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Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writer

Thomas C. Tobin

Tom Tobin is Assistant Metro Editor / Education, Health & Medicine at the Tampa Bay Times. He has worked at the Times since 1988, serving much of that time as a government reporter. He also has reported on the Church of Scientology periodically since 1996.

As the Times' state reporter, he covered the 2000 presidential recount in Florida and wrote about subsequent efforts to retool the state's election machinery. From 2003 to 2009, he covered education, focusing on school board issues, school finance, the achievement gap and desegregation.

Born in St. Louis, Mo., he lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Kathleen, and their three children.

Phone: (727) 893-8923


  1. FSU's John Thrasher speaks out on Charlottesville


    John Thrasher, the president of Florida State University, weighed in today on last weekend's events in Charlottesville, Va.

    "Florida State University recognizes freedom of expression as a constitutional right, and we are dedicated to protecting it for everyone," his statement said in part. "We do not, however, condone the expression of ideas that infringe upon the rights of others or lead to violence."...

  2. FSU president John Thrasher on Charlottesville


    John Thrasher, the president of Florida State University, weighed in today on last weekend's events in Charlottesville, Va.

    "Florida State University recognizes freedom of expression as a constitutional right, and we are dedicated to protecting it for everyone," his statement said in part. "We do not, however, condone the expression of ideas that infringe upon the rights of others or lead to violence."...

    Florida Sen. Chris Smith, D- Ft. Lauderdale, hugs then-Sen. John Thrasher, R- St. Augustine, at the conclusion of the 2014 Florida Legislative session in May 2104, just sx months before Thrasher became the 15th president of Florida State University.
  3. Taking a solar eclipse day? School districts say students can stay home


    Students in the Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco school systems can get an excused absence to watch Monday's solar eclipse.

    A notice on Hillsborough district website says parents can keep their children in school for a half day and pick them up early, or keep them out all day, provided they follow up with a note.

    The other option: Keep them in school and allow them to take part in "exciting educational plans" for watching the eclipse. The district also urges parents to let their school know if they don't want their child to participate in eclipse activities while at school....

    Schoolchildren in London watch a solar eclipse on March 20, 2015. Tampa Bay area school districts are starting to prepare for Monday's solar eclipse with guidance to families and schools.
  4. White supremacist leader at center of Charlottesville events may come to UF


    University of Florida president Kent Fuchs today sent out an email notifying students, faculty, parents and employees that white supremacist activist Richard Spencer, who sparked today's events in Charlottesville, Va., may be coming to speak in Gainesville on Sept. 12.

    Fuchs said the school has been contacted by the National Policy Institute about reserving space on campus for an event that will feature Spencer as a speaker. He noted that the organization is not affiliated with UF or any student groups, but that, under university regulations, "non-university groups, organizations and persons may rent space on campus, provided they cover rental expenses and security costs like all other third-party renters."...

    Alt-right leader and white supremacist Richard Spencer.
  5. Gibbs High marks its 90th year as a school on the upswing (w/video)


    ST. PETERSBURG — Students and parents arrived at Gibbs High School before dawn Thursday and were greeted by a large contingent of teachers, administrators and school district officials, along with the Gibbs marching band, the Gladiators football team and cheerleaders.

    The sprawling campus was bedecked in blue-and-gold balloons to mark the first day of classes.

    And why not? Gibbs is celebrating its 90th year. But it was also the kind of display that principal Reuben C. Hepburn has turned into a regular feature since he arrived on the scene two years ago with an emphasis on closing the achievement gap and ramping up school spirit....

    Reuben C. Hepburn, principal at Gibbs High, greets students and parents in the car line at dawn on the first day of school Thursday. Hepburn, who is big on school spirit, also made sure that the marching band, cheerleaders and football team were part of the welcoming committee as Gibbs began its 90th year. [THOMAS C. TOBIN | Times]
  6. UF, New College shine in the 2017 Forbes ranking. How did your school do?


    A number of Florida institutions made Forbes Magazine’s annual ranking, America’s Top Colleges, released today. The University of Florida was tops in the state for 2017, ranking 80th among 650 U.S. schools on the overall list and 15th on a separate list of the nation’s top 25 public universities....

    The University of Florida placed 80th in the annual ranking of colleges by Forbes Magazine, also showing up as No. 15 on the list of top public colleges.
  7. Back to School 2017: What you need to know


    With the start of classes less than three weeks away, the Tampa Bay Times' back-to-school special report debuts today.

    Find out how to register your child for school and ease the transition from the carefree days of summer. Also get information on the state sales tax holiday, mark your calendar for key dates and special events, and keep current on education policies that affect your family. ...

    The Times' annual back-to-school coverage debuts today with information families can use to start the new year. [Times files]
  8. Documents detail FBI investigation of Scientology that never resulted in charges

    Special Topics

    The FBI conducted a criminal investigation of the Church of Scientology in 2009 and 2010 that focused on allegations of human trafficking, according to documents released Wednesday.

    The inquiry never resulted in charges against the church, but the documents — posted by the entertainment and gossip website — say agents focused on the Sea Org, the church's low-paid, military-style workforce....

    An aerial look at the Church of Scientology's international headquarters near Hemet, Calif. In 2009 and 2010, FBI agents conducting a human trafficking investigation focused on the treatment of church workers at the facility, according to witnesses who talked to the agents and newly released FBI documents. [MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times]
  9. Here are Pinellas County's most popular school choice programs


    More than 11,000 students applied this year to enter Pinellas County school choice programs in 2017-18, and the results are in. Once again, the district's fundamental schools were the most popular among families, followed closely by top magnet programs.

    The application process took place in January and February, but the school district didn't release the numbers until this month. In addition to fundamental schools and magnet programs, Pinellas offers career academies on its menu of choice offerings....

    A mother and son walk to Bay Vista Fundamental in St. Petersburg, one of several fundamental schools that are popular with Pinellas County parents, based on recently released application totals for the 2017-18 academic year. More than 11,000 Pinellas familes applied this year for choice programs, which also include magnets and career academies. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  10. One state says no to school grades as school accountability continues to evolve


    Some of the standard features of the school accountability movement are continuing to come into question this year. We're seeing it in Florida with legislative proposals to significantly pare back testing and stop tying tests to teacher evaluations. And today in Michigan, that state's education superintendent Brian Whiston has dropped plans to start an A-F school grading system....

    Students at Classical Preparatory School in Pasco County.
  11. For a Better Florida: An education checklist for the 2017 session includes raising up Florida's universities, reducing testing, fixing teacher bonuses


    Florida spends 51 percent of all the tax revenue it collects on education — which, if you ask folks in the education world, is a blessing and a curse when it comes to the Legislature.

    The amount of money spent commands the lawmakers' attention, and that's the level of interest that education deserves. The curse: Sometimes that attention leads to the kind of ill-advised tinkering that ends up wasting everyone's time and energy. ...

    Just more than half of state tax revenue goes to education, bringing a lot of attention and a tendency to tinker.
  12. A Scientology battle like no other: Miscavige versus Miscavige

    Special Topics

    It says in Chapter 36 that the Church of Scientology is great for families.

    Scientologists communicate more freely, raising "their capacity to love other people." Family bonds "strengthen dramatically." And church members "take deep pride in their record of resolving family problems and conflicts."

    The words come from What is Scientology?, a volume the church first published in 1992 as it sought greater acceptance from a wary public....

    Former Church of Scientology member Ron Miscavige, 80, discusses his music in the living room of his suburban Milwaukee home in August 2016. The father of church leader David Miscavige, he played trumpet and arranged music while working on the church's staff for more than 26 years. After leaving in 2012, he wrote a tell-all book, "Ruthless," that is critical of the church and his son. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  13. Florida university presidents weigh in on Trump order; noon protest at USF


    The presidents of two of Florida's largest universities have weighed in on President Trump's executive order on immigration as protests over the action moved to college campuses Monday -- including the University of South Florida.

    Tampa Bay Times higher education writer Claire McNeill is at a noon rally on USF's Tampa campus. Follow her at @clairemcneill for updates....

    Kent Fuchs, president of the University of Florida
  14. Florida education news: Catholic school enrollment, a third-grade snafu, useful research and more


    UPSWING: The Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg is bucking national trends with increasing enrollment, and its new school superintendent aims to keep it that way.

    TESTING NEWS: A glitch involving the state's third-grade reading test at a Duval County elementary school puts at least one student in limbo, the Florida Times-Union reports....

  15. Holiday greetings, and some thoughts about the abbreviated summer


    Happy Fourth of July, dear readers. Our daily roundup of Florida education news will resume on Tuesday. But before we go, a few musings as this holiday weekend puts us about halfway through the very short summer of 2016.

    The other day, we stumbled on this page, which contains a spreadsheet titled "2016-17 School District Calendars" published by the Florida Department of Education. It's accompanied by a summary, which says: “Students in 40 of the 75 school districts will begin the 2016-17 school year in Florida as early as August 10, 2016. There are 23 districts that will begin on August 15, 2016, with the latest start date on August 22, 2016.”...