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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. School Search: expanding as Florida's choices grow


    Twenty-four years ago, with a new special section called School Search, the Times set out to help families stay better informed about their educational options.

    Today, School Search enters new territory, expanding for the first time outside Pinellas County to reach parents, guardians and students in Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties. Also new: We are publishing the section earlier this year to better match the rhythms of how people search for schools....

    Hailey Ritchey buried herself in a book while her mom spoke with educators from James B. Sanderlin IB World School during a 2012 parent information night in Pinells County. Sanderlin is one of almost 70 special programs offered by Pinellas. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  2. Dispatch from a hurricane shelter: 'I only saw the best'


    Conditions varied from shelter to shelter during Hurricane Irma. Here at the Gradebook, we've heard the good and the bad. But we thought we would share this account from Ruth Salvaggio, who hunkered down at Sunlake High. A copy of her letter (below) came with a handwritten note: "I thought the media would like to hear an encouraging story that came from Irma."...

    Principal Michael Cloyd greets Carmen Silva at the Sunlake High shelter on Sept. 8, two days before Hurricane Irma hit Florida. Silva was the first evacuee to show, and she planned to have eight family members join her.
  3. 10 things that happened while you were laser-focused on Irma


    You've been busy, Florida. Awfully busy.

    Hanging plywood, stocking up on stuff to eat, texting worried relatives, posting fears on Facebook, following every twist of Hurricane Irma's eyewall, trying to get your power and cable working again.

    So here are some things you may have missed over the last few days:


    Hurricane Irma blasted through most of Florida on Sept. 11, so it was easy to miss the nation's annual commemoration of the 2001 terrorist attacks. It's been 16 years. There were tributes at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and the Flight 93 memorial near Shanksville, Pa. "What I can say today is that I don't live my life in complacency," said Debra Epps, whose brother died in the attack at Ground Zero. "I stand in solidarity that this world will make a change for the better." Also that day, the internet reacted after a Fox & Friends host asked a guest, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, if he thought that 9/11 memorials would someday be removed like Confederate memorials....

    Hurricane Irma lashes palm trees lae Sunday at the Tampa Premium Outlets, 2300 Grand Cypress Drive in Lutz. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times.]
  4. Pinellas becomes the latest school district to delay reopening to Monday


    The Pinellas County school system has announced it will reopen for classes on Monday, Sept. 18. With the move, Pinellas joins the Hernando and Pasco school systems, which earlier announced plans to reopen Monday.

    Hillsborough school officials were still assessing their schools for damage and power outages before making a final call on reopening.

    In Pinellas, visit the district's website for further details.

    Here is the message that went out to families and school district staff:...

    Pinellas County school district headquarters
  5. USF System announces closings


    The University of South Florida System has announced it will close its campuses over the next few days due to the threat of Hurricane Irma.

    USF in Tampa will be closed Thursday through Sunday, while USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee will close Thursday through Monday. Officials will decide later this week whether to close the Tampa school on Monday as well.

    The decision affects some 50,000 students and 15,000 faculty throughout the system. Read the full text of the notice today from USF’s communications and marketing department:...

    Students walk near the reflecting pool at University of South Florida in Tampa. Officials announced Wednesday that the USF System would close for the rest of the week because of Hurricane Irma.
  6. 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."...

  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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]
  11. 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.
  12. 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]
  13. 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]
  14. 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]
  15. 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.