Robin Sussingham

Reporter/Host

Robin Sussingham is a reporter/producer and host at WUSF Public Broadcasting.  A native of Lakeland, she frequently reports on events and issues in Polk County.

She came to WUSF from public radio stations KUER and KCPW in Utah, has contributed stories to NPR and Marketplace, and has an extensive background in newspapers, magazines and online reporting. 

Robin majored in chemistry at Duke, and went to NYU for a Masters Degree in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting. She's reported on everything from the Olympics to the oil spill, but will jump at a chance to talk about food or books.

Ways to Connect

State Sen. John Legg heads the education committee in the Florida Senate. StateImpact Florida's Robin Sussingham sat down with Legg recently, and asked him to sum up the most important education issues that will be in front of the legislature this year.

Legg: The biggest education issues I see are class size; [also], the House has made a priority of looking at Best and Brightest which is a recruitment and merit reward for teachers around  $10,000...

Sussingham: That's pretty controversial. If you took the SAT 30 years ago, you're going to get $10,000 if you did well?

flsenate.gov

It's been just days since President Obama signed into law the new Every Child Succeeds Act, doing away with No Child Left Behind. State lawmakers likely will not be dealing with the law's effects during the next session, but anticipate big changes in 2017.

Robin Sussingham

The Polk County School Board has given the nod to a "recess" requirement for the county's public elementary schools during their work session on Tuesday.

Robin Sussingham

Remember recess? When you knew that if you just sat still for a couple more hours, you and your friends could go racing out to the merry-go-round or the hopscotch court for a daily dose of fun? In many public elementary schools in Florida, recess has become a thing of the past. And parents are not happy.

During this Thanksgiving week, we're taking a second listen to our show on  food, family and traditions. From passing on the recipe for French Canadian meat pie, to making the perfect rice and meeting the bakers who make award-winning pies in Lakeland, our reporters are taking you into the kitchen. 

Robin Sussingham / WUSF

Florida is a state that juts out into the water and is home to 14 ports -- but still the maritime industry is a mystery to most teens. Now, a rapidly aging workforce in one of the state's major economic engines is behind a push to reach a younger generation and teach them about sea-going jobs.  

Associated Press

 Recently, President Barack Obama admitted he’d made a mistake when it comes to public schools.

Like many people with big news to share – he posted it on Facebook.

“I also hear from parents who, rightly, worry about too much testing,” Obama said in a video posted to the White House’s Facebook page.

Robin Sussingham

Representatives of those in Florida who want to opt out of standardized testing in public schools were out in force at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting in Orlando.

The Board met to discuss Florida Standards Assessment "cut scores," which are the cutoffs for different achievement levels on the test, including what will be considered a passing score.

Wendy Bradshaw

A Polk County public school teacher's letter of resignation has apparently hit a nerve with frustrated teachers and parents nationwide.

Robin Sussingham / WUSF

Polk County School Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy spoke Tuesday to a group of parents and teachers in Lakeland who are rallying for more recess in schools.

Superintendent LeRoy told the crowd  that she's in favor of recess. She said that other school districts are making resolutions in favor of bringing back recess, but she wants to make policy.

LeRoy said she's forming a county-wide committee to quickly study the issue and bring recommendations back to the school board by the beginning of December.

It sounded like a story guaranteed to irritate taxpayers: a national study out of Rutgers university says more and more public high school students are taking longer than four years to graduate.

Instead, they're in school for five or six -- or more --  years!

But Florida school officials say that's not a problem here. And experts say, they both may be right -- the difference may lie in some good news from the last several years.

It was with great fanfare in 2009 that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it was giving $100 million to Hillsborough County schools for a program called Empowering Effective Teachers -- one of just three public school districts in the country awarded the grant.

At the time, it was at the forefront of the movement to pay teachers for performance, rather than seniority.

Now, the district won't be getting a fifth of that money. And the consequences to the school district's budget are coming clear. Increases in teacher pay and bonuses haven't been matched by the Gates Foundation money or other revenue, forcing the school district to dip into its financial reserves.

Hillsborough County Public Schools

Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins brought the latest data on school suspensions to the Hillsborough County school board on Tuesday. He said out-of-school suspensions were down 53 percent from the same time period last year. Eakins said there were several reasons why.

"There is strong advocacy for kids," Eakins said. "There are increased interventions at school sites prior to suspension.  There is increased communication between our principals and our area superintendents." Eakins said he was "very proud" of the numbers.

Robin Sussingham

With a message that neighborhood violence won't be solved by law enforcement or government agencies alone -- a group called "Safe and Sound Hillsborough" today said it wants to galvanize the community to respond.

Speaking at the Grant Park Community Center in East Tampa, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner referenced a 14-year-old boy killed recently, possibly for giving information to police, and said it's urgent that youth violence be addressed.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Classes are underway at Florida Polytechnic University. It's the second academic year for the state's newest university -- a STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math college -- and  the  campus is growing quickly.

Robin Sussingham

A magnet program in Tampa that prepares students for careers in the maritime industry is celebrating the start of its third year tonight with an event at the Sheraton Riverwak. The program now hopes to attract more business support.

There are nine juniors enrolled in the Maritime Honors Academy at Jefferson High School in Tampa. And several of them say they completely changed direction after learning about the shipping industry for the first time. Ashley Hallaian is one such student.

George Jenkins High School

There's growing concern about the risks of concussions in young athletes. For years, high school coaches have had to take courses on the dangers of head injuries. This year, for the first time, all high school athletes in Florida are required to educate themselves about concussions before they can compete.

Robin Sussingham / WUSF

As schools open for a new school year, they'll also start encountering student poverty and homelessness. At last count -- the 2013/2014 school year --  the number of homeless students had risen to more than 71,000 in the state's public schools. For many of these children, a brand new school uniform may be out of reach, though school officials say it makes a big impact on their attitude. One longtime charity in Lakeland is quietly helping to fill that need.

Pinellas County Schools

The Pinellas County School District has issued a response to a Tampa Bay Times investigation into the district's lowest performing schools -- saying, " the road to transformation begins with solutions, not blame."

Graphic courtesy of Tampa Bay Times

The Tampa Bay Times just completed an investigation into a group of low-performing elementary schools in black neighborhoods of southern Pinellas County -- schools that they're calling "Failure Factories." WUSF's Robin Sussingham spoke with reporters Michael LaForgia and Cara Fitzpatrick... and asked what they discovered about those schools that made them want to dig deeper:

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