Editor's Note: This story was updated to reflect the correct names of schools that received state funds for improved performance grades.

Citrus County School Board members spotlighted a local power company and state lawmaker for empowering their school district with volunteers, legislation and money.

But before school officials at their Tuesday meeting recognized Rep. Dr. Ralph Massullo, R-District 34, and Duke Energy for their efforts, they first expressed gratitude to the swim and dive teams of Crystal River and Lecanto high schools.

During their Oct. 3 meet, which ended in a split victory, both teams raised $466 to help fight breast cancer and raise awareness. 

“It was a great night to honor those who’ve fought the fight, those who have defeated it and remember the ones who unfortunately lost their battle,” Crystal River swimming coach Chuck Gatton said at Tuesday's meeting alongside some of the teams’ swimmers and divers.

School Board CRHS/LHS Swim Team

Members of the Citrus County School Board recognize students of Lecanto High and Crystal River High schools' swim and dive teams, which both raised money at their Oct. 3 meet to help fight breast cancer.

Superintendent of Schools Sandra “Sam” Himmel and School Board Chairman Thomas Kennedy then recognized Duke Energy with the Commissioner’s Business Recognition Award for Duke’s showing of volunteers and $42,500 in grant money to the district, through the Citrus County Education Foundation (CCEF).

School Board Duke CCEF Award (jump)

Citrus County School Board Chairman Thomas Kennedy, Superintendent of Schools Sandra "Sam" Himmel and Citrus County Education Foundation Executive Director Shaunda Burdette present Duke Energy representatives Dorothy Pernu and Ted King with the the Commissioner’s Business Recognition Award for Duke’s commitment of volunteers and grant money to local schools, through the education foundation. From left to right: Kennedy, Himmel, Pernu, King and Burdette.

CCEF Executive Director Shaunda Burdette also presented Duke with CCEF’s “Making a Difference Award,” specifically to Duke’s outage manager and CCEF board member, Ted King, for donating his time to educate and mentor students.

Himmel and board members later honored Massullo with the Superintendent’s Making a Difference Award for the state representative working for the district’s behalf in Tallahassee for improved teacher benefits, school security measures and student-health services.

School Board Ralph Massullo (jump)

Citrus County School Board Chairman Thomas Kennedy, left, and Superintendent of Schools Sandra "Sam" Himmel, right, present Representative Dr. Ralph Massullo with the Superintendent’s Making a Difference Award for Massullo fighting in Tallahassee for improvements to the school district's teacher benefits, school security and student-health services.

Massullo said “education is going to be really big” during the 2020 legislative session, which starts Jan. 14.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has already announced a proposal to raise minimum salaries for Florida teachers to $47,500, and lawmakers are looking at revising or repealing the state’s “Best and Brightest” program, which gives bonuses to teachers based on a complex formula.

In other school board meeting news:

Burdette updated school board members on CCEF and the nonprofit’s impact on district students and employees.

She said CCEF contributed to the district more than $800,000 last year from community donations, grants, teacher payroll deductions, special education-themed license plates and fundraisers.

CCEF/Duke 1

Duke Energy spokeswoman Dorothy Pernu, left, presents a $45,500 check to Citrus County Education Foundation Executive Director Shaunda Burdette at the Citrus County School Board's meeting on Tuesday to help benefit the school district.

Burdette said the 15 male volunteers in CCEF’s Men Building Men program mentored 22 high school senior boys at risk of not graduating, and were successful in getting each student to get their diploma last year.

CCEF plans to unveil its Women Building Women program in January, Burdette said.

Since CCEF opened its Supplies 4 Success teacher store in September for its second school year, 244 teachers have gone in to get donated and CCEF-purchased school and classroom equipment, valued at a total $37,000, Burdette said.

CCEF/Duke 2

Citrus County Education Foundation Executive Director Shaunda Burdette recognizes Duke and the company's outage manager Ted King with the foundation's "Making a Difference Award."

Last school year alone, the store supplied roughly 500 educators with $40,000 in goods.

For more on CCEF and upcoming events visit www.citruseducation.org.

***

School board members approved changes to its district’s school safety policies with recommendations based on answers to a 428-question survey, known as the Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool (FSSAT).

Earlier in the year, district officials and school administrators answered the state’s questionnaire, which asked about the status of campus and classroom security for FSSAT to offer solutions for. 

Per state law, those questions, answers and policy revisions are confidential.

School Safety Specialist and Police Chief Buddy Grant did share there will be improvements to school entrances, fencing, cameras, mass-notification systems and evacuation routes. 

***

Citrus County Education Association President Victoria Smith shared a concern with school district officials about aides having to ride with students from CREST on the bus.

Smith said aides are not as experienced as other school members in controlling students with disabilities, and are sometimes injured then they have to shield the “disruptive” children from others on the bus.

“They are frightened,” the teacher union leader said, before asking the school board why more experienced school members can’t ride on the bus.

***

Florida Department of Education (FDOE) officials rewarded four Citrus County schools for keeping their high performance grades or bettering them.

Those schools and their funding awards are: Forest Ridge Elementary School, $67,943; Inverness Primary School, $62,189; and Citrus High School, $138,519.

Recognized schools get up to $100 for each enrolled full-time student.

School administrators will vote on how to use their respective monies. 

Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or bthompson@chronicleonline.com.

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