Jessica Bakeman

Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.

Jessica first moved to the Sunshine State in 2015 to help launch POLITICO Florida as part of the company’s national expansion. She is the immediate past president of the Capitol Press Club of Florida, a nonprofit organization that raises money for college scholarships benefiting journalism students.

Jessica was an original member of POLITICO New York’s Albany bureau. Also in the Empire State, Jessica covered politics for The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. As part of Gannett’s three-person Albany bureau, she won the New York Publishers Association award for distinguished state government coverage in 2013 and 2014. Jessica twice chaired a planning committee for the Albany press corps’ annual political satire show, the oldest of its kind in the country.

She started her career at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. There she won the Louisiana/Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors’ 2013 first place award for continuing coverage of former Gov. Haley Barbour’s decision to pardon more than 200 felons as he left office.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and English literature from SUNY Plattsburgh, a public liberal arts college in northeastern New York. She (proudly) hails from Rochester, N.Y.

A new charter school surrounded by an eight-foot non-scalable fence and equipped with bullet-resistant glass is slated to open just a few miles from the site of the nation's deadliest high school shooting.

A small group of teachers wearing matching red T-shirts with the words “Strong Public Schools” gathered on the street corner outside the Northwest Regional Library in Coral Springs on Wednesday afternoon, ringing cowbells and asking drivers to honk in support.

There were more than a dozen similar scenes throughout Broward County, as public school teachers worked to pressure district officials over salary negotiations.

The morning after the Feb. 14, 2018, school shooting in Parkland, Fla., a middle school teacher in nearby Miami stood in front of his speech and debate class and had no idea what to say.

"It's a powerful thing when 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds are looking up to you for an answer to something that you don't have an answer for," said Kelsey Major, a teacher at Everglades K-8 Center, a public school about 50 miles south of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people had been killed in the shooting.

"In speech and debate, I was speechless," he said.

When the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC championship earlier this month, Miami Chef Brad Kilgore’s plans for Super Bowl Week went from “just a busy, fun week here in Miami, to maybe the most important week I’ve had since my wedding,” he said, laughing.

Cheering for the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami is a distinct pleasure for Kilgore. The Magic City chef is a Kansas City native — and he’s got big plans for watching his first hometown team play in his adopted hometown’s stadium.

There were lots of Miami Dolphins hats and University of Miami T-shirts floating around the Miami Beach Convention Center for the Super Bowl Experience event, which started this weekend and runs through next Saturday.

But South Florida football fans also showed love for the two teams competing in the big game Feb. 2 at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he believes in science, and the science is clear: Adolescents aren’t getting enough sleep, and experts believe later school start times could fix that.

But Carvalho said he understands that pushing back the first bell to no earlier than 8 a.m. could be a logistical nightmare for students, parents and school employees — and he insisted the district won’t do it unless there’s community support.

Florida teachers have won some battles on the pay front in recent years — but for them, it’s too little, too late.

Some Florida dentists, hygienists, students and advocates are promoting a legislative proposal to create a new tier of providers who could offer routine procedures to people who lack access to oral health care.

At Tradewinds Middle School in Greenacres, the spindly leaves of endangered native Florida orchids peek out from where the baby plants are carefully nestled in tree branches.

Cucumbers, strawberries and herbs grow out of halved plastic soda bottles hanging along a fence. The school garden is also home to a special peach tree formulated by the University of Florida to flourish in hot climates.

Sixth, seventh and eighth graders grew most of the plants in their classrooms before transferring them outside on the campus, collecting and analyzing data along the way.

Federal health officials visited Miami this week to learn more about why HIV infection rates are higher in South Florida and Puerto Rico than most of the rest of the country and what they can do to change that.

More than 30 percent of undergraduate women at the University of Florida have experienced nonconsensual sexual contact since enrolling at the school, a new survey found.

Florida leaders at the state and federal level are hoping to prevent human trafficking through education.

Proposals now in front of the state Board of Education and Congress would make sure kids learn about human trafficking in schools.

During a meeting Friday morning in Jacksonville, the board is slated to consider a new regulation that would mandate that trafficking awareness and prevention are taught in public school health classes.

After a former student killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, Florida public school children are being watched more closely.

In a photo taken last March, a teenage boy is sitting at his desk with a plastic pellet gun that looks a lot like an AR-15. The airsoft rifle is propped up on the arm of a chair, pointing at the ceiling, and the boy, Eric, is looking at the camera. We're not using his last name to protect his privacy.

