Danny Valentine, Times Staff Writer

Danny Valentine

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

Phone: (352) 848-1432

Email: dvalentine@tampabay.com

Twitter: @DannyValentine

  1. Charter middle school in Hernando opens new year in its own building



    Eighth-grader Dustin Sanderson trudged up the sidewalk to Gulf Coast Middle School on Monday morning, still rubbing sleep from his eyes and with all the excitement one might expect from a 13-year-old boy on the first day of school.

    "Wake up, boy, it's school time," principal David Schoelles shouted as he stood in the bright morning sun, beads of sweat already forming on his forehead. "It could be worse."...

    Gulf Coast Middle principal Dave Schoelles, left, greets Brianna McAuley, right, and other students during Hernando’s first day of school Monday. “It’s so much more fun to be able to start out at our own place,” Schoelles said of the new building.
  2. Some Hernando students begin new school year minus textbooks


    BROOKSVