Archive for News & Updates

Chronicle Editorial Board gives kudos to Citrus Schools

Chronicle Editorial Board gives kudos to Citrus Schools

40960-16v2This week the Citrus County Chronicle Editorial Board again give high marks for the recent reports of all three Citrus County public high schools included in the Washington Post’s 2017 America’s Most Challenging High Schools list, and Lecanto High School was named in the U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best High Schools in the U.S.

The Chronicle stated, “Another example of the excellent work being performed in our school district“.  The Chronicle went on to say, “The take on this recognition is Citrus County students will be better prepared for college and success in their careers and lives after school.”

The Chronicle concluded with, “We appreciate the dedication to high standards by the district and individual schools; our community is made stronger because of your commitment to excellence.”

Read the whole article at http://www.chronicleonline.com/content/commitment-excellence-delivers-results

Citrus Schools Summer Break Spot Program

Citrus Schools Summer Break Spot Program

Free summer food service

ev15736_dAS8f_FI_Summer_BreakSpot_iconCitrus County School’s Food and Nutrition Services will again participate in the Summer Food Service Program during the months of June and July. The Summer Food Service Program, also called the ‘Summer Break Spot’ in Florida, is a federal nutrition program that nonprofit groups and schools use to make sure that children in their communities don’t go hungry during the summer when school is out.

Nutritionally balanced meals will be provided free to all children regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability during summer vacation when school breakfasts and lunches are not available. All children 18 years old and younger are eligible for meals at no charge at an open site and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service.

There will be four open sites throughout the county: Lecanto Middle School, Inverness Middle School and Crystal River Middle School. The open sites will be open Monday through Friday from June 1 through July 25. Citrus Springs Elementary School and Rock Crusher Elementary will be open Monday through Thursday. Meal serving times for breakfast are 8-8:45 a.m. and lunch will be served 11 a.m. to noon. All meals must be consumed on site.

The upcoming Summer Break Spot schedule will be available soon on the Citrus County Schools Food and Nutrition Services website at cafe.citrusschools.org. The menus will be available to view on www.Citrus.Nutrislice.com. For more information, call Lora Fredrikson at 352-726-1931, ext. 2451.

Washington Post: Citrus’s High Schools are AGAIN among America’s Most Challenging High Schools 2017

Washington Post: Citrus’s High Schools are AGAIN among America’s Most Challenging High Schools 2017

Today we learned that all three of our high schools in Citrus County were again recognized by the Washington Post as “America’s Most Challenging High Schools”. In addition, all our high schools also saw and increase in their ranking.

Of the approximately 22,000 high schools in the US, about 2,323 are recognized. Rankings are based on the total number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests, and college level coursework given in a school year divided by the number of seniors who graduate in May. The schools that earn this challenge honor are among the top 12% of schools in the US.

The Washington Post has shared with Citrus County School District’s Director of Research, Amy Crowell how Citrus continues to excel nationally. The publisher shared how Citrus continues to gain the attention Washington Post’s for continually being an outlier with student success with the challenges of being in a rural community with a high number of economically disadvantage households.

Sandra “Sam” Himmel, Superintendent of Citrus County Schools stated, “I am honored to serve for such an outstanding school district. Citrus County schools consistently work to provide the most rigorous curriculum and learning opportunities for all our students. This prestigious recognition is a testament to the continued combined efforts of our elementary and secondary school teams.”

Lecanto High School is now ranked 599 out of 2,323 awarded schools (increase of 213 from last year), Crystal River High School is 1,341 (increase of 335 from last year), and Citrus High School is 1,515 (increase of 646 from last year).

Read Superintendent Sandra “Sam” Himmel Press Releasehttp://thomastalks.org/8IWdb

Follow this link to read more about America’s Most Challenging High School go to: http://apps.washingtonpost.com/local/highschoolchallenge/

Florida Legislature builds a “House of cards”…

Florida Legislature builds a “House of cards”…   

No one wins next, especially not students and schools

party-bosses-smoke-filled-roomsFriday, May 5th, 2017 was the scheduled last day of the 2017 Florida Legislative session.  Going into the Friday it was reported earlier during the day that the budget was not getting done fast enough and so both the Florida Senate and the House mutually agreed to extend session for the budget only until Monday, May 8th, 2017.  The extended session was needed because until Friday at 2:37pm, no specifics were known about the budget.  What is referred to as a “budget conforming bill”.  The conforming language gives the details of the budget the who’s, how’s and what’s of the budget.  What we knew by Thursday was that for public education– $(27.07) less would be funding the Base Student Allocation (BSA).  That equates to about $(300,000) less in funding for Citrus County Schools than last year with more students and mandate than last year.  It appears this will be the first time in Florida’s history that the Legislature will reduce the BSA funding in a non-recession year.  As a result, it was widely reported on Thursday that Governor Rock Scott was seriously entertaining vetoing the State budget.  While extraordinary for the Governor to do, this had also become an unprecedented closed doors/behind the scenes developed State budget.

As bad as all of that, things were about to get worse…

20100717-200902-pic-28968874_6113399_ver1Friday evening both the Senate and House chambers were scrambling finalizing and passing legislation before the end of the session.  Some bills were good, some less so, and some mixed.  Then about 8:30pm, Friday evening something unexpected and unprecedented happen–  The Florida Speaker of the House and other Legislators procedurally rolled nearly all the educational bills this 2017 session, along with many controversial educational bills together into one enormous Education Conforming Bill – HB 7069.  Even many bills which had been amended to remove poor language had come back in this monstrous bill.  To give a perspective of the size and magnitude of this bill.  Think of any recent “train bill” as being a small model train placed next to a full-size train.  Politico is reporting, “Legislative leaders plan to tie nearly 600 pages of education policy to Monday’s budget vote”.

Why do this?

It appears that this was strategically planned in advance to make it near impossible for Legislators to amend the budget before it would be voted on Monday.  By doing this it means everything must pass or fail with now revisions.  While Legislative leaders have denied any political strategies in doing this, it seems to have also been planned to make it hard for the Governor to veto the budget without the entire Florida budget and bills collapsing on itself.

Is this representative governing?  Is this what we expect of our Legislative leaders?  This was to have been the most open and transparent legislative session in Florida history– instead it turned into one of the worst backdoor-secret deal making session in the history of Florida.

We can say, “we’ll remember this next election” but the truth today is if this passes for Florida and Florida’s students the damage will have been done.  Students and schools will suffer because of this legislative session.

We must wait until Monday to see where this all goes.  Please PLEASE contact our Florida Legislators NOW and tell them to fix this! To use any means available to stop this from taking place.

Follow these links to contact our State Senators and State Representatives.

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So far what we know is in the EDUCATION CONFORMING BILL – HB 7069

Comprehensive Education Conforming Bill Will Be Up for Final Passage on Monday  – All out effort to kill the bill!  Call your senator this weekend – this is a bad bill for districts and Local Governments

The bill is 278 pages including multiple changes to current law including –

  • Bad language redirecting Title I
  • Schools of Hope
  • Best and Brightest
  • Capital Outlay sharing with Charters
  • Pre-empts Local Governments from doing impact studies re: locating Charters.
  • Clarification of Cost Per Student Station Requirements
  • Exemption of Special Facility Construction Payback from Charter Capital funding
  • Language on 300 Lowest Performing Schools
  • Creation of Small Isolated Elementary School provision
  • Provisions relating to teacher bonuses
  • Updating language relating to Sparsity that has been used in past few years
  • Provision relating to use of Digital Classroom funding
  • Clarification of funding for Federally Connected Program

Superintendent shares about local Impact of Proposed State Budget

Superintendent shares about local Impact of Proposed State Budget

himmelThis afternoon Superintendent of Citrus County Schools, Sandra “Sam” Himmel sent out an email to staff regarding the impending state budget and the most recent figures of how it will impact Citrus County.  If the current State budget passes, Citrus County Schools would see a decrease of $21.99 per student, which equates to a loss of over $300,000.  (see letter below)

Himmel also shared a press release by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS) regarding this proposed budget. Follow this link to the FADSS Press Release: http://thomastalks.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/FADSS-05-04-2017.pdf

Superintendent Sandra “Sam” Himmel email to staff

May 4th, 2017

Good Afternoon

I want to make you aware of the current budget being proposed by our Legislators in Tallahassee. Below is a press release from the Superintendent’s Association stating our position in reference to the current proposed budget.