Eric's friend took the picture. At the time, Eric says, he didn't realize his friend had captioned the photo "Don't come to school Monday" and had sent it to others on Snapchat.

To state leaders who support charter schools, rural Jefferson County was a poster child for public school failure.

By the summer of 2016, the small Panhandle school district had racked up a decade of Ds and Fs under Florida’s high-stakes system for rating school performance. More than half of its middle/high school students had been held back at least twice. At the hands of a dysfunctional local government, the district had devolved into one of the worst in Florida.

It was 1999 when then-Gov. Jeb Bush achieved his biggest priority, the “A-plus plan,” which changed the way we have thought about schools in Florida ever since.

The law said schools should get letter grades so parents could quickly and easily understand how well they were doing. The grades are high stakes now, because if schools perform poorly for long enough the state can force districts to take drastic steps, such as closing them.

Twenty years after the law was passed, the school districts in South Florida have a lot to celebrate.

Beto O’Rourke will be among 20 Democratic presidential candidates debating this week in Miami. But on Tuesday night, he got the stage to himself.

Democratic presidential candidates are headed to Miami for the first debates of the 2020 election cycle, and South Floridians have planned a flurry of events to mark their visit.

Broward County lawmakers, school district officials and parents are launching a multi-front war against e-cigarette companies, which they argue are targeting teenagers in hopes of addicting them to nicotine.

“Their only purpose, let’s be very clear, is to hook another generation of smokers — or vapers,” Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said during a news conference Friday morning at the YMCA in Weston. “I mean, their job is to make money.”

Florida International University hopes to soon join the state's top tier of public colleges, working toward a formal status of "preeminent" that has come with millions of additional dollars from the state in recent years.

An appointed board that oversees public universities in Florida is expected to designate FIU an "emerging preeminent" school during a three-day meeting in Tampa this week. The State University System Board of Governors' strategic planning committee approved the label on Wednesday morning, and the full board will consider it on Thursday afternoon.

A new group for young black activists in Broward County is being formed, in part as a response to the recent police beating of a 15-year-old black boy in Tamarac.

Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward is starting a youth chapter, called the black youth assembly, in June. The group announced the plans at a community forum on Monday night at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Oakland Park.

Families of Parkland school shooting victims are filing at least 22 lawsuits against Broward County's school board, sheriff's office and more, alleging they failed to prevent the attack that left 17 people dead and another 17 injured.

Nearly a year after its first meeting, the state commission tasked with investigating the Parkland school shooting and making recommendations designed to prevent future massacres considered what its role should be in studying Florida’s mental health treatment system.

The members’ conclusion: It’s not our job.

“Mental health is a big topic. I think we have to be careful about transforming this into a mental health commission,” the commission’s chair, Pinellas County sheriff Bob Gualtieri, said during Wednesday’s meeting at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

Lawyers representing the families of students and staff killed or injured in last year's mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland began filing 20 lawsuits on Wednesday against defendants including: the Broward County School Board, the Broward County Sheriff's Office (BSO), Broward County Sheriff's officer Scot Peterson, MSD campus monitor Andrew Medina and Henderson Behavioral Health Inc. of Florida.

The shared complaint, at least of the first 10 suits filed, is negligence:

This story was updated at 4:10 p.m.  on Wednesday, April 10. 

Families of Parkland school shooting victims are filing at least 22 lawsuits against the Broward County school board, sheriff's office and others, alleging they failed to prevent the attack that left 17 people dead and another 17 injured.

Eduardo Padrón's first role at Miami Dade College was student. In August, he will resign from the role he has played for the past 24 years -- president of the school.

A conflict last fall over union recruitment at Miami Dade College resulted in multiple municipal police officers pointing guns at a labor organizer on the school's campus in Doral.

The Sept. 13, 2018, incident was one of several alleged dustups that have led the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to file a complaint against the college charging unfair labor practices, a claim that is still pending under Florida's Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC).

The Broward County school board rejected a proposal from its newest member to fire Superintendent Robert Runcie, voting 6-3 against ending his contract after community members spoke for four hours in overwhelming support of his leadership.

The new leader of Florida Memorial University wants to triple the school's enrollment, at a time when some other historically black institutions are losing students, facing threats to their accreditation status and even closing their doors.

The speaker of the Florida House is stepping in to help charter school teachers get a share of the revenue from Miami-Dade County’s recently approved property-tax increase.

Republican House Speaker Jose Oliva, of Miami, accused the leaders of Miami-Dade County Public Schools of “deception,” writing in a letter Friday that “an illusion was created that the additional taxes would be used to benefit all schools.”

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