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Citrus Superintendent of Schools

The level at which community members and school administrators are involved in school district operations is at issue in this race.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Three men with different styles and approaches want to run the Citrus County schools for the next four years.

Incumbent Pete Kelly, a Republican seeking his second term, wants to continue shaping the district according to a strategic plan worked out over the past two years. He is touting accomplishments ranging from more equity in pay and treatment for employees to more access to technology for students and teachers.

He is challenged by his former assistant superintendent, David Hickey, a Democrat who insists that Kelly has failed to involve his staff or value his employees. Hickey, principal at Crystal River Middle School, is pushing his own leadership experience at the county and school level.

The third candidate and wild card in the race is Ansel Briggs, who has no party affiliation. Briggs, a community educator and activist, has never worked in the school system. For his campaign, that independence has been an asset as he has pushed for change in the district and complete involvement in the educational process by the community.

Kelly has stood by his record throughout the election, disputing criticisms that he hasn't involved key people in major decisions. He points to the development of the strategic plan, the district's guiding blueprint, as a prime example of how he has invited a wide range of people inside and outside the system to give input on the district's direction.

"All sorts of people were involved in that, and that's the way it should be," Kelly said.

If re-elected, he has promised to continue to work on the specifics of that plan, ranging from creating a better system of career preparation for high-paying technical jobs to beginning an education academy to home grow future teachers for the district.

Kelly has also talked about his accomplishments aligning pay scales and school staffing to make the district more equitable, pushing to open the Renaissance Center and supporting the district's three-year, $8-million technology upgrade.

"Student achievement is up," Kelly said. "If I'm changing things, it must be changes in the right direction."

Hickey has been critical of Kelly's management style, noting that he was left out of important school district decisions when he was assistant superintendent -- including the development of the charter technical school idea and Kelly's failed proposal to build a new Inverness Primary School.

While he said the strategic plan has some elements worth keeping, Hickey has said Kelly spent too much money on the project and didn't involve as many people as he has claimed. He has also accused Kelly of handling the budget badly, allowing for roller coaster spending and year after year of budget cutting to even out the finances.

Hickey has promised to build a team that would be involved in decision making. He also has pushed the need to keep working on school safety issues and has spoken about the need for more student focus in the district.

Briggs, who ran for the superintendent job as a write-in candidate four years ago, has received endorsements from the two candidates who lost to Kelly and Hickey in the September primary. Eschewing their own political parties, Tom Mullins and Chris Becker announced that they would back Briggs because he represented real change from the existing administration and he was passionate about helping children.

His platform has included plans to involve the community in the educational system, a promise to bring integrity to all phases of the district's operations and a hope to help change from an elected to an appointed superintendent by the end of his term.

Briggs also wants to create a kind of agreement similar to a college syllabus in which students, teachers and parents would all sign off on what was expected of each party. He has also promised to give back 10 percent of his salary to educational purposes and would challenge the business community to also donate to help the schools.

THE JOB

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 $98,910.

REPUBLICAN

JULIAN "PETE" KELLY, 58, is a Florida native who served 15 years on the Inverness City Council before being elected superintendent in 1996. He was a teacher at the Withlacoochee Technical Institute who earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Florida and his master's degree from Florida Atlantic University. He is a founding member of the Housing Assistance Foundation for the Elderly, a past member of the county's Housing Task Force and the Adult and Community Education Association. Kelly is a member of the Florida Association of School Administrators, chairman of the School Readiness Coalition, chairman of the Shared Services Network and a member of the Superintendent's Leadership Network for the Southeast Region. He has been the WTI Teacher of the Year and the county Social Studies Teacher of the Year and has earned awards from the Rotary Club and the Inverness Sertoma. Kelly is married and has three grown children. ASSETS: home, mortgage, motor home and mutual funds. LIABILITIES: loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary and mortgage income.

DEMOCRAT

DAVID HICKEY, 56, is a native of Washington, D.C., and principal at Crystal River Middle School. Hickey served as assistant superintendent for two years before asking to be reassigned to the middle school. He had previously served as the school's principal and had worked as assistant principal, teacher and coach at Crystal River High School. Hickey earned his bachelor's degree from Troy State University in Alabama and his master's in administration and supervision from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. He is a member of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, past president of the Citrus County Principals Association, a member of Florida Association of School Administrators and past president of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. He is married and has one son. ASSETS: home, savings, investment accounts, retirement account. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary and investments.

NO PARTY

ANSEL BRIGGS, 61, is a Detroit native who considers 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 from the University of Wisconsin in community education. He has held a variety of jobs, ranging from construction troubleshooter and commercial fisherman to 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: lots, a home, vehicles, bank account. LIABILITIES: none. SOURCES OF INCOME: sale of a property parcel.

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