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Spoilsport principal ruins everyone's fun

Springstead High School Principal Susan Duval's popularity plummeted last week after she canceled the annual homecoming pep rally.

Duval made the decision after some unruly students misbehaved at the school's annual "Almost Anything Goes" celebration two days earlier. It seems the kids picked up a student and passed him concert-style over the crowd. That dastardly deed was accompanied by rival classes chanting "Seniors suck!" and "Freshmen suck!" etc.

Such behavior is obviously out of line. But does it merit snuffing out the whole school's enthusiasm by canceling the game-day pep rally and threatening to call off the dance and game? Is it fair to punish everyone because of the mischievous acts of a few?

The marching band is particularly peeved because, in an apparent gesture of goodwill, the school's football players and cheerleaders were treated to breakfast at Robby's Pancake House in Spring Hill a week ago. But the band members, who spend countless hours practicing for and performing at football games, were left to brood with the rest of the over-disciplined student body. That seems like yet another inequity.

As further amplification of what could be best described as an overreaction, Duval met rumors of a student walkout by calling in the school resource officer (a sheriff's deputy). To make matters worse, after meting out all the bad news, Duval left town on personal business, leaving her assistants to deal with the disgruntled teens.

The students have been left to grouse among themselves and with their parents about what they perceive as shabby treatment. I understand that last week teachers reportedly confiscated student-made signs, some of which read "Bring Back Fauble," referring to Duval's predecessor, Richard Fauble.

Not to worry, kids: I have a suggestion for any student who still feels the need to question authority. How about a little constructive criticism in the school newspaper? The last time I checked, the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press, was alive and well.

In the meantime, I think Duval should consider changing the name of the pre-homecoming bash to something other than "Almost Anything Goes." That in itself might be misleading to students who are looking forward to a day fun and games.

Savvy is as savvy does

Want a textbook example of the difference between a political novice and an incumbent?

A few weeks ago, state House of Representatives candidate Joan Smith had her car broken into and her radio stolen. Within minutes two juveniles were in custody and a police report was completed.

Early last week, Rep. Jeff Stabins' truck was broken into and his cellular phone was stolen. A police report was filed and a suspect was apprehended in short order.

The Stabins incident wound up being a front-page story in the Hernando Times. That's partly because it was a slow news day and partly because one of Stabins' reporters took the initiative to call the newsroom, I am told.

The Smith incident went unnoticed. That's because the reporters never heard about the radio heist.

I talked to Smith the day the Stabins story was published and she was kicking herself for not seizing the opportunity to get some free exposure.

"Dadgum it! I should have called the paper," she lamented. "I didn't, of course, and now I see Jeff Stabins gets a front-page story."

Chances are if Smith ever makes it to Tallahassee, she won't make the same mistake twice.

Scattered shots

Why am I not surprised that several of the people who have been pushing the effort to recall Brooksville City Council members Joe Bernardini, Mary Ann Lazowski and John Tucker are now planning to run for office in December? The opportunists du jour are Mary Staib, Ernie Wever, Pat Brayton and Richard Lewis, all of whom have lost more traditional bids for the council. . . . I guess the people of Spring Hill should be turning cartwheels over the generous decision by the Hernando County commissioners to allow the community a Christmas parade on Dec. 3. . . . First it was former School Board attorney Joe Johnston Jr., and now it's current School Board attorney Karen Gaffney who is caught in the budgetary cross hairs of former School Board member Diane Rowden. Rowden was a frequent critic of Johnston; she often complained about his hefty legal bills and his allegiance to former Superintendent Dan McIntyre. Now Rowden is complaining that Gaffney is racking up annual fees that surpass Johnston's, and she suggested the board consider hiring its own full-time attorney. . . . Lame duck County Commissioner Tony Mosca Jr. said Wednesday he was "appalled" that the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not send a representative to Brooksville to participate in a discussion of FEMA's criticisms of the county building department. The FEMA folks probably are just as appalled that Mosca and other county officials actually expected them to attend, especially considering the county's casual condemnation of the federal agency's conclusions.