Gutierrez Family plays National Anthem

Gutierrez Family plays National Anthem

28164858_10155956861751259_3107228164698704421_oI had the honor of being in charge of the opening exercise for our February School Board meetings and I asked Citrus Springs Middle School teacher, Mayo Gutierrez (aka “Mr. G”) to play our National Anthem on his trumpet with his sons James and Steven, who are seniors at CRHS.

In Jan 2018 was nominated as “Citrus’s 2017 Citizen of the Year” by The Citrus Chronicle.  I want to thank Mr. G for this awesome work for our students and families.

28061462_10155956860936259_5100618794309452016_oFollowing devastation from Hurricane Maria, the U.S. territory felt the brunt of the storm with Puerto Rico be hit most hard.  Following the storm Mr. G and many others collected supplies and Mr. G and his brother during the crisis flew back to their home Island to assist.  Upon return to Citrus County, Mr. G felt burdened to do more.  EdWeekly reported on Feb 18th that some 11,000 evacuees from Hurricanes Maria and Irma are attending our public schools at the end of January. Mr. G worked with Student Services to assist these families with transitioning to Citrus County.  He worked with our Education Foundation, United Way, Pastor Doug Alexander and many others to work with these families.  Mr. G was given teacher assess to Skyward to help communicate with the families to interrupt for them and help addresses their academic needs.  He organized evening meetings to bring the families together to address their concerns and needs.  All of this he did on a volunteer basis.

Follow this link to watch video: https://youtu.be/_ZvlZ0y8EL0

Thank you to our Citrus Sheriff Men and Ladies in GREEN!

Thank you to our Citrus Sheriff Men and Ladies in GREEN!

Special thanks to our Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Deputies for their extra and reassuring presences in and around our school campus.

Sheriff

Important Message from Superintendent of Schools

himmelImportant Message from Superintendent of Schools

This message was sent to parents and families of Citrus County Public Schools on February 20, 2018.

You can CLICK HERE to listen to message or read below.

Good evening:

This is Sam Himmel, Superintendent of Schools.  I am calling you today regarding the district recently receiving several calls inquiring about the safety of children in our schools. The tragic event that occurred at a school in South Florida, last week certainly is cause for  great concern. In the aftermath of this event we have unfortunately dealt with several situations regarding students making inappropriate statements and false threats in some of our schools. I want to assure you that we take student safety very seriously and all threats, regardless of their context, will be thoroughly investigated.  These threats often include verbal statements from students, messages on social media, written notes left in classrooms and sometimes a written message left on a bathroom wall.  The school district works very closely with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office to investigate all threats. 

Students that engage in this type of behavior may face criminal charges and they will certainly face SEVERE school discipline. We want you to know that we work quickly to resolve these issues as they arise. In an effort to minimize the frequency of this type of behavior we do not publicize most of these situations. If the district were to receive a credible threat of violence please know we would immediately take all appropriate actions to protect your child.  These actions would most definitely include notifying all parents and guardians.

Please be aware in light of recent events, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office may have an increased presence on our school campus’.  This is being done to put students and staff at ease and is NOT in response to any specific threat.

If you have any concerns regarding something you have heard or possibly seen regarding school safety I encourage you to contact your child’s Principal or you can contact our Director of Student Services Mrs.  Allegretta at 726-1931 ext. 6304 or Director of Risk Management Mrs. Cernich at 726-1931 ext. 2270.

Kennedy files for re-election

Kennedy files for re-election

Always advocating for students

Thomas KennedyWhen I first ran for this office, I promised you that I would serve the needs of the students, families, teachers and schools of Citrus County every day, I have kept my promise.  With all of us working together, much has been accomplished, but much more is still to be done.  Today, February 19th, 2018, I have filed papers with the Citrus County Election Office to run for re-election to again serve as your Citrus County School Board Member for District 1.

The support, encouragement, and prayers I have received each day from you encourage and empower me to serve our schools and community.  I very much value the citizens that follow me on Facebook, Twitter, on my blogs at Talk on Citrus Schools and www.ThomasTalks.org. I am honored by the number of you that have reached out to me, shared your concerns with me, and/or asked for assistance. I am continually honored to be your representative and to be a vocal advocate for the students, parents, teachers, staff, schools, district, and community.

During my tenure on the Citrus County School Board, I’ve watched as public education funding in Florida has been reduced as per-pupil funding by the legislature has been cut, which has resulted in tens of millions of dollars in lost funding for our school district. We are now funded at a per-pupil rate LESS than the 2007 levels!  Despite these challenges we have worked strategically to protect the classroom level needs of our students, bringing engaging and relevant academic technology integration to individual students so they are prepared for the challenging expectations of their future college and/or career paths.

I have taken an active role in building relationships with our local state legislative representatives to help them better understand our district’s and students’ needs.   I have stood against high stakes testing, while advocating for relevant and appropriate alternatives, by working to influence proposed legislation that would reduce state-mandated testing and offer alternative graduation options for our students.  I was instrumental in the Citrus County School District’s removal of the controversial “Value-Added Model” from the teacher evaluation formula.  I play an active role in creating effective policies, improving effective budget development and improving job descriptions that led to enhancements for our students, staff, and schools.  I have made it my priority to regularly communicate with you, the public, on the education issues that are impacting the classrooms, students, teachers, and ultimately the entire Citrus County community. It has been my honor to provide a needed voice for parents, advocate for special needs and at-risk students, and to have been readily accessible to those with concerns about the issues public education is facing today.

