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Schools' top administrator takes a bow

Five Citrus County school administrators were honored Monday for their contributions at the first Administrator of the Year Recognition Program.

Seated under dancing white balloons at Andre's of Citrus Hills, the elegantly dressed crowd enjoyed dinner before Coordinator of Elementary Education Mark Brunner was announced as the Administrator of the Year.

Early in the evening, two retiring administrators were recognized for their many years of service. Hernando Elementary School principal Jim Hughes introduced retiring Hernando assistant principal Dianne Micklon and newly appointed Inverness Middle School principal Cindy Staten presented retiring IMS principal Willie Eldridge to the group. Both Micklon and Eldridge received plaques.

After dinner, the five nominees for the Administrator of the Year were introduced: Elementary School Principal of the Year Linda Kelley from Floral City Elementary School, Elementary School Assistant Principal of the Year Rick Kenney from Lecanto Primary School, District Services Center Administrator of the Year Mark Brunner, Secondary School Principal of the Year David Hickey from Crystal River Middle School, and Secondary School Assistant Principal of the Year Linda Alexander, also from Crystal River Middle School.

Brunner has been in education for 24 years and has been with the Citrus school district for 19 years. He has been a teacher, a reading specialist, a curriculum specialist, principal at Floral City Elementary School and at Pleasant Grove Elementary School, a school he opened.

Linda Kelley remembered working as the curriculum specialist at Floral City Elementary when Brunner was principal there. "I've learned so much from Mark Brunner," she said. "I think he's outstanding. He's just very warm and caring. He's a very supportive type person. I really looked to him as a role model when he became principal."

Brunner was a little reluctant to be spotlighted as Administrator of the Year, preferring to be part of a team, but he used the opportunity to recognize his colleagues and friends.

Thinking of the strengths and weaknesses in the school system, Brunner commented on how much support his friends and colleagues provide.

"We don't have all the answers, but we have people who pitch in and help," he said. "Whatever good I do, it's a reflection of the education services I work with. It's a joy to come to work with these people."

Brunner also pointed out what's really important in an educational system.

"We have a School Board goal _ that we work to achieve a very effective and efficient school system," he said. But "it's kind of an unwritten goal to have a human organization. When we retire we won't remember how effective we were. We'll remember how human we were."