John O'Connor


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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ivydawned / Flickr

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has closed its six-month  investigation into a cyber attack during Florida Standards Assessments testing this spring.

The agency isn't saying who tried to shut down testing by overloading servers or why. But law enforcement officials said no personal student data was accessed during the attack.

FDLE said it  found that more than 29,000 Internet addresses were used to swamp servers run by test contractor American Institutes for Research. Some of the addresses were in the U.S., but most were believed to be foreign.

Screen shot / U.S. Department of Education

Lots of schools promise to train students to be nurses, technicians or for other in-demand medical careers. But a new federal database shows that isn’t always the case.

At some schools,  only a small percentage of students who attend using federal grants or loans earn more than a high school graduate a decade after enrolling in college.

The data links students who received federal financial aid to what they reported earning on their tax forms a decade later.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

For weeks now, Palm Beach County schools have struggled to get students to classes on time.

Bus routes have been redrawn. And the district sent up flares, looking to hire anyone who wants to drive a bus.

It’s the first crisis new superintendent Robert Avossa has had to face since taking over the job in June. And he says it could have been avoided if district leaders had listened.

C.M. Guerrero / El Nuevo Herald

The first pope from Latin America is visiting Cuba later this month. Pope Francis will be the third pope to visit the Communist dictatorship since Pope John Paul II visited the nation in 1998.

Accompanying Pope Francis on the trip will be Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski. Wenski spoke with WLRN about the church's relationship with Cubans. Here are five things we learned:

The church has done a lot of bridge-building since 1998.

David Santiago / El Neuvo Herald

Vice President Joe Biden met with more than two dozen South Florida Jewish leaders Thursday to soothe fears about a White House deal to monitor the Iranian weapons programs.

The deal would end trade and foreign aid restrictions in exchange for international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites.

“If we can take the nuclear bomb off the table, it’s better dealing with those guys than if we’re dealing with those bad guys and the nuclear bomb is on the table,” he said.

Florida Department of Education / Flickr


A review of Florida's new statewide test has found the exam is valid and the results can be used to judge teacher and school performance, the Florida Department of Education announced.

But the review also found that after problems with computerized testing, "scores for some students will be suspect." The reviewers recommend that state test scores not be the sole basis to determine whether students graduate or if they are placed in remedial courses.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

For the first time in decades, the majority of U.S. school children come from low-income families.

Florida has one of the highest rates in the country -- federal data shows just seven states have a higher percentage of low-income students.

stevendepolo / Flickr

Palm Beach County teachers soon could be able to stock their classrooms for free.

The Education Foundation of Palm Beach County says it hopes to open a school supply store in the spring for teachers working in Palm Beach County's poorest schools.

Christina Lambert with the foundation says teachers will be able to visit the store often.

“We hope that we’re able to provide an opportunity for these teachers to shop monthly," she says, "and to get about $200 worth of supplies each time they shop.”

Georgia Guercio / Wikipedia

The former head of the Broward Teacher’s Union is facing new criminal charges.

Pat Santeramo has been charged with mail fraud for misappropriating more than $35,000.

Investigators say Santeramo took money intended for teacher training, speakers or special projects and instead paid himself and another union employee.

He could serve up to 20 years in prison for each of the two charges.

His attorney says Santeramo will fight the charges.

It's just the latest criminal charges for the former union boss.

Screen shot / Fulham Football Club

Florida's public-private tourism agency has signed a deal to sponsor a professional soccer club in England's second-highest league.

The Visit Florida logo will appear on Fulham Football Club jerseys. The logo will also be on the three roofs of its London stadium, known as Craven Cottage, which is along the flight path for Heathrow Airport.

Fulham is owned by Shahid Khan, who also owns the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.