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Danny Valentine, Times Staff Writer

Danny Valentine

Danny Valentine is based in Brooksville, covering education and general assignment stories for and the Tampa Bay Times. Always accepting story ideas.

Phone: (352) 848-1432


Twitter: @DannyValentine

  1. Hernando County School Board: District 5


    School Board | District 5

    Longtime School District employee Susan Duval will face off against Robert Neuhausen in the nonpartisan Nov. 4 runoff. Duval pulled in the most votes in the August primary election, with Neuhausen coming in second. Incumbent Cynthia Moore finished third. By Danny Valentine, Times staff writer

    Susan Duval, 67Robert Neuhausen , 46
    Experience Duval retired this summer after her most recent 11-year stint as principal at Springstead High School. A St. Petersburg native, Duval came to Hernando in 1969 and began teaching at Brooksville Junior High School. She has been an administrator at Hernando High, Central High and Powell Middle schools. At Springstead, she played a key role in creating the district's first International Baccalaureate program. A 22-year resident of Hernando County, this is Neuhausen's third time running for office. He ran unsuccessfully for the School Board in 2008 and 2012. Neuhausen, a former electronics technician in the Navy, has three children who are currently in or have graduated from the Hernando schools. He has been active on the advisory councils at his kids' schools and a member of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association. He has volunteered with YMCA sports, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
    EducationDuval has a master's degree in education administration and an education specialist degree from the University of South Florida.Neuhausen graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of South Florida.
    PlatformDuval supports quality career and college readiness educational programs, achievement for all students and fiscal accountability.He says the district's No. 1 problem is a lack of communication with students and parents.
    What are the top issues confronting the district, and how would you fix them?She thinks the biggest issues are the School District's budget and state/national standards for accountability.For Neuhausen, the top issues include: addressing the budget shortfall without cutting classroom spending, strengthening elective course offerings and improving communication with parents, students and community stakeholders.
    Stance on the penny sales tax?She thinks it is imperative that the public supports the sales tax.He supported the district's proposal to renew its half-cent sales tax, but said it wasn't a good idea to combine efforts with the county.
    Some Hernando schools are over capacity while others are under. How do you address it?Duval said she doesn't have a hard and fast answer and would need to do more research. She said she is not comfortable with the district's current rezoning process. Neuhausen believes the district needs to seriously re-examine how it sets up attendance zones, as these types of issues seem to crop up every few years.
    Assetsproperty, retirement plans, bank accounts, annuity, family partnership, household goodsmoney market, checking, 401(k)
    Liabilitiesloanauto loan, mortgage
    IncomeSocial Security, Florida DMS, salarysalary
    Personaldivorceddivorced with three teenage children

  2. Hernando County School Board: District 1


    School Board | District 1

    Two first-time candidates survived the August election by beating incumbent John Sweeney. Now the contenders will square off in a runoff on Nov. 4. By Danny Valentine, Times staff writer

    Mark C. Johnson, 64Donald Whiting, 68
    Experience Johnson hails from New York and has been a Hernando resident for eight years. He has never run for public office here. He has been involved in the county's antidrug coalition, Students Working Against Tobacco, and the county's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Currently, he is chairman of the dropout prevention organization Communities in Schools of Hernando County. Whiting is a 32-year Hernando resident who owns and operates Spring Hill-based Whiting Insurance. He volunteered on the county's Aviation Authority board for a decade and is a flight leader for the Young Eagles Experimental Aircraft Association. He has served on a School Advisory Council, participated in Junior Achievement and been a Big Brother. He also has coached little league.
    EducationBachelor's degree in criminal justice administration from the University of PhoenixHigh school and some college
    PlatformJohnson believes a lack of leadership on the School Board is hurting the district. He wants to work to improve funding and fix the state formula, which he feels shortchanges Hernando students. He also wants to work to reduce unfunded state and federal mandates.Whiting says he will bring a greater sense of fiscal responsibility and fiscal understanding to the board. He has identified two big safety issues: He wants to see full skirting around portables and Sheriff's Office call boxes placed on school campuses to increase the presence of law enforcement.
    What are the top issues confronting the district, and how would you fix them?He says the board is dysfunctional and votes against the best interest of students. He says board members need to be unified on major issues and take positions they may not personally advocate.He says he will use his business experience to address a number of big issues: school funding, the budget, board unity and technology.
    Stance on the penny sales tax referendumHe would have preferred that the district go it alone on a half-cent tax and not join with the county. But he supports the combined penny because of the great need in the district.He supports it, but would have liked to see the district go it alone, believing that a schools-only tax would be more likely to pass.
    How would you address the district's overcrowding/ excess space issue?Johnson believes redistricting is the long-term solution. "I don't think any schools should be working at capacity while others are not," he said.Whiting believes it is the superintendent's job to find a solution and says he wouldn't want to micromanage. "I think she will come up with the proper way to redistribute these students," he said.
    Financial disclosureAssets: bank accounts, securities, investments, retirement savings. Liabilities: credit cards, car loan. Income: Social Security, salaryAssets: property, rental property, bank accounts. Liabilities: several mortgages. Income: salary, rental income
    PersonalMarried with two grown children and two grown stepsonsMarried with five children;

  3. U.S. House: District 11


    U.S. House | District 11

    Then-Hernando Sheriff Rich Nugent drew criticism in 2010 when he agreed to a stealthy arrangement with his predecessor in Congress, Ginny Brown-Waite, to file at the last minute to run for what was then the District 5 seat. Two years later, Nugent defeated perennial candidate David Werder. Now, only first-time candidate Dave Koller of Ocala stands between him and a third two-year term. By Danny Valentine, Times staff writer...

    David C. Koller, 43, of Ocala is running for the District 11 U.S. House seat currently held by Spring Hill Republican Rich Nugent.
  4. Voters have a chance to reshape Hernando School Board


    Next month, voters will have an opportunity to dramatically change the face of the Hernando County School Board.

    No matter which of the four candidates they choose in the two races on Nov. 4, the board will see two new faces.

    The District 1 contest features Don Whiting, a prominent and longtime Spring Hill businessman, against Mark Johnson, a private investigator with big ideas. In the District 5 race, longtime former school principal and district administrator Susan Duval will face off against Robert Neuhausen, a passionate parent making his third run at a School Board seat....

    Hernando School Board candidate Donald Whiting
  5. Challenger to incumbent congressman says people aren't being represented


    As Republican U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent seeks his third term in Congress, once again he has cruised into the November general election to face a Democratic challenger with considerably less money and who lacks the support of a party focused on more competitive races.

    While Nugent boasts $284,000 in contributions, opponent David Koller of Ocala has $32,000 — a large portion of it from his own pocket. Koller admits that he has received no support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and that his own initial informal polls showed him tied with "pressing the wrong button" on the telephone....

    Democrat David Koller is running a grass roots campaign.
  6. Brooksville police chief defends officers' actions in Taser incident

    Public Safety

    BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville police Chief George Turner on Friday strongly defended two of his officers who have recently come under scrutiny after a man they were trying to place in custody was shot with a Taser, stunned and eventually hospitalized.

    Turner said 38-year-old Phillip Glenn Napier was in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Bayfront Health Brooksville on Friday. ...

    Phillip Glenn Napier was in critical condition Friday.
  7. Hernando School Board votes to relocate students from overcrowded K-8 school


    WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County School Board this week declared the overcrowding at Winding Waters K-8 School an imminent risk for students and authorized superintendent Lori Romano to take immediate steps to remedy the situation.

    As reported previously, the school is over capacity. During the first weeks of this school year, classes have been held on the stage, in work rooms, in teacher break rooms and even in the hallway....

    Fourth-grade teacher Lauren Scire teaches a class of more than 40 students in a science lab at Winding Waters K-8 School.
  8. Hernando man struck, killed while walking dog


    BROOKSVILLE — A 62-year-old Hernando County man was killed Thursday morning after he was hit by a pickup truck while walking his dog north of the High Point community, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

    Troopers said Ted Marquardt, who lives on Birch Street, was walking east on the south side of nearby Pitcairn Street at about 7:45 a.m. According to troopers, the dog dragged Marquardt into the roadway and into the path of an eastbound pickup driven by Eric Hooper of Brooksville....

