John O'Connor

Reporter

John O’Connor is a reporter for StateImpact Florida, a project of WLRN and WUSF covering education. John writes for the StateImpact Florida blog and produces stories for air on Florida public radio stations.

John is a former political reporter for The (Columbia, S.C.) State and the Daily Record in Baltimore. He has a bachelor’s degree from Allegheny College and a master’s degree from the University of Maryland. He was chosen as the South Carolina Press Association 2009 Journalist of the Year.

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The Governor's Race
6:45 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Republicans Try To Turn Out Early Votes In Miami

Gov. Rick Scott, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio urged GOP voters to cast their ballots early.
Credit John O'Connor / WLRN

It’s about two weeks until voters choose the next governor of Florida.

Absentee votes started being counted last week. And today is the start of early voting in South Florida. Other counties will follow soon.

It’s why Gov. Rick Scott and a slate of Republican candidates met at a Miami park next to a polling place Monday – to cast their early votes and encourage others to do the same.

The race between Republican Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist is tight. Scott says the first votes cast could be the difference in the end.

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Common Core
3:36 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Palm Beach School Board Member Says Lawmakers Set "Unrealistic Expectations"

Jennifer Prior Brown is stepping down from the Palm Beach County school board, but she says teachers won't have enough time to prepare students for the state's new math standards.
Credit freedigitalphotos.net

An outgoing Palm Beach County school board member says the state’s new math standards are too tough, and that schools don’t have enough time to get kids up to speed.

Palm Beach County school board member Jennifer Prior Brown brought a fourth grade homework problem to Thursday’s board meeting.

Wayne and Cheryl have 72 marbles between them, the problem asked. Cheryl has two more than four times as many as Wayne. How many marbles does Cheryl have?

“So I quickly came up with an algebraic equation, right?" Prior Brown asked, before meticulously walking through the steps.

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The Governor's Race
3:47 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Florida Governor Candidates Disagree About Changing Stand Your Ground Law

Democrat Charlie Crist says he wants to change Florida's Stand Your Ground self-defense law. Republican Gov. Rick Scott would leave it be.
Credit Michael Laughlin / South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist disagree on a controversial self-defense law that allows Floridians to kill if they feel their lives are threatened.

When asked if justice was done in the 2012 shooting death of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin, Crist, a Democrat, referred to his days as a prosecutor.

"I understand that judging from afar is not a very good idea," Crist said. "What I do know though, is this Stand Your Ground law needs to be fixed.”

Crist said the law allows someone to instigate a confrontation, then kill the other person and be exonerated.

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Politics
6:19 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Why Education Is A Top Issue In The Governor's Race

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic opponent Charlie Crist are making education a top issue during the campaign.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Polls show Governor Rick Scott and former Governor Charlie Crist are polarizing. Voters are as likely to dislike the candidates as they are to approve of them.

So both candidates are talking about schools, colleges and scholarships -- to motivate their supporters.

“Education is an issue that is helping to appeal to the base," says Sean Foreman, a Barry University political science professor and chairman of the education committee for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

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StateImpact Florida
11:06 am
Mon October 13, 2014

How A Miami Middle School Added Speech And Debate Classes On A Budget

Veldreana Oliver has taught physical education for 28 years at Allapattah Middle School. More recently, her principal asked her to teach writing, speech and debate.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Last week StateImpact Florida told you how a middle school in Miami has added speech and debate courses this year to improve reading, writing and speaking.

The school’s principal, Bridget McKinney majored in debate and thought the requirements for Florida’s new Common Core-based standards sounded a lot like her college classes. She needed a writing teacher for new speech and debate courses she wanted to create.

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Diversity
7:16 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Miami-Dade Schools Will Track Minority-Owned-Business Contracts

Ron Frazier led a review of Miami-Dade schools' contracts for the Urban League of Miami and the NAACP. The district and the groups have reached an agreement to more closely track district contracts.
Credit John O'Connor / WLRN

Miami-Dade school officials will track how much minority-owned subcontractors are paid and create a new program to make sure district contracts are properly awarded.

Last month, the Urban League of Miami and the local NAACP released an audit they said showed black-owned businesses received a disproportionately low share of district contracts.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he appreciated the response.

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StateImpact Florida
5:32 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Why A Miami Middle School Is Teaching Debate To Conquer Common Core

Allapattah Middle School principal Bridget McKinney sits in on one of the speech and debate classes she's required her students to take. McKinney says the Common Core standards emphasis using evidence and making arguments.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Bridget McKinney, principal at Miami's Allapattah Middle School, says her students struggle to pass the state's reading and writing tests.

