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Dan DeWitt, Hernando Times Columnist

Dan DeWitt

Dan DeWitt has worked as a reporter or columnist for the Times in Hernando County since 1989. He and his wife, Laura, live with their two sons south of Brooksville.

DeWitt previously worked for the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press. A Cincinnati native, he attended Kenyon College in Ohio and received a master's degree in journalism from the University of Michigan.

Phone: (352) 754-6116

Email: ddewitt@tampabay.com

Twitter: @DDewittTimes

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  1. Hernando rethinking its tough stance on third-grade advancement

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District's hard line on third-grade promotions may be showing some cracks.

    At the last School Board meeting, deputy superintendent Gina Michalicka said the state has approved a computer testing program called i-Ready — normally given three times a year to check whether students are working at grade level — to help determine whether third-graders are skilled enough to advance to fourth grade....

    Despite a ruling in their favor on testing, the district told, from left, Hailey Everett, Maddison Hohman and Madelynn Kinkade their seats at Chocachatti Elementary had been forfeited.  
  2. Hernando sheriff considering appeal of his 2016-17 budget

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — It seemed last week as if approval of the 2016-17 budget for the Hernando County Sheriff's Office had been without the usual drama.

    Now, it appears, the drama might just have been delayed.

    Sheriff Al Nienhuis had asked to appear at Tuesday's County Commission meeting to discuss a seldom-used option available to his office — an appeal to the governor and Florida Cabinet....

    Al Nienhuis says he has tried to work with county leaders.
  3. DeWitt: Silos provide a warm welcome to a rural, friendly place

    Local Government

    Blair Hensley stood in the middle of E Jefferson Street one morning last week, pointing to his left or right until a crane had placed a steel silo in just the right position for maximum visual impact.

    When Hensley, a line of cars backed up behind him, signaled that he was satisfied, the crane operator gently lowered the legs of the silo onto a concrete pad on a roadside patch of land.

    And at that instant, Brooksville got a brand:...

    Blair Hensley, center, stands beside Rick Pearson, right, of Proud Pelican Contruction. The silos are the vision of Hensley, who owns Florida Cracker Kitchen.
  4. School bus driver's repeated violations raise questions about district policy

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Veteran school bus driver Mildred Rodgers was penalized two points by the Hernando County School District last week for driving her bus through a red light at the busy intersection of S Broad Street and Cortez Boulevard in Brooksville.

    It was far from Rodgers' first infraction.

    Since her hiring in 2001, Rodgers, 61, has accumulated 23 points for incidents that include causing six wrecks, speeding and improper passing — all while driving a bus....

    One Hernando County School bus driver’s repeated violations have raised questions about district policy. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. DeWitt: Public deserves a full accounting when officers fire fatal shots

    Crime

    Maybe the message is finally getting through to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office:

    The matter of law enforcement officers shooting and killing residents is a big deal in this country right now.

    When it happens, the public wants enough details to determine whether deputies or police officers were within their rights — or whether, as has been shown in several recent cases across the nation, they might have been a little trigger-happy....

  6. DeWitt: When it comes to storm preparedness, responsibility rests with all

    Public Safety

    Florida storms are like spoiled children in that we're bombarded with images documenting every step of their development — birth, naming, graduations from depression to tropical storm to hurricane, the path they take in life.

    They are literally on the radar all that time.

    So is it really possible for one of them to slip under it?

    Yes, it is, at least according to some people in coastal Hernando County....

  7. Mountaineer Coffee brings a flavorful education to downtown Brooksville

    Retail

    BROOKSVILLE

    Taylor Buttelman, a barista at Mountaineer Coffee in downtown Brooksville, demonstrated how beans for espresso must be ground as finely as cocoa powder.

    He displayed a properly steamed pitcher of milk — not liquid on the bottom and frothy on top, as at some shops, but a consistent "microfoam" the thickness of wet paint.

    He showed off the well-practiced flourishes that produce images of fernlike white "rosettas" on the toast-brown background of finished lattes....

