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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 schools face penalty for lack of documentation — but not $3.6 million

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District still doesn't know how big a hit it will take for failing to properly document attendance of students at Suncoast Elementary School three years ago, but it does know it will be much smaller than the original amount — $3.6 million.

    That sum was set in the state Auditor General's Office report of the 2013-14 school year, completed in 2015....

  2. Once again, Central High School strikes up its band

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The band in trim blue jackets and black pants belted out a rousing version of My Country, 'Tis of Thee as it marched under overhanging limbs of oak and camphor trees in Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Brooksville.

    Other than the ability of this squad from Central High School to keep playing as it climbed the steep grade on Howell Avenue, not much distinguished it from the handful of other school bands in the parade....

    Nathan Burnside, 18, missed playing his baritone saxophone.
  3. DeWitt: Commissioners must address county's underfunded fire-rescue service

    Local Government

    It's time for the Hernando County Commission to fix its fire department mess.

    No, not that mess, the one commissioners can blame on a crew of dysfunctional amateurs in Hernando Beach.

    I mean the other mess, the one they can blame only on themselves.

    So much attention has been focused on the spectacular failures of and lurid stories about the Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department, it's easy to overlook the far less sexy issue of the drastically underfunded Hernando County Fire Rescue....

  4. Program for mentally ill students in Hernando schools has faced delays

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District received $500,000 from the state last year to create a program to identify and help young students with serious mental health conditions.

    Project StarFISH got off to a slow start.

    None of the three originally planned classrooms were operating at the start of the 2016-17 school year. Only two of them are now, one without a full-time, accredited teacher. And neither of them was up and running until November....

    State Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, helped secure the state grant for Project StarFISH.
  5. DeWitt: Low price of gym memberships might cost Hernando YMCA

    Business

    The facilities at the new Planet Fitness on Spring Hill Drive are eye-popping, the prices even more so.

    Lines of brand-new treadmills and elliptical trainers stretch from near the front door to the back end of the gym's vast, 23,000-square-foot chunk of the old Sweetbay Supermarket at Mariner Boulevard.

    The row of 70-inch televisions would put to shame the collection at the most lavishly outfitted sports bar. The gym offers several duplicates of every imaginable weight machine in a big central room and side rooms stocked with box-jumping and stretching equipment....

    Paul and Lisa McCarty work out at the new Planet Fitness’ opening day on Spring Hill Drive, packed front to back with an array of fitness equipment.
  6. Cynthia Moore: School Board member, teacher and generous volunteer

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Former Hernando superintendent of schools Bryan Blavatt said he used to receive phone calls from School Board member Cynthia Moore telling him "a child at so-and-so school didn't have shoes to wear."

    When Blavatt said he would take care of it, Ms. Moore would tell him she already had.

    "She'd say, 'I took them out and bought some shoes, but I wanted to let you know that they need help.' That happened more than once," Blavatt said....

    Cynthia Moore was a teacher for more than 40 years and School Board member for 14 years.
  7. Construction stalled — but not stopped — on local Vincent House

    Health

    When the backers of a local Vincent House received a $250,000 state grant last spring, they had a definite plan for the money:

    Start construction on the facility, which is designed to provide programs for mentally ill residents that mirror those available at the original Vincent House in Largo.

    But soon after the funds arrived in July, it became clear that spending it was not possible. The money can't be used to build the local version of a Vincent House — to be called Vincent Academy — just to operate it....

  8. DeWitt: Increase in impact fees would let the good times keep rolling

    Real Estate

    If your Realtor friends served anything less than top-shelf booze at their holiday parties, they were holding out on you. Chances are, they had a very good year.

    The volume of home sales in November in Hernando County, the most recent month figures are available for, was up a whopping 19 percent from 12 months earlier.

    The median price for homes jumped 17.2 percent from the same time in 2015, to $140,500....

  9. 2016: School Board signs new contract with superintendent

    K12

    The Hernando County School Board in January voted to approve a new four-year contract for Lori Romano that would make her the longest-serving superintendent of schools in recent county history.