So when McKinney first read the Common Core math and language arts standards used in Florida schools this year, what jumped out was the emphasis on answering questions and making arguments using examples and evidence from what students are reading.

It took McKinney back to college -- she was a speech major. So she decided her sixth, seventh and eighth graders would have to take a speech and debate course each year.

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Politics
4:27 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Clinton In Miami: Women Need More Workplace Protections

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a conference of women commercial real estate agents in Miami Beach that the U.S. needs better workplace laws to protect the ability of women to work and raise a family.
Credit John O'Connor / WLRN

The United States makes it difficult for women who want to work and raise families, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a women's commercial real estate association conference in Miami Beach.

Clinton says she’s been all over the world to talk about equity issues for working women working with her Clinton Global Initative, founded by her husband -- and former U.S. president -- Bill.

Clinton says the U.S. still has a long way to go to make sure women are paid and treated the same on the job as men.

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Education
5:36 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Five South Florida Schools Earn Blue Ribbon Honors

The King's Academy in West Palm Beach celebrates their Blue Ribbon honor.
Credit The King's Academy

Five South Florida schools have been named National Blue Ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education.

Two schools in Miami-Dade County, one in Broward County and two in Palm Beach County joined more than 330 other schools on the national list.

The five winning South Florida schools include a magnet school, two charter schools and two private schools.

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School Supplies
1:25 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Miami-Dade Teachers Still Waiting On School Supply Debit Cards

Miami-Dade teachers are still waiting to use $281 state-funded debit cards for school supplies. The school district said they wanted to wait until they knew which teachers would last through the school year.
Credit vamapaull / Flickr

Miami-Dade teachers are still waiting to cash in their $281 debit cards for supplies -- six weeks into the school year.

Gov. Rick Scott pushed the state-funded cards last year. Lawmakers said they intended the cards to be used prior to the school year.

"Basically it’s an issue of making sure that the teachers who spend the money will be the teachers who spend the year in the classrooms," said Miami Herald education reporter Christina Veiga.

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Florida Polytechnic
11:42 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Take An Audio Tour Of Florida's Newest University

Steve Newborn WUSF

Florida's 12th university, Florida Polytechnic University, is an architectural marvel that sits right next to Interstate 4 in Polk County.

The main building features a swooping veil-like facade designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

The public can get a peek of the new campus when it opens on Saturday. But WUSF reporter Steve Newborn took a tour with university spokesman Crystal Lauderdale to talk about the features and Calatrava's intent.

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StateImpact Florida
9:21 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

How Broward College Is Reducing Student Debt

The debt management seminar taught by Kent Dunston is part of the school's efforts to reduce student loan debt.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

To get a student loan at Broward College, you’ve got to sit through a two-hour financial lesson with Kent Dunston first.

At times, it’s a little like “Scared Straight!” – that 1978 documentary about setting juvenile delinquents on the right path -- but for your credit score.

Dunston’s first piece of advice – figure out how much money you’re going to need.

“You’re not going to borrow more than that amount of money,” he told the students. “You’ll be offered more. You don’t need it.”

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School Funding
4:32 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

State Universities Want $45 Million To Offset Bright Futures Changes

State university officials are asking for $45 million in needs-based aid to help make up for cuts to Bright Futures.
Credit Abd allah Foteih / Flickr

State university leaders want to add $45 million in needs-based financial aid to help make up for changes to the Bright Futures scholarship program. Those new, higher qualifications will eliminate more than $250 million a year in college aid by 2018.

The State University System Board of Governors Wednesday delayed a vote on adding $45 million. They want more time to discuss the issue.

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StateImpact Florida
6:10 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Teachers Should Be Apprentices For A Year, Poll Finds

University of Central Florida elementary education students discuss how to incorporate books, maps, magazines and other materials into lesson plans in this 2013 photo.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

A strong majority of Americans surveyed want teachers to have at least one year's practice time in the classroom and pass a board certification before teaching, according to a new national poll.

The Phi Delta Kappa professional teacher's organization and Gallup released a second batch of their annual survey data Tuesday. The poll surveyed 1,001 adults by phone and has a margin of error of 4.6 percent.

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Bright Futures
5:14 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Lawmaker Says Financial Aid Could Depend On Classes, Not Just Test Scores

Senate Education Chairman John Legg said lawmakers may discuss ways to make state financial aid depend more on classes and less on test scores.
Credit zack Mccarthy / Flickr

A key Senate lawmaker may put less emphasis on test scores to determine which students qualify for state financial aid for college -- possibly including Bright Futures.

Instead, scholarships  and grants would depend more on taking tougher classes in high school.

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