  9. Hernando School Board adopts bigger budget, lower tax rate


    BROOKSVILLE — By a 3-1 vote, the Hernando County School Board adopted its 2014-15 budget and property tax rate during a final budget hearing Tuesday night.

    The school district is projecting it will take in roughly $154.5 million in revenue for the general fund, ending the year with a balance of roughly $6.7 million, down from the previous year.

    The district came into the year with roughly $14.4 million in reserves....

  10. Chinese middle school students might study again in Hernando


    SPRING HILL — The Hernando County School Board on Tuesday gave tentative approval to continue a highly touted exchange program with a Chinese boarding school that debuted last school year.

    More than 50 students from the Beijing New Talent Academy attended Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics from March until May, making it the largest student exchange in county history. This year's program aims to be smaller, with only 15 to 30 participants, but will follow the same general format....

    (From left) Jen Simon (wearing a gray jacket), Angela Ruiz, 13, Han Wang, 13, (wearing a plaid shirt), and Rang Ji, 13, have lunch in the school cafeteria at Challenger K8 School of Science and Mathematics on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. International exchange students from the New Talent Academy in Beijing, China will return home on Thursday after spending nearly two months attending Challenger K8 School of Science and Mathematics in Spring Hill, Florida.
  11. Brooksville man arrested after making five 911 calls, deputies say


    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County sheriff's deputies arrested a 42-year-old Brooksville man Friday night after they say he called 911 five times in just over an hour for no legitimate reason.

    Amos Lee Young faces a charge of misusing 911. He was being held Monday at the Hernando County Detention Center in lieu of $1,000 bail.

    Deputies were called to 25374 O'Neal Road, east of Brooksville, regarding a report of a verbal disturbance at about 10:14 p.m. Upon arriving, Deputy Richard Killingsworth met Young, who was stumbling in the middle of the road. In one hand, Young had an open can of beer. In his left front pocket was a nearly empty bottle of vodka, deputies said....

  12. Hernando leaders push penny sales tax to prevent school cuts


    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County School District superintendent Lori Romano spelled out in no uncertain terms the deep financial issues the district will face if voters reject a penny sales tax referendum on Nov. 4.

    With or without the approximately $8.5 million the district would receive each of the next 10 years, administrators will be forced to find a way to finance growing technology needs and repairs of aging schools. That means they would need to find the money elsewhere in the budget — a task the district has begun....

    Len Sossamon, Hernando County administrator, supports the proposed penny tax.
  13. Devoted mom, substitute teacher remembered fondly

    Human Interest

    SPRING HILL — Donna Sniffen knew the importance of a high-quality education.

    As a substitute teacher and a parent volunteer, she was a constant presence in Hernando County schools. She was a go-to sub at Chocachatti Elementary and Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, someone other teachers came to trust deeply with their students. She was active in school plays, spent long hours in the media center, helped out in the school cafeteria and worked the front desk when needed....

    Donna Sniffen is shown with Christine, one of three children.
  14. Hours after firefighters leave, second fire destroys Hernando home


    WEEKI WACHEE — Hernando County Fire Rescue officials say a home in the Glen Lakes development was destroyed early Wednesday by fire, hours after crews had put out a fire at the home caused by a lightning strike.

    Assistant Chief Kevin Carroll said firefighters responded to a single-family residence at 9203 Lake Cypress Loop on Tuesday afternoon about a possible lightning strike. They arrived and found a hole in the roof with fire in the attic....

  15. ACLU challenges Hernando schools on single-gender classes


    SPRING HILL — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint against the Hernando County School District over its single-gender classes at Westside Elementary School, claiming the classes violate federal antidiscrimination laws.

    The Title IX civil rights complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights this week, contends that Hernando's program is based on disproven notions about how boys and girls learn and develop, and that the district misled parents....

    Third-grade teacher Valerie Coddington helps Katrina Mozzi, 9, center, and Isabelle Cintron, 8, with a math assignment in a single-gender class at Spring Hill’s Westside Elementary School.