But with all that the school board has tried to accomplish, public education is clearly under great attack.  The State of Florida through legislative mandates continues to penalize our students using the snapshot of a high stakes standardized test that may keep many students from earning a high school diploma.   Our schools struggle to find qualified teachers; we are facing a teaching shortage in our county, state, and nation which will have monumental negative impacts if we do not immediately and strategically address it.

Our students and our public schools are an investment in our country’s future and Florida’s future economy is dependent on their successes. We must continue to focus on making the curriculum and standards relevant to the world in which our students will live and work. We must continue to foster positive working relationships with our state legislators to educate them so they can make better decisions that enhance and promote improving education, rather then hampering it.  We must continue to support our teachers and reverse the great teaching shortage.  And we must continue to challenge and inspire our students to be more and go further. As we face some of the greatest challenges to education our generation has ever seen, I will continue to work tirelessly to support, promote and improve public education for our students, parents, teachers, staff, schools, district, and community.

I ask for your continual prayers and support.

Thomas Kennedy
Thomas Kennedy

Anti-teacher union bill author in 2017: ‘No teacher runs in to a building when everyone else runs away’

Anti-teacher union bill author in 2017: ‘No teacher runs in to a building when everyone else runs away’

Tell that to Mr. Beigel, Mr. Feis, and Mr. Hixon

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teachers, Christopher Hixon, Aaron Feis and Scott Beigel.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teachers, Christopher Hixon, Aaron Feis and Scott Beigel.

Duval County School Board Member and former public school teacher, The Honorable Becki Couch (who I greatly respect and admire), recently reminded several of us about comments stated during last year’s legislative debate on that year’s teacher union-busting bill, that targeted only teachers unions.

Last legislative session when some legislators questioned why teachers didn’t merit the same consideration against labor unrest, Florida House Rep. Scott Plakon responded during House floor debate, “No teacher runs into a building when everyone else runs away”. (See Tampa Bay Times 2/17/2017)

I agree with Couch, who said, “He is right, they were not running into the building, they were throwing themselves in front of bullets to save the lives of their students”. 

This past week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, three teachers did just that.  Geography teacher, Scott Beigel; assistant football coach, Aaron Feis; and school athletic director, Christopher Hixon, gave their lives to save students and staff at the school. (Read ‘The Names and Faces of the Florida School Shooting Victims)

Rep. Plakon again this year filed HB 25 that again targets only teacher unions, and is also included in this year’s controversial education “train bill”, HB 7055.

I hope that First Responder’s unions speak out against HB 25 and HB 7055 and its targeting of teachers.  I hope these Sheriff Deputies, Firefighters, EMTs, Paramedics, and Police union members speak about how teachers are also on the frontlines.  Not just in tragedies like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sandy Hook Elementary, and Columbine High School, but each and every day.

The Senate now has an opportunity to stop the inequity in these teacher targeted bills and not approve them.  Please reach out to your Senators and tell them Teachers are just as important as First Responders.

School Policy: Stand for National Anthem

School Policy: Stand for National Anthem

the-star-spangled-banner-music-and-lyrics-youtube-regarding-star-spangled-banner-lyrics-youtubeAt our February School Board meeting on Tuesday, February 13, 2018, I was honored that the School Board unanimously approved my policy recommendation to school board policy 3.60 – ‘FLAG DISPLAY AND PLEDGE, to be revised to include the additional language in Florida Statute 1003.44 which requires that students and the public stand when our United States National Anthem is played, and to add in policy that the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited at the beginning of the day in each of our public elementary, middle, and high school in our district.

During the January 9th, 2018, School Board Public Hearing we approved an update of policy 3.60 – ‘FLAG DISPLAY AND PLEDGE’.  My request simply follows the expectation and daily practice already in our school district and that is already in Florida Statute.  We have a most respectful community and this change simply makes it clear to our students, staff, and public, our policy on the matter.

Citrus County Schools is the first Purple Heart School District in the nation and we strongly support and foster pride in our nation and our veterans. (CLICK HERE to Read blog on Dedication of School District’s Purple Heart Wall of Fallen Heroes.)

The revised policy 3.60 – ‘FLAG DISPLAY, PLEDGE AND NATIONAL ANTHEM’ will receive its final required vote after the required 90-day period, at a School Board Public Hearing on April 10, 2018, where I expect it to pass again unanimously.

The revised policy will read: (Underline is newly added language.)

FLAG DISPLAY, PLEDGE AND NATIONAL 3.60

  1. The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag shall be recited at the beginning of each school day in elementary, middle, and high schools.
  2. Pursuant to Florida Statute § 1003.44, the Board requires all schools in the District to include programs of a patriotic nature to encourage greater respect for the government of the United States and its National Anthem and flag, subject always to other existing pertinent laws of the United States or of the state. Additionally, when the National Anthem is played, students and all civilians shall stand at attention, men removing the headdress, except when such headdress is worn for religious purposes. The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” shall be rendered by students standing with the right hand over the heart. The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag shall be recited at the beginning of the day in each public elementary, middle, and high school in our district. Students will show full respect to the flag during the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, by standing at attention and males removing any headdress, except when such headdress is worn for religious purposes, unless excused by written request of the student’s parent/legal guardian. The Code of Student Conduct that is distributed to all students shall contain written notification that the student has the right not to participate in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
  3. The United States flag and the official flag of Florida shall be displayed appropriately during the school year. Flags shall be displayed in accordance with state statute.
  4. Each classroom and auditorium shall display the United States flag.