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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. Principal, assistant principal removed from Brooksville school

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The principal and assistant principal at Moton Elementary School have been temporarily removed from their positions while the Hernando County School District conducts an investigation.

    District spokeswoman Karen Jordan declined to reveal the subject of the investigation or whether the administrators — principal Mark Griffith and assistant principal Anna Jensen — had been suspended or transferred to another location in the district....

  2. Hernando schools struggle with shortage of money for substitute teachers

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Bob Webb said that until this year he worked almost every school day as a substitute teacher in the Hernando County School District.

    But his hours have dwindled steadily, he said, and now he's lucky to get two half days of work per week.

    "Subs in Hernando County are pretty much unemployed," said Webb, 59, of Brooksville, a five-year veteran substitute. "We're basically just getting the scraps that they're giving us."...

  3. DeWitt: Robert Schenck's crash points to weakness in traffic laws

    Local Government

    The Florida Highway Patrol says Robert Schenck got treated just like anybody else.

    Maybe. But there was no news release on a 2014 collision that ultimately killed a bicyclist from an agency that fills up journalists' email with reports of just about anything more serious than a fender bender.

    Schenck, likewise, who at the time was finishing up an eight-year stint as a Republican state representative, said he did nothing to prevent this incident from going public, nothing to keep this bike wreck from becoming a political train wreck....

    Robert Schenck’s name was misspelled in court records.
  4. DeWitt: When it comes to school funding, inequity is just one of the issues

    K12

    Yippee, we're 49th!

    That's where Hernando County ranks, out of 67 counties, in the amount of money its schools will receive next year per student from the state's main education funding program.

    And though this is a considerable improvement from as recently as a few years ago, when Hernando ranked 62nd, it shows that equality of school funding is a persistent problem in Florida, said Gregg Laskoski of Spring Hill, who has been the system's most persistent local critic....

  5. Rezoning plan may not solve problem of overcrowded schools in Hernando

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board, which last year went through the politically treacherous process of redrawing school boundaries to ease overcrowding, found out last week that it may still have work to do.

    So many students are opting to stay in their current schools, deputy superintendent Eric Williams told the board at an informal meeting Tuesday, that some schools are likely to remain far below capacity when the new zones take effect next school year. Meanwhile, other schools may be almost as full as ever....

  6. DeWitt: Wall Street-style financial dealings played out right here in Brooksville

    Growth

    We usually look to Wall Street or multinational corporations for symbols of financial inequity, for tales of the rich fixing the system to get even richer.

    But, judging from documents filed in federal court last year, there's a pretty good symbol doing major business right here in Hernando County: Ed Burr, founder of GreenPointe Holdings and the related companies that own and run Brooksville's Southern Hills Plantation Club....

  7. Hernando schools budget picture brighter, but still dim

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District may face a deficit of $3.3 million for the coming fiscal year — which, given the far more dire projections of recent years, is being treated almost as good news.

    "We face a much less daunting task," School Board Chairman Matt Foreman said after hearing the figures during a board workshop Tuesday.

    Though the projection is preliminary and represents a "worst-case scenario," the district's executive director of business services, Heather Martin, said board members should still expect to identify cuts before the budget is adopted in September....

  8. Parents: Hernando schools are threatening students who opt out of exams

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Nicole Rinaudo thought she was well prepared to let her third-grade daughter, Fallon, opt out of the Florida Standards Assessment on Tuesday.

    She informed Fallon's teacher at Explorer K-8 School of her decision in advance and advised Fallon to break the seal on the exam booklet to meet the state requirement that she "participate" in the test.

    That, Rinaudo had been told, would allow Fallon's schoolwork — not one high-stakes test — to determine whether she advances to fourth grade....

  9. Residents say pines sprouting in fairways at Dunes are out of bounds

    Growth

    WEEKI WACHEE

    For a decade, Hans "Pete" Moschinger had easy access to a famously scenic and tough golf course, and a view from his house of the not-so-tough fifth hole.

    "It was an easy hole," said Moschinger, 74. "It was a pretty open hole. You could easily get a birdie or a par."

    The vista from Moschinger's back yard is no longer a manicured and expansive fairway, but a freshly plowed field supporting ankle-high weeds and pine seedlings....

    Neighbors Bruce Tobin, left, and Hans “Pete” Moschinger stand behind their homes Monday in what was once the fifth fairway of the Dunes golf course in Weeki Wachee. The owner has closed the course and planted pine seedlings.
  10. DeWitt: When it comes to downtown revival, Brooksville finally getting it

    Real Estate

    Brooksville should soon be part of the Florida Main Street program, which, depending on how you look at it, is happening either 31 years too late or just at the right time.

    A little history.

    In 1985, the old business districts of Dade City and Brooksville were reeling from the spread of shopping centers and from the sudden devastating freezes of surrounding citrus groves.

    A representative from a brand-new program called Florida Main Street met with leaders from both cities, telling them how the program could help revive their downtowns....

  11. Hernando Sheriff's new budget plan is anything but transparent

    Local

    Sheriff Al Nienhuis says his new plan for setting his cut of county tax revenue promotes transparency, which is, in fact, precisely the opposite of what it's all about.

    If he wanted transparency, he'd have gone along with the idea the County Commission unsuccessfully proposed last year: a special taxing district that would have meant tax bills showing the Sheriff's Office assessment down to the tiniest fraction....

    Al Nienhuis’ office uses much of the general fund revenue.
  12. State budget helps address mental illness in Hernando

    Health

    BROOKSVILLE — The state budget signed last week by Gov. Rick Scott includes money for two projects designed to shore up Hernando County's scanty network of services for mentally ill residents.

    The Hernando County School District will receive $500,000 to establish project StarFISH, which emphasizes early intervention for elementary and middle school students with mental health and behavior conditions....

  13. Rose Rocco pulls out of School Board race, Mario Littman jumps in

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Former County Commissioner Rose Rocco has pulled out of the race for the School Board District 2 seat, citing the need to battle cancer.

    Rocco, 74, who has been a fixture in Hernando County politics for more than a decade, said the breast cancer she thought she had beaten more than a decade ago has spread to the bones in her back. It is forcing her retirement from all political activity — if not permanently, at least for the foreseeable future....

    Rose Rocco, 74, once on the County Commission, withdrew to focus on cancer treatments.
  14. Free store helps Hernando teachers supply classrooms

    K12

    SPRING HILL

    Patricia Gibson, a reading and writing coach at Brooksville Elementary School, had scooped up a spelling board game with a list price of $20.

    Also in her shopping basket: a pair of big, soft foam dice for teaching math that usually sell for about $5 and a packet of lined, tablet-sized white boards that normally cost "a pretty penny," Gibson said.

    But at the new Tools 4 Schools store, in a converted portable classroom at Springstead High School, the total price was zero....

    A portable at Springstead High School houses the store.
  15. DeWitt: County incentives go to familiar, well-placed faces

    Local Government

    There's a good reason Hernando County's standard for handing out new industrial construction incentives — first-come, first-served — can't be found in state law or local ordinances.

    It awards proximity rather than competence. It casts a small net, destined to snag friendly locals rather than bigger and potentially better-qualified contractors.

    Even Commissioner Wayne Dukes, not known as an avatar of open, progressive government, realized that if these grants are not awarded according to a ranking system — and they aren't — the whole thing could smell of favoritism. Which it does....