Metro Week in Review
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2003
TAMPA -- As many as 800 teachers who work at 12 high-poverty schools in Hillsborough County will be offered extra pay to stay there.
The teachers are expected to receive an additional 5 percent in pay for teaching at schools where more than 90 percent of the students are needy enough to qualify for free and reduced-priced lunches.
A teacher with a base salary of $40,000, for example, will receive an extra $2,000, money that teachers with comparable experience at other schools will not receive.
The goal is to stop the high turnover at schools with more needy students while keeping and attracting highly qualified teachers.
Administrators said teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations won't be eligible for the pay increase. But those who do qualify will be asked to sign a two-year contract.
CRYSTAL RIVER -- This summer will be a quiet one at Rock Crusher Canyon Garden Pavilion.
The Garden Pavilion, which held weekend musical shows and buffet dinners throughout the summer for the past three years, will close after the May 3 performance. Plans call for the venue to reopen in late October or early November.
The decision also means that 15 Rock Crusher Canyon employees were laid off.
"The pavilion hasn't done real well in the summers, and we've really tried to make it work for the past three years," general manager Tom Hinds said. "The reasons are that it's probably too hot and also that 50 percent of the population leaves for the summer."
The Garden Pavilion is one of three venues at Rock Crusher Canyon, 275 S Rock Crusher Road. The other two are the amphitheater, which rarely has summer activities, and the 398-site RV park, which will remain open through the summer.
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Undercover sheriff's deputies can go into local adult entertainment clubs, pose as customers and arrest exotic dancers for lewd conduct, a judge ruled last week.
The ruling by Senior Judge Radford Smith came in the case of 11 exotic dancers arrested in an October raid. Their lawyers argued that lewd conduct charges should be dismissed for lack of an offended victim.
Smith ruled that whether the dancers are guilty of lewd conduct is "ultimately a jury question." At the same time, the judge acknowledged the "confusing" nature of the legal questions at hand.
The matter is not dead yet. Tampa lawyer Luke Lirot, who represents many of the 30 dancers, has a hearing in another court later this month.
At the heart of Lirot's argument is a 1991 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that established a key element necessary to prove lewdness. Namely, the court held that somebody must be offended. And that somebody, Lirot argued Tuesday, cannot be a law enforcement officer.
INVERNESS -- Crystal River High School baseball coach Brent Hall is the subject of numerous inquiries into whether he violated ethics rules and the School Board's donation policy.
The Florida High School Activities Association, which regulates high school sports, will examine whether Hall recruited students from other schools or held improper Christmas baseball camps. The equity board will review funding for the school's softball and baseball programs.
The Citrus County School Board approved a three-pronged investigation of Hall's conduct and the actions of his principal, Steve Myers. The investigation will be undertaken by School Board attorney Richard "Spike" Fitzpatrick and district internal auditor, Marie Adams, the Florida High School Activities Association and the state equity board.
The issues under review were raised recently in a St. Petersburg Times investigation of several complaints filed against Hall since he arrived at the school in the summer of 2000.
During his two and a half years in Crystal River, Hall has transformed the school's shabby ballfield into the county's best field and took what had been a flagging team to the 3A Final Four last year.
TAMPA -- While some people north of Kennedy Boulevard may perceive that tony South Tampa seems first to enjoy City Hall's largesse due to its old-money influence, the most recent election shows South Tampa's real power is in the voting booth.
One in three voters who cast ballots in the March 25 runoff lives in the area represented by District 4 on the City Council, or about all of the area south of Kennedy, solidifying Mayor Pam Iorio's victory.
Iorio's opponent, Riverside Heights resident Frank Sanchez, failed to carry a single South Tampa precinct.
Sanchez could have received every single vote in the historically black precincts of East Tampa, where he performed best, and still not come close to Iorio because of her South Tampa base, review of voting patterns showed.
Actions speak louder than money, political observers say.
"I don't think it's driven by money," said political consultant Wayne Garcia. "It's votes coming out of there that are making the difference. South Tampa was especially dominant in this election."
-- LAND O' LAKES -- The Independent Day School of Carrollwood has agreed to buy about 70 acres in Land O'Lakes to build what it calls a "world-class college preparatory high school" for 600 students in a lakefront setting. For years, the 34-year-old day school has sought a site in the northern suburbs of Tampa to open a high school, hoping to partner with other independent schools seeking to expand into grades 9 through 12.
-- ST. PETERSBURG -- Patrons and cooped-up greyhounds sprang into form Wednesday when the Derby Lane greyhound track resumed racing after a flulike kennel cough forced a two-week closure. The illness infected hundreds of greyhounds at the track, killing two. Although 50 to 100 dogs are still getting over the illness, dog trainers say the worst is behind them.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, in St. Petersburg for a success seminar, will be given the key to the city on Tuesday by Mayor Rick Baker and the City Council.
Be on the lookout for a new ferry service, which may be ready by next week at Fort De Soto Park. The Pinellas County Commission awarded a contract to dock at the park to Tampa Bay Ferry, which is operated by Madeira Beach charter boat captain Mark Hubbard. Hubbard has said he initially will make two runs a day: from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 2 to 6 p.m.
The newly built Ray E. Green Aquatic Center at the North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, 900 N Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Clearwater opens for business this week. It features the county's largest water slide, a diving area, lanes for lap swimming and a kiddie pool. Frequent pool and gym users can buy a lay Pass for $200 a year for a family living in the city. Nonresident fees are nearly double. Monthly Play Passes and daily individual rates are available too. For information, call 462-6276.
-- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne