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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. Dan DeWitt: Time has come for Hernando to remove Confederate statue from courthouse lawn

    Local Government

    There's a big problem with Hernando County's public display of the now almost universally condemned Confederate battle flag:

    It's etched in stone.

    A large outline of the flag is on, or really part of, another relic of oppression — the statue of the Confederate soldier on the lawn of the historic Hernando County Courthouse.

    I'm sure that by now you've read that support for displays of the battle flag is eroding as quickly as opposition to gay marriage. Dylann Roof allegedly killed innocent church-goers in Charleston, S.C., in hopes of creating an uprising among racists. Instead, thankfully, he created an uprising against racists. And their favorite emblems....

    The Confederate soldier statue was unveiled on June 3, 1916: Jefferson Davis’ birthday.
  2. DeWitt: Purpose of sheriff's show of forces is clear

    Local Government

    Call it the long green line.

    Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis brought quite an entourage to this month's first School Board workshop:

    Seven high-ranking employees, including Nienhuis. Most of them in uniform. Average annual salary: $95,000.

    The official word is that they were there to provide information, though the sheriff did most of the talking, presenting his case that the school district should pay $639,000 — more than twice the price paid by the Citrus County School District — for the program that stations deputies at middle and high schools....

    Sheriff Al Nienhuis has asked for a higher budget than last year.
  3. State money helps cut Hernando schools' budget shortfall in half

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board learned on Tuesday it will have to take on a surprising new job: explaining why the district's estimated budget shortfall has suddenly shrunk nearly in half.

    "For the last couple of months, we've been told there's a $12 million shortfall, and now we're down to $6.3 million," board member Susan Duval said during the board's workshop. "How do we explain this to the general public?...

  4. Outgoing Hernando schools safety manager says cost of deputies could be reduced, if anyone would listen

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Mario Littman has some simple suggestions for trimming the $639,000 the Hernando County School District pays for deputies at its middle and high schools.

    The deputy assigned to Central High School could also cover "the one floor in the one building on the Central campus" that the district wants to convert to the Endeavor Academy for students with behavior problems, said Littman, the district's safety and security manager....

  5. During budget crisis, taxpayers cover Hernando School Board members' hotel stay in Tampa

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — At a workshop earlier this month, the Hernando County School Board discussed a long list of possible cuts — including teacher layoffs, eliminating bus routes and closing schools — needed to make up the district's $12 million budget shortfall.

    The next day, board members Gus Guadagnino, Beth Narverud and Mark Johnson, as well as superintendent Lori Romano, set off for a three-day, two-night Florida School Boards Association Conference at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay hotel in Tampa at taxpayer expense....

    District spokesman Eric Williams says policy was followed.
  6. DeWitt: Progress evident, but SunTech job-training program needs more students

    Education

    First came the most welcome sound imaginable on a hot June day in Florida — the whoosh of an air conditioner coming to life.

    But just getting the unit started hadn't been the entire challenge that instructor Mike Plummer had set up for his class Monday at Suncoast Technical Education Center. Plummer had intentionally shorted wires so the heat pump unit mixed some extremely unwelcome hot air with the cool — then told the class to fix it....

    Student Nelson Hernandez wires a control board in an air handler as instructor Mike Plummer, left, and fellow student Evan Bryan watch during a class on Monday at SunTech — Suncoast Technical Education Center in Brooksville.
  7. 'Real' people at Hernando laundromat favor school tax

    K12

    Don't worry, Jo Ann Hartge told a panicked Hernando County School Board last month.

    No matter that the district had been squeezed into a too-early date for its sales tax referendum, said Hartge, president of Hernando Classroom Teachers Association. She knew it would pass, she said, because she had taken informal poll "at the laundromat."

    To be fair, Hartge had also polled teachers. But still, with the stakes as high as they are — $87 million in needed repairs, a possible $12 million budget shortfall — how could she be so sure? What special window did her favorite laundromat — Launderland in the Brooksville Square shopping center — open onto the soul of the community? Why was Hartge convinced, as she told me last week, that "it's the place you can find out the pulse of the community."...

  8. Teacher pay and busing are targets as Hernando School Board considers budget cuts, layoffs

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board finally got serious about cutting $12 million from its budget this week, agreeing to put $3.3 million in payments to teachers on the chopping block as well as $600,000 for busing children who live within 2 miles of schools.

    The cuts are not yet final. But board members targeted them as the start of a process that will likely end with trims to a range of services and widespread layoffs of teachers not directly responsible for students....

    School Board member Matt Foreman says cuts are necessary.
  9. With an eye toward raising the district's state grade, Hernando superintendent shuffles principal jobs

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Weeks after telling five high-level district staffers that their contracts with the Hernando County schools would not be renewed, superintendent Lori Romano is shaking up the lineup of school-level administrators.

    "We're a C district, and we're trying to move to be an A-rated district," said Romano, explaining that the moves are intended to further that goal.

    Along with changes to 14 assistant principal jobs, Romano has transferred Michael Maine, principal at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, to struggling Spring Hill Elementary School....

    Hernando District Schools Superintendent Lori Romano talks during the school board workshop held at the Hernando County School Board on 8050 Mobley Road in Brooksville on Tuesday, November 4, 2013. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  10. Hernando keeps on giving — to big companies that need it least

    Local Government

    Our County Commission is at it again — giving a big road-fee break to a rich corporation, and asking us to pick up the slack.

    Last year, we got the clearest picture yet that impact fee breaks don't just benefit local builders who whine about them so much it's practically part of their job description.

    These breaks also have benefited Burger King, Dick's Sporting Goods and the other corporations that have favored us with their cookie-cutter outlets on State Road 50 in recent years. They've gotten passes on impact fees worth a total of more than a half-million dollars. More like $1.5 million if you count all the recent development along the road, including the expansion of the movie theater and an apartment complex, and use the fee rate established by consulting engineers using court-approved methods — the real cost of adding lanes for all the traffic these big commercial and residential projects generate....

  11. Nature Coast Technical High offers to buy back inappropriate yearbooks

    K12

    SPRING HILL — Nature Coast Technical High School is offering to buy back its 2014-15 yearbook, Let the Music Do the Talking, because of inappropriate remarks and images that made it through the editing process.

    Principal Toni-Ann Noyes said she first noticed the remarks and inappropriate dress — including two students wearing marijuana-themed T-shirts — when the school received the books from the publisher in mid-May....

  12. Shredded documents may cost Hernando schools as much as $3.7 million in state funding

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — A recent audit of state money paid to Hernando County schools last school year found several small problems — and a very big one that could cost the already cash-strapped district as much as $3.7 million.

    The shredding of attendance records at Suncoast Elementary School left the district without documentation for the funding it collected for nearly 900 students. Though the district is confident that it can produce other records to save most of the funding, the risk of significant losses is real, School Board member Matt Foreman said....

    “It’s a very serious concern. We’re waiting to see how the process plays out,” Hernando School Board member Matt Foreman said.
  13. Hernando County School District launches sales tax campaign

    K12

    SPRING HILL — Hernando County school superintendent Lori Romano launched the grass roots campaign for the upcoming vote on a half-cent sales tax by enlisting school administrators to spread the word of the district's financial crisis.

    "Principals and assistant principals, know your story," Romano told the administrators gathered in Central High School's auditorium Tuesday night.

    "Nothing in the way of data and facts and figures, nothing in the way of any of that compares with you telling the personal story of your school."...

    Hernando’s Lori Romano told school leaders to spread the word. “Educate, not advocate.” 
  14. DeWitt: Lack of community building has led to potential loss of Swiftmud headquarters

    Water

    Alfred McKethan, the onetime Brooksville banker and community kingpin, gave his hometown a great foundation to build on 54 years ago.

    In the aftermath of the disastrous floods of 1960, McKethan not only helped create the Southwest Florida Water Management District, but made sure its offices were near his bank, the forerunner of SunTrust Bank/Nature Coast.

    "He knew what he was doing every minute, and he wanted it to be in Brooksville," Dale Twachtmann, the recently deceased former executive director of the district, said in a 2004 interview....

    Onetime Brooksville banker and community kingpin Alfred McKethan helped create the Southwest Florida Water Management District, but the political and business leaders that followed him have not done enough to make Hernando a county that can justifiably stake a claim to an agency as large and sophisticated as Swiftmud.
  15. Hernando School Board seeks more information before deciding on budget cuts

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board was presented this week with a grim list of possible cuts to make up a projected budget shortfall of $12 million.

    To save nearly $10 million, the board was told, it could eliminate math and reading coaches, counselors, librarians and every other instructional staffer not directly responsible for a class.

    The board could end all high school and middle school sports at a savings of nearly $700,000....