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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. Closing of SunTrust branch will make Ridge Manor more "lonely."

    Banking

    RIDGE MANOR — Ridge Manor residents have long felt shunned by chain stores and county government.

    "We do feel like we're treated like the stepchildren — out on the edge of the earth," said Anne Buckingham, 64, who has lived in the unincorporated community of 4,500 east of Brooksville since 1972.

    Now, she said, Ridge Manor feels even more "lonely."

    SunTrust Bank sent letters to customers last week informing them that its Ridge Manor branch in Sunrise Plaza — the community's only bank branch — will close at noon on June 13....

  2. Hernando to provide more free meals for young students

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board has moved ahead with a federally funded plan to provide free meals for most the county's elementary and middle school students, regardless of need, starting next school year.

    Adoption of the program, called the Community Eligibility Provision, is expected to increase the Hernando County School District's federal reimbursement for food service from $6.1 million to $8.3 million annually, said Lori Drenth, director of food and nutrition services for the district....

    Lori Drenth, food services director, said the program would guarantee four years of funding.
  3. DeWitt: Hernando commissioners again ignore voters' will

    Local Government

    A lot of people are worried these days about creeping autocracy and dwindling democracy in Washington.

    But, really, we don't have to look that far. It's happening in Brooksville.

    Once again, this has to do with the County Commission's favorite slush fund, the roughly $6 million that remains in the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Fund.

    But this isn't about that, or not just about that....

  4. Hernando's new trail makes paddling coastal marsh simple

    Local Government

    Our canoe slipped under the Shoal Line Boulevard bridge and past the fishing pier at Jenkins Creek Park and into an unpopulated expanse of blue water, blue sky and black-tipped needle grass.

    So, after all these years, we'd made it. We had transported ourselves into one of the most inviting parts of Hernando County but also, until recently, one of the most intimidating.

    All that coastal marsh looks great from behind a car windshield. But it's not quite land, not quite water. You can't walk on it. And how could a regular person, one of us with just a kayak or canoe and without charts and fancy navigational equipment, hope to find his or her way through the maze-like channels of open water? ...

    Signs mark the county’s new Bayport-Linda Pedersen Paddling Trail, making it friendly to even the navigationally challenged. Girl Scout Troop 317 also made sign describing sights along the way.
  5. Hernando to end its contract with private dropout-prevention program

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District has terminated its two-year agreement with Catapult Academy — a private dropout-prevention program — citing the district's improved capacity to serve at-risk students and Catapult's low graduation and high dropout rates.

    Nearly 30 percent of the girls at the academy and more than 40 percent of the boys dropped out of the program last school year, according to the district, while only 1.2 percent of the students graduated....

    Superinten?dent Lori Romano said Catapult data fell short.
  6. Hernando to end its contract with private drop-out prevention program

    Blog

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District has terminated its two-year agreement with Catapult Academy — a private drop-out prevention program — citing the district’s improved capacity to serve at-risk students and Catapult’s low graduation and high drop-out rates.
    Nearly 30 percent of the girls at the academy and more than 40 percent of the boys dropped out of the program last school year, according to the district, while only 1.2 percent of the students graduated.
    Catapult, in a storefront on Kass Circle in Spring Hill, serves struggling students from the district’s high schools and students who had previously dropped out and wanted to return to receive a standard high school diploma.
    Though the graduation rate has improved this year, according to statistics Catapult provided the district, more than half of its students have dropped out.
    “Had we had good data around the contract, we could have continued it, but the data didn’t support that,” said Superintendent Lori Romano....

  7. Clients see what the future holds for Hernando's Vincent Academy

    News

    Mike Armani rode in the back seat of a Ford van one morning last week, on his way to Vincent House in Pinellas Park and — he hoped — to his main goal.

    "I just really want a job," said Armani, 29, of Spring Hill.

    Finding jobs is the specialty of Elliott Steele, 69, who guided the van down the Suncoast Parkway, and his wife, Dianne, 67, who sat in the passenger seat.

    They are the founders of Vincent House, which they were driving to on the way to their main goal: creating a similar center of support and employment — to be called Vincent Academy Adventure Coast — for Hernando and Pasco county residents with mental illnesses....

    Maria Matta, 28, left, helps Mike Armani, 29, center, and Justin Marquis, 33, both of Spring Hill ,during a computer training session at Vincent House in Pinellas Park on March 2. Vincent House clients are learning job skills and more at the academy.
  8. Once a proponent, Ingolgia is now against corporate welfare

    Legislature

    State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia apparently no longer likes giveaways to businesses.

