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.

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.

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