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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


Twitter: @Colleen_Wright

  1. Draft of Pinellas 2018-19 calendar is out


    Take a look: a draft copy of the proposed Pinellas County Schools instructional calendar for the 2018-19 school year is out for review.

    If approved, school staff will report back Thursday, August 2, 2018, and students will return to school Monday, August 13, 2018. First semester exams will be held before winter break, which begins Saturday, December 22, 2018 until Sunday, January 6, 2019....

    The Pinellas County School Board will discuss the proposed school instructional calendar for the 2018-19 school year at a board workshop on Tuesday.
  2. Hillsborough school board rift is on display at training event


    TEMPLE TERRACE - The school boards of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties were supposed to be learning how to become more effective through listening and respect. That was the goal, anyway, of the Florida School Boards Association's training event Wednesday at the University of Phoenix.

    But just two hours into the day of kumbaya, Hillsborough board members Tamara Shamburger and April Griffin drowned out the room with an escalating argument....

    Members of the Hillsborough County School Board participate in a board training event at the University of Phoenix in Temple Terrace
  3. Hillsborough could start high schools at 8:30 a.m. Why can't Pinellas?


    Some Hillsborough County families rejoiced today when Hillsborough announced later bell times for its high school students.

    In response to an outpour of parent input, that district's proposed high school schedule will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3:25 p.m., though it means an earlier elementary school day, from 7:40 a.m. to 1:55 p.m....

    Christian Surber, 19, gets off the school bus in front of his home in Seminole Wednesday, May 3, 2017.
  4. What to expect at today's Pinellas County School Board meeting


    The Pinellas County School Board will kickoff a lengthy board meeting at 10 a.m. at its administration building in Largo. Here's a quick digest of what you need to know.

    UNIONS: The board will vote on whether to approve bargaining agreements with each of its unions. The teacher's union is proposing a 2.65 percent pay raise and an increased starting salary of $43,000 for first-year teachers, and the Pinellas Educational Support Professionals Association bargained a 3.25 percent pay raise. District officials have updated the agenda to reflect agreements with SEIU/FPSU and the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association both of which negotiated a 3.25 percent pay raise....

    The Pinellas County School Board will go over a lengthy agenda today at a 10 a.m. board meeting at its Largo headquarters.
  5. Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco schools given Five Star School award


    The Florida Department of Education today recognized more than 700 schools around the state for going above and beyond in family and community involvement in the 2016-17 school year.

    The Five Star School Award is given to schools that meet all benchmarks and criteria in five categories: community/business partnerships, family involvement, volunteerism, student community service and school advisory council. Schools must also earn a grade of C or above....

    Wesley Chapel High School staff members were recognized in 2012 by the Pasco County School Board for receiving the Five Star School Award for two consecutive years.
  6. Principals of Clearwater Fundamental, Largo Middle to swap


    The principals of two starkly different Pinellas County middle schools are slated to swap roles just two months into the school year.

    Clearwater Fundamental principal Linda Burris and Largo Middle principal Stephanie Joyner will switch roles on Oct. 16, pending School Board approval at Tuesday's meeting.

    Reached Friday, Joyner said she spoke to Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego "about making some changes." She declined to elaborate because she said it was personal....

    Largo Middle principal Stephanie Joyner is slated to transfer as principal of Clearwater Fundamental, pending Pinellas County School Board approval.
  7. Rep. Chris Latvala acknowledges Pinellas hurt by funding formula in HB 7069


    At a public event held Thursday night at Largo High, Rep. Chris Latvala (R - Clearwater) found himself defending a controversial education bill he helped champion that is now being sued by at least 14 school districts across the state, including Pinellas County.

    Of all the questions asked at the "Meet Your Legislator" event, sponsored by the Pinellas County Council of Parent Teacher Associations and featuring Latvala and Sen. Jeff Brandes (R - St. Petersburg), the one about House Bill 7069 was among the first and most discussed topic....

    Sen. Jeff Brandes (R - St. Petersburg) spoke at a "Meet Your Legislator" event sponsored by the Pinellas County of Parent Teacher Associations at Largo High on Thursday night.
  8. Pinellas gets ready to launch a new school, Tech High


    SEMINOLE — The summer camp-like place where generations of high school students escaped to for a few hours of "real world" experience has gone by many names.

    The Ag Farm offered three elective classes when it opened on 42 rural acres in 1961: agriculture, cabinetmaking and masonry. It expanded into Seminole Vocational Education Center, or VoTech, in the '70s and was renamed Career Academies of Seminole in 2013 for a 21st century workforce. ...

    Marti Giancola is principal of Career Academies of Seminole, which will morph next year into Tech High, Pinellas County's first full-time technical high school. The school hopes to take in 150 freshman and 150 sophomores from around the county for its inaugural year. "We just feel like we're the answer for so many students," Giancola said. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  9. Pinellas PTA group to host 'Meet Your Legislator' series starting Thursday


    The Pinellas County Council of Parent Teacher Associations is hosting a series of "Meet Your Legislator" events for constituents.

    The first event will be held 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Largo High, featuring Sen. Jeff Brandes (R - St. Petersburg) and Rep. Chris Latvala (R - Clearwater). Brandes will host another event at North Shore Elementary at 6 p.m. on Oct. 19, and Rep. Ben Diamond (D - St. Petersburg) will speak at Shore Acres Elementary at 6 p.m. on November 28. All events are free and open to the public....

  10. Pinellas teachers OK bargaining agreement, new starting salary


    Pinellas County teachers and support staff have voted to ratify their union contracts with the school district for the 2017-18 school year, sending pay raises and a higher starting salary for teachers before the Pinellas County School Board for approval.

    The tentative agreement bargained by the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association includes a 2.65 percent raise, and, with a bump in funding raised from a local referendum, starts teachers with a minimum salary of $43,000. The Pinellas Educational Support Professionals Association negotiated a 3.25 percent raise for its staff. ...

    Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president Mike Gandolfo called this year's negotiations with the school district "collaborative and respectful."
  11. Pinellas, YMCA sign joint agreement for possible St. Petersburg middle school


    The Pinellas County school district and the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg have agreed to ground rules for how both parties will work toward opening a partnership middle school and YMCA facility on the old Riviera Middle lot in northeast St. Petersburg.

    The agreement, approved by the Pinellas County School Board and signed last week, divvies up financial responsibilities for the district and the YMCA. Both parties will use the same design professional, which will be selected through the school district's process....

    Pinellas County school officials have announced plans for a new school at a the former site of Riviera Middle School, seen here in 2009 when it was being razed. The school would be for grades 6-8 and contain a YMCA facility.
  12. Pinellas officials meet today to discuss hurricane make-up days


    The Pinellas County school district's calendar committee will meet at 3 p.m. today to discuss how it will make up school days missed due to Hurricane Irma.

    Florida's Education Commissioner waived two of the seven school days Pinellas missed between Sept. 7 to Sept. 15. The school district already announced classes will be held Monday, Oct. 16, originally a non-student day designated as a hurricane make-up day on the 2017-18 district calendar. Officials say schools may have enough instructional hours to cover the two more days....

  13. Police: Boy, 12, burglarized Melrose Elementary during Hurricane Irma


    ST. PETERSBURG — A 12-year-old boy is facing a felony charge after police said he burglarized Melrose Elementary while the school was closed for Hurricane Irma.

    According to a St. Petersburg police report, the boy was seen on surveillance video entering the school through an unlocked door three times during the afternoon and late at night on Sept. 13. Police said he took two fire extinguishers and a laptop from the school....

    Melrose Elementary at 1752 13th Ave. S in St. Petersburg was burglarized while the school was closed for Hurricane Irma. A 12-year-old boy has been charged, police said. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  14. Former Tarpon Springs High principal sues man who called in 2015 death threat


    A former Tarpon Springs High principal has sued a man who threatened to come to the school and kill him in 2015, saying the man started a chain of events that harmed his life and career.

    James M. Joyer has filed a lawsuit in Pinellas County Circuit Court against Edward S. Ecker for negligence, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit says Joyer, who was principal at Tarpon Springs High from July 2014 to October 2015, was the victim of a "vicious, reckless and unwarranted defamatory and threatening attack" committed by Ecker....

    Former Tarpon Springs High principal James M. Joyer is now the administrator at Clearwater Adult Education Center. His lawsuit was filed Sept. 1. [Times files]
  15. Encounters: Trial by storm for a rookie principal


    DUNEDIN — When he nodded off to sleep, the hallway lights outside Michael Vasallo's office were on, so the sudden darkness woke him.

    The glow of his desk phone dimmed.

    Surely the generator would kick in. The 1,300 evacuees who came to the special needs, pet-friendly shelter at Dunedin Highland Middle depended on it.

    Vasallo lay still on the air mattress in his office, waiting....

    Michael Vasallo, right, the first-year principal at Dunedin Highland Middle School, talks with the school's head plant operator Clint Case near the back-up generator on campus. The generator failed just as Hurricane Irma passed through Pinellas County, making for a stressful night. The experience made Vasallo long to return to his regular job, educating middle schoolers. [COLEEN WRIGHT   |   Times]