I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Citrus County Chronicle’s endorsement of me as their chosen candidate for Superintendent of Schools. I appreciate the continued support and confidence as I continue to advocate for our students and staff. I feel strongly that the citizens of Citrus County need to be accurately informed with facts before casting their vote on or before Aug. 18. Therefore, I feel it necessary to address some of the misinformation my opponent has stated.

* My opponent stated, “I will completely rid our district of the vestiges of Common Core that continues to be pushed on us. The new standards BEST is often referred to as the same deck of cards just shuffled differently.” The fact is public schools are required to follow the state-adopted standards regardless of any one superintendent’s opinion of them. In 2020, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced they have officially eliminated all traces of Common Core through the adoption of the B.E.S.T. Standards that will be rolled out in the next three years.

* Our district’s safety and security practices continue to serve as a model in the state of Florida. Our full-time Chief of Police oversees our Guardian Program which works collaboratively with our long-time School Resource Officer Program. The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office conducts all background checks, psychological assessments, and qualification trainings for our Guardians. My opponent continues to mislead the community by suggesting these measures are not currently in place.

* My opponent states that he wants to instill a “meaningful” dual enrollment program in Citrus County. For over 30 years, our district has prepared high school students for post-secondary success in college and careers/trades by offering opportunities like dual enrollment. While serving as Superintendent, our dual enrollment participation has increased by 45% with a 95% pass rate. More students are successfully completing college courses or career-related programs while in high school. In fact, the percentage of students earning an AA or AS degree before high school graduation significantly increased. In addition to dual enrollment, approximately 2,000 certifications were earned last year through the many industry certification programs offered in our high schools or through our dual enrollment program with WTC, such as drafting, EMT, welding, HVAC, culinary, Microsoft/Adobe, agriscience, health care, early childhood, digital design, automotive, electrician, SCUBA and boating safety. These are just some of the certifications we offer and are directly linked to a broad spectrum of hands-on, medical, technical, computer science, construction or maritime careers/trades. A specific example of this is through the increased participation of our SCUBA certification program, provided by our Academy of Environmental Science and Marine Science Station. This has prepared more students for a maritime career in underwater welding, marine biology or environmental science.

* Other misleading comments from my opponent are “I need to prepare these kids (average kid) for a future in life, not jail” and “Children will no longer know more about other countries than their own.” It is unfortunate that my opponent asserts the destiny of our average students is jail without his intervention. And, his belief that our students do not receive effective U.S. history and civics instruction is unfounded. Data continuously disproves these statements, while he wrongly undervalues the success of the “average” Citrus County student. In fact, our students consistently outperform the state and nation on the SAT and ACT, US History EOC and Civics EOC.

* I would like to address my opponent’s statement regarding his disapproval of the termination of attendance officer positions. Under my leadership, I have developed a well-established process of reviewing all programs and positions in order to make decisions that are fiscally responsible and that allow for the improvement or expansion of services for the students of Citrus County. It is important to understand that we did not discontinue the important duties of those positions. Instead, we enhanced our attendance processes by transitioning the roles and positions to social workers. This addition provided increased resources and more consistent support to our families regarding attendance.

It is evident that my opponent has failed to do his due diligence in preparing for the position of superintendent of schools. His inaccurate statements and proposed initiatives clearly reflect his lack of knowledge regarding our school district, Florida’s public educational system, and the duties of superintendent of schools. He claims he is going to add programs that are already in place and are currently successful. He asserts he will supersede the governor’s authority over the state standards. He wants to have the sheriff’s office to screen and train our Guardians. This is not only already in place but is a statutory requirement. He claims our chief of police is a part-time position. This is also false. Our chief of police serves multiple roles in our district as a full-time employee who supervises Guardians, serves as a liaison with law enforcement agencies, and is our district school safety officer, which is an administrative position required by Florida statute.

Again, the purpose of this letter is to provide the public with facts and to correct misinformation shared by my opponent so that Citrus County voters can make an informed decision when electing their Superintendent of Schools by Aug. 18. Citrus County deserves a knowledgeable and proven leader to serve as superintendent of schools and I am honored to serve as that leader keeping the needs of our students, families, and community in the forefront. If you have any questions about our school district, I encourage you to give me a call at 352-726-1931 ext. 2205.

Sandra “Sam” Himmel is the Citrus County Superintendent of Schools and is seeking re-election.