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Sandra "Sam" Himmel holds flowers and a plaque Wednesday morning in Tampa after a ceremony held by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents where she was named Superintendent of the Year for the state of Florida. A host of family, Citrus County School administrators and school board members were present for the ceremony.

Sandra “Sam” Himmel has striven for 15 years as Citrus County’s school superintendent to pride her staff, bolster her educators and love her students.

In turn, Himmel’s fellow superintendents across the state recognized her work and passion, naming and surprising Himmel Wednesday morning as Florida’s superintendent of the year for 2020.

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Linda VanAllen, left, hugs her sister Sandra "Sam" Himmel Wednesday morning in Tampa following Himmel's presentation of being named the Florida Superintendent of the Year, "I couldn't be more proud of her," VanAllen said.

“Nothing else gives me any great pleasure than to be able to stand up in front of a group of people and say, ‘I’m a superintendent of public education,’” Himmel said, accepting a plaque and rose bouquet at the Florida Association of District School Superintendents’ annual conference in Tampa. “That’s the proudest thing I could say.”

Himmel was one of five school superintendents nominated to the FADSS either by themselves or by school board members, and a panel of four judges selected her.

Himmel will travel in February to the American Association of School Administrators’ National Education Conference in San Diego to represent Florida superintendents and also vie for the national title.

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Citrus County School District administrators stand with Sandra "Sam" Himmel Wednesday morning at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa after a ceremony where Himmel was named Florida Superintendent of the Year.

Florida Senator, FADSS CEO Bill Montford introduced Himmel to a room packed with officials from school districts statewide.

He highlighted some of Himmel's accomplishments, closing the achievement gap between the disparities of academic performances, especially for economically disadvantaged students.

Himmel also helped get her district named the first in Florida as a Purple Heart School District, and be ranked the top third in the state for math, English, science and social studies for 11 years.

“I could go on and on, but Sam's going to brag about herself in a minute," Montford said, laughing with Himmel on the stage.

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Citrus County School District Superintendent Sandra "Sam" Himmel, right, reacts Wednesday morning to Senator Bill Montford, left, as he speaks while introducing her Wednesday morning. Sen. Montford is the chief executive officer for the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. The group named Sandra "Sam" Himmel the 2020 Superintendent of the Year.

“Sam epitomizes what a good superintendent is, what a good superintendent does and needs to do in order to move students forward,” said Kurt Browning, FADSS president and Pasco County School superintendent. “We’re just thrilled to have Sam represent us.”

“There’s no stronger family in the state of Florida than a family of superintendents,” Himmel said in her acceptance speech. “There’s 67 of us and we talk all the time ... because we want to be the best we can be.”

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Sandra "Sam" Himmel is photographed Wednesday following her service naming her Florida Superintendent of the Year.

Himmel’s family and district staff also showed up to surprise their relative and boss with cheers and balloons. 

They lined a wall of the conference room, waiting to give Himmel a hug.

“We have a terrific staff and I just noticed the whole wall’s full of them, so I might have to leave early to go back and get some work done,” Himmel joked. “They’re very talented, and they make me look good.”

Citrus County School Board members were able to keep the surprise from Himmel, who thanked them for their continued support in her.

“You’re very talented, you’re very giving of your time,” she said. “They’re the best of the best.”

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Members of the Citrus County School Board listen to Sandra "Sam" Himmel as she accepts the Superintendent of the Year award from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

Himmel reminded her colleagues that Florida's students are in the right hands with them.

“For our kids to have the role models, the mentors and the tutors that we provide them every single day, our kids are blessed to have everyone in this room,” she said. “We all work together we are truly blessed in the state of Florida to lead our kids to where they need to be.”

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

(1) comment


smart woman. great job. we should all be proud of her.

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