    I say apparently because the new, low-key, conventional-politician Ingoglia doesn't say a lot about explosive topics such as eliminating Gov. Rick Scott's favored vehicle for distributing such giveaways, Enterprise Florida.

    But in a recent meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, Ingoglia did vote for HB 7005 — the bill seeking to dismantle Enterprise Florida — a vote that came as no surprise because the bill is a top priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran....

    State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia is chairman of the state Republican Party.
  9. With Internet service restored, testing resumes at Hernando schools

    K12

    The Hernando County School District's Internet access — the shutdown of which delayed the start of computer-based standardized testing — was restored Tuesday evening, allowing teachers to start administering tests Wednesday.

    Students had been scheduled to take the Florida Standards Assessment test on Monday morning, but were delayed because of the glitch. It affected students in the eighth grade and up, who take tests on computers, but not younger students who take paper tests, said district spokeswoman Karen Jordan....

  10. Internet service, testing resumes at Hernando schools

    Blog

    The Hernando County School District’s Internet access — the shut-down of which had delayed the start of computer-based standardized testing — was restored Tuesday evening, allowing teachers to start administering tests Wednesday.
    Students had been scheduled to take the Florida Standards Assessment test on Monday morning but were delayed because of the glitch. It impacted students in the eighth grade and up, who take tests on computers, but not younger students who take paper tests, said district spokeswoman Karen Jordan.
    As suspected, the problem was with the protective firewall on a state system, MyFlorida.com, that supplies filtered internet service to all schools, said Joe Amato, the district’s supervisor of technology and information services.
    “It was basically caused by the district being blacklisted,” he said.
    Neither his staffers or those at the state network had identified the information that caused the denial, he said, but it was probably a sudden increase in the volume of traffic.
    “We’re looking at it very closely to see if there are any spikes that would indicate a problem,” he said....

  11. Public funding for private schools on the rise in Hernando, and statewide

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE

    Two pairs of girls huddled over storybooks in a classroom at Hernando Christian Academy while teacher Naomi Bean stood by, ready to step in if they stumbled.

    The girls read slightly below grade level now. But if they follow the path of previous students in this Restoring Individuals to Successful Education class, they should soon catch up to their classmates.

    "The ultimate goal is to have students integrate back into the classroom as close to grade level as possible, if not on grade level," said Bean, 69, a state-certified exceptional student education teacher who previously worked in public schools....

    “Schools lose revenue but still have all the same bills to pay — school construction, the electric, the insurance,”
Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association teachers union
  12. Webster mute when faced with tough questions

    Legislature

    Why didn't our new congressman, Daniel Webster, answer questions from constituents at ribbon cuttings for his offices in Inverness and Brooksville last week?

    Why did he allow social media videos to show him mutely wielding cartoonish 4-foot scissors as dozens of voters asked about President Donald Trump and Russia?

    Why did he go through the meaningless theatrics of returning his salary to the federal government, complete with the obligatory prop of an oversized check, while questions rained down about Obamacare?...

    Republican U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster represents Florida's 11th Congressional District, which includes Hernando County.
  13. Breakdown delays computer-based testing in Hernando schools

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Internet network serving the Hernando County School District has been down since Friday afternoon, forcing the cancellation of computer-based Florida Standards Assessment tests, which had been scheduled to start Monday.

    The district has access to email, but very few other sites, said Joe Amato, the district's supervisor of technology and information services.

    "It went down at the worst possible time," Amato said....

  14. Breakdown delays computer-based FSA testing in Hernando schools

    Blog

    The internet network serving the Hernando County School District has been down since Friday afternoon, forcing the cancellation of computer-based Florida Standards Assessment tests, which had been scheduled to start Monday.
    The district has access to email but very few other sites, he said.
    “It went down in the worst possible time,” said Joe Amato, the district’s supervisor of technology and information services....

  15. DeWitt: Hernando's raids on natural lands fund need to stop

    Environment

    It's clear that Hernando County commissioners now view the nearly $6 million environmentally sensitive lands fund as a pot of money they can dip into at any time for just about any purpose.

    Need $275,000 to remove the clumps of vegetation clogging Hunter's Lake?

    No matter that a county attorney said this was not an approved use, the commission last week grabbed the money from the fund anyway....