    With a steady hand, barista Taylor Buttelman creates latte art at Mountaineer Coffee.  In background is employee Johnny Fouts.
  8. Hernando School Board passes budget without cuts

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board has approved a 2016-17 budget with a general fund of $173 million — slightly higher than last year — despite a slightly lower local property tax rate.

    More important to board members and staffers, Tuesday's final budget hearing concluded the first budget season since 2008 without discussions about slashing employee positions, imposing furloughs or cutting programs....

  9. State Supreme Court resets rules for judging intellectual capacity in death penalty cases

    Criminal

    The death penalty for Freddie Lee Hall, convicted of the 1978 slayings of a pregnant Leesburg woman whom he also raped and a Hernando County sheriff's deputy, was vacated by the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday.

    In doing so, the state's highest court reset the process judges will use to determine the intellectual capacity of defendants in Florida's death cases.

    Such a ruling had been expected since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2014 decision upholding Hall's challenge of Florida's old standard for executing intellectually disabled offenders. But several lawyers said they were impressed by the state court's thorough reconsideration of the issue and the new standards the court handed down Thursday....

    Freddie Lee Hall, 71, convicted of two 1978 murders, registered IQ scores lower than 70.
  10. DeWitt: Russell's loss reflects reality of today's Republican Party

    Elections

    Maybe Dave Russell was just a victim of bad timing.

    Hernando County, to its immense discredit, has fallen hard for presidential candidate Donald Trump.

    And Russell, to his immense misfortune, shares the general political profile of the most irrelevant of his party's presidential candidates, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush:

    Not just an establishment Republican, but a relic from the pre-tea party era....

    Dave Russell lost decisively to gun store owner Steve Champion.
  11. Moton Elementary gets interim principal

    Blog

    Hernando school leaders name interim principal at Moton Elementary

    Tuesday, September 6, 2016 5:29pm

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District named veteran administrator Marvin Gordon as temporary principal at troubled Moton Elementary School on Tuesday, while pushing back against the idea that the sudden departure of his predecessor, Jamie Young, is a sign of a districtwide talent drain....

  12. Hernando school leaders name interim principal at Moton Elementary

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District named veteran administrator Marvin Gordon as temporary principal at troubled Moton Elementary School this week, while pushing back against the idea that the sudden departure of his predecessor, Jamie Young, is a sign of a districtwide talent drain.

    As her reason for leaving without the standard notice last week, Young cited a lack of resources at the school, where the state grade dropped from a C to a D last year. The Brooksville school also has a high percentage of children eligible for free or reduced-price lunches and is home to several classrooms for emotionally troubled or physically or intellectually disabled children....

    Marvin Gordon had come out of retirement to run a computer lab at Endeavor Academy.
  13. Coastal Hernando residents clean up from aftermath of storm surge

    News

    HERNANDO BEACH — More than three hours before Friday's early morning high tide, Thomas Thompson woke up to find water seeping under the front door of his house on Eagle Nest Drive.

    "We tried to put blankets under the door, but there was nothing we could do to stop it," said Thompson, 58.

    About 2 feet of floodwaters eventually soaked furniture, a television and a stereo system, he said....

  14. Complete story on Moton

    Blog

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/well-regarded-principal-abruptly-leaves-troubled-hernando-elementary-school/2291902

  15. Well-regarded principal abruptly leaves troubled Hernando elementary school

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — On Thursday morning, Moton Elementary School principal Jamie Young wore a T-shirt emblazoned with rainbow-colored letters spelling out the motto she adopted after taking over the troubled school in May:

    "Good Vibes Only!"

    It hasn't worked out that way.

    Young abruptly resigned Tuesday, citing the need for more teachers and other resources for the school, which slipped from a grade of C to D last school year and was the subject of a district investigation that found a wide range of policy violations....

    Jamie Young resigned as principal at Moton Elementary School in Brooksville on Tuesday.