teacher of the Year

    Blog

    Palm Harbor Middle teacher Vanessa Ko, who was named the Pinellas Outstanding Educator of the Year in January, was selected as one of five finalists for the statewide 2018 Teacher of the Year award.

    Florida Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and Leigh Ott, Macy's district vice president, surprised Ko with the news at school Wednesday morning....

    Palm Harbor Middle teacher Vanessa Ko, who was named Pinellas Educator of the Year in January, is one of five finalists statewide for the 2018 Teacher of the Year award.
  14. State budget blasts, Seminole Middle woes, officially Midtown Academy and more from the Pinellas County School Board meeting

    Blog

    Here's a glimpse of what happened at a lengthy Pinellas County School Board meeting on Tuesday:

    - Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego had some choice words for the budget and a controversial education bill that will go before Gov. Rick Scott for approval. Under that budget, Pinellas will see a decrease of $487,740 in funding. "This budget does not favor this district or any other district," he said. Board member Terry Krassner asked Dr. Grego to pen a letter to Scott asking him to veto HB 7069. Before obliging, Grego said of the bill, "Overall, I feel there's a whole lot more negative distracting from our school district than positive."...

  15. Pinellas draws heat for moving special needs adults to high schools

    K12

    GULFPORT — A year passed before the seizures subsided for Brittany Castillo.

    Her first few weeks screenprinting and selling T-shirts in the "Extended Transition" program at Disston Academy were smooth until her teacher abruptly left. Then her seizures ramped up to 20 a day, even on a three-minute bus ride from her home that ended with the driver calling 911.

    Castillo, who just turned 21, has one year left in the Pinellas County school district program for special needs adults ages 18 to 22 who have completed high school and wish to continue life skills and job training....

    Christian Surber, 19, arrives home from the Pinellas County school district's Extended Transitions program, which provides life skills and job training to special needs 18- to 22-year-olds. His mother, Melanie Price, is one of several parents who say a district plan to move some program students from Disston Academy to a handful of local high schools will be bad for the students. "They're going to feel like they're being punished," she said. "This is a very vulnerable group." [LARA CERRI   |   Times]