The local impact for us in Citrus County would be a decrease of $21.99 per student, which equates to a loss of over $300,000. Along with this decrease in funding, we have an increase in the District’s contribution to the Florida Retirement System of over $300,000.

As you will read in the press release, we are asking Legislators to increase the funding back to Governor Scott’s and the Senate’s original proposed budget.

There is still hope that the Legislators could reconsider as the budget has not been approved. I am sending this to you to keep you informed of the budget process that is taking place in Tallahassee.

Sam Himmel
Superintendent
Citrus County Schools

State Education Update: House & Senate Agree…

State Education Update: House & Senate Agree…   

“The ‘House’ always win…”

Citrus expected now to get $92K less than last year’s budget

Florida Legislature_20170417065447On Friday, April 28th, the Florida Legislators PreK-12 Education Budget Conference Committee convened.  In a most unexpected move, the Senate in their first “Offer” on the budget, the Senate accepted the House position on the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) formula, closing any further negotiations on the FEFP. Bottom line is that the House’s much lower funding of schools is what will ‘again’ happen in Florida this year. (Follow this link to see the Senate Office and Meeting Pack: https://tinyurl.com/nyqnkld)

This agreement includes a ‘rollback’ of the Required Local Effort (RLE) millage rate to 4.322 mills (down from 4.638 mills) and a reduction in the Base Student Allocation (BSA) of more than $27 per student.

What does this mean for Citrus County Schools? The House’s Budget FEFP funding proposal would decrease $92,000 (or -0.09%) from this year’s 4th budget calculation.

Unfortunately, that is not the whole story. For local school boards the state has continued over the years to increase the specific categorical spending.  This current House budget includes $400 million on the controversial “Best & Brightest” teacher bonus program ($200 million), and the new controversial out of state Charter benefiting “Schools of Hope” program ($200 million).  This means even if we had level funding, because of these categoricals that require local districts to only use those funds as stipulated by the Legislature we have much less funding for locally determined needs.

What concerns me now is what current programs and services as a School Board we will have to look to cut or reduce to fund for these categoricals.  Many of these categoricals are ‘personal agenda pet programs’ at the state level and that continues to drive up the cost of public school education.  Why again is the State Legislature telling local governments how to spend local taxpayer moneys.

It is important to remember that the State Legislature sets the Required Local Effort (RLE) millage rate to be collected from the local property taxpayers, NOT the local school board.  The local school board must then use the funds established by the State Legislature to provide the best education possible, while being good stewards of taxpayers’ moneys.  Citrus County Schools has the lowest statutorily allowable education taxes in the State.  Citrus does not have any additional millage rate, sales taxes or other taxing mechanism.  Nearly all the surrounding counties have additional educational funding mechanisms to assist in meeting our students’ educational needs.  This makes every budget and funding decision we make critical to meeting our students needs.

I believe local governments know better what our local needs are and that the State and Federal governments should reduce the number of categorical locally mandated spending.  This would permit those existing dollars to flow to local communities without the need to increase the tax base.  In the current budget, we have now reduced funding and increased categoricals.  This makes funding challenges even hard.  In private business that would be like spending more, while generating less profits.  That is not a good practice.

I want to continue to thank our local State legislative representatives, Rep. Ralph Massullo, M.D. and Senator Wilton Simpson.  These leaders continued to listen to local elected officials and have been working behind the scenes for our schools and community.  It is sometimes difficult to clearly see the results of their labors, but please be assured they are working hard for us during these challenging times.

Much is still taking place, both on the final budget and final bills being passed.  In the end, we will work to continue to provide and make decisions that are best for our students, schools and community.  We must be successful because our kids are counting on us.