    But, as the negotiations showed, Romano is also one of the most polarizing.

    Her most vocal supporters on the board, Gus Guadagnino and Mark Johnson, cited the district's improved academic performance and financial standing in arguing that extension was richly deserved, and even, according to Guadagnino, long overdue....

    Lori Romano received both compliments and complaints.
  10. 2016: Turnover leads to turmoil at Moton Elementary

    Prek

    When principal Mark Griffith was removed from Moton Elementary School in April, it seemed like the end of a disruptive period at the Brooksville school.

    It turned out to be just the beginning.

    Teachers from the school staged at low-key protest at a meeting of the Hernando County School Board, a crowd of them in matching T-shirts standing in the chambers as a representative read a letter describing the disruption and low morale created by an investigation of Griffith....

    Frana
  11. 2016: Death sentence set aside in case of Freddie Lee Hall

    Criminal

    Relatives of former Hernando County sheriff's Deputy Lonnie Coburn — disgusted by the many delays in the execution of his killer, Freddie Lee Hall — have long said they never expected to see Hall put to death.

    In September, they were proved right.

    The Florida Supreme Court vacated Hall's death sentence for killing and raping a pregnant 21-year-old Leesburg woman, Karol Hurst, and slammed the state's process for determining whether convicted murderers were too intellectually disabled for execution. Hall, 71, and an accomplice, Mack Ruffin Jr., killed Coburn, 25, in Ridge Manor in 1978, shortly after driving from the scene of Hurst's rape and murder....

    Hall
  12. 2016: County officials accused of ignoring, forgiving rogue road contractor

    Local Government

    Robert Kern had helped enlist neighbors to chip in for the paving of lime rock roads in his Royal Highlands neighborhood.

    And that made him especially curious and outraged by the shoddy work performed by the company hired to do the job, B.R.W. Contracting, and even more so by the lack of concern shown by county officials.

    "Why did it take so long for them to realize this man was inefficient at his business?" Kern asked about B.R.W. boss Randy Blankenship. "Inefficient to the point that it was blatant — that it was utterly ridiculous."...

    Royal Highlands neighbors Tom White, left, and Robert Kern were outraged by the way the county government dealt with B.R.W. Contracting. “It’s just wrong,” White said.
  13. 2016: Legendary Brooksville coach, runner Ernie Chatman dies at 66

    Human Interest

    Ernie Chatman was a living, highly mobile, local monument to, among other things, optimal health.

    The retired Hernando High School teacher and coach — who led the school's cross country team to a state championship and countless other teams to deep playoff runs, who was named to at least two sports halls of fame, who helped launch the careers of a handful of future professional baseball players — was even better known as a runner....

    Linda Chatman, bottom right, hugs Mike Browning as guests pack the receiving line at Hernando High’s gym in July at the funeral for her husband, coaching icon Ernie Chatman.
  14. DeWitt: For safety of residents, dump Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department

    Human Interest

    You'd think this alone would be enough to persuade Hernando County commissioners to disband the Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department:

    "(The department) is not consistently following proper … dispatch and response procedures to emergency incidents."

    That's pretty important for any fire department, handling medical emergencies, and the above passage from a report by the county's own staff goes on to say just how important: The actions (or inactions) of Hernando Beach volunteers could easily cause delays in care for patients whose lives are at risk....

  15. Hernando graduation rate higher than state, surrounding counties

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District's four-year graduation rate improved dramatically last school year, according to the annual report released by the state last week, with the rate surpassing the statewide average and those of nearby districts.

    The one-year increase of about 3 percentage points — to 81.1 percent — was spread across all five of the county's high schools. Weeki Wachee High's rate, 90 percent, was the highest in Hernando. Central High showed the most dramatic improvement, with a climb of nearly 8 percentage points....

    A 2016 tassel on the mortar board of a Newsome High School graduate on June 1, 2016. Across the nation, graduation rates have reached a record high of 83.2 percent, the White House announced on Oct. 17, 2016. [CHRIS URSO  |   Times]