TIME FOR SHAKEUP?: Two candidates say the district needs new blood, not a School Board veteran, at the helm.
By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published October 26, 2004
David Hickey decided that he would not seek a second term, and now three candidates from vastly different backgrounds are trying to take his place.
A Citrus native, Sandra "Sam" Himmel, a Democrat, has spent the past eight years on the School Board, making her a target for criticism by Ted Sgouros, a Republican, career educator and former superintendent who recently moved to the area, and Ansel Briggs, who has no party affiliation and is a longtime community advocate and activist.
Briggs and Sgouros have been critical of board decisions, including Himmel's, related to the construction problems at Homosassa Elementary School and the district's budget. They also have touted their status as school district outsiders and questioned whether Himmel is too well connected to be the change agent that they think is necessary.
To that, Himmel asks why such broad change is needed. She points to an educational system that traditionally has made high marks academically, and top educational leaders who are constantly trying to move the district forward.
She is willing to say that the other side of the district's operation, the one that runs the business side of the system, may need some help. There, she worries, educators are working in positions that might not suit them. Educators, she points out, may protect their own while those with business training would push to be sure everyone is doing their job.
Briggs said there has been plenty of evidence over the years of controversies that have shown that the school district needs a change.
He points to his own varied background working for years in fields related to juvenile justice, runaways and addicts, as well as his keen interest in making the system better, for why he would serve well as superintendent. This is his third run for the job.
Briggs said he would push to make the school system more accessible to the public by putting more information online, seeking to televise board meetings and opening lines of communication.
He supports a stronger bond between the Marine Science Station and the Academy of Environmental Science and the development of a light industrial arts center for students. Briggs also said he would push for improved education on nutrition.
Briggs said that if he had been superintendent when the Homosassa issue surfaced, he would have ordered an immediate investigation and "heads would have rolled."
Sgouros also would have handled that issue differently, and he has maintained that more options should have been presented to the board rather than just keeping the contractor working on the site. He said he has a problem with the way the board has been led by its attorney Richard "Spike" Fitzpatrick, and he worries about his close relationship with Himmel, to whom he is related.
He also supports providing more information to the board so that it can make good decisions and more information to the community so it can understand what is happening in the district.
Sgouros said he jumped into the race because he felt that in the growing community someone with real qualifications for running the school district should enter the race. Serving for years in such leadership roles and having earned multiple degrees including a doctorate from Columbia University, Sgouros said he knows he can provide the needed leadership without the baggage of being a part of the system.
"Yes, I do think it's an old boy system," he said. "It's evident in the lawyer. It's evident in Mrs. Himmel. We're running this the way we want to run this."
- BARBARA BEHRENDT, Times staff writer
The superintendent of schools is the chief executive of the school district. The job includes implementing School Board policies and managing the day-to-day affairs of the district and schools. The superintendent also oversees the district's budget. The superintendent is elected countywide to a four-year term. The annual salary is $107,118.
TED SGOUROS , 57, is a native of Washington, D.C., who settled in the area two years ago. A career educator, he most recently served as director of evening and Saturday programs at Bergen Community College in New Jersey. Previously he has served as superintendent of schools for small school districts in New York and Colorado. He also has worked as an assistant professor, an assistant superintendent, a student activities coordinator and a teacher. He earned his bachelor's degree in English at Pace University, a master's degree in teaching from Colgate University and a master's degree in curriculum, teaching, supervision and leadership from Columbia University. He also has master's degrees in educational administration from Columbia and the University of Nebraska and a doctorate from the Columbia University Teachers College. He is past president of Kiwanis International in Roscoe, N.Y., worked with Boys Town in Omaha, Neb., and the day care board of his church in Long Island. He is also a member of the Pine Ridge Civic Association, the Beverly Hills Civic Association and the Citrus County Republican Executive Committee. He is married and has one child. ASSETS: two homes, vehicle, bank account, investments. LIABILITIES: loans. SOURCES OF INCOME: retirement.
SANDRA "SAM" HIMMEL , 50, is a lifelong resident who has managed her family's business, Connors Office Supply, for the past 22 years. Prior to that, she was a teacher at Crystal River Middle School. She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Florida and her master's from the University of Phoenix. An eight-year member of the School Board, including two years as chairwoman, Himmel has served on various boards including the Citrus County Fair Board, the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, the Inverness Little League and various school advisory and enhancement councils. She is married and has three sons. ASSETS: home, building lot, vehicles and investment accounts. LIABILITIES: mortgage and vehicle loans. SOURCES OF INCOME: School Board salary and salary from office supply business.
NO PARTY AFFILIATION
ANSEL BRIGGS , 65, is a Detroit native who calls himself a community educator and an advocate for people who need help dealing with government or other bureaucracies. He also is an activist, appearing frequently before public boards on a variety of issues. He earned his bachelor's degree in community education from the University of Wisconsin. He has been a construction troubleshooter, commercial fisherman, steeplejack and purchasing and production expediter. He has also been involved in a number of civic groups and causes, including working as a street counselor for runaways, a member of the Citrus Schools Alternative Options Committee and chairman of the original committee to save the Lakeview School. Briggs is married and has a grown daughter and two grown stepchildren. ASSETS: property, a home, vehicles, bank account. LIABILITIES: none. SOURCES OF INCOME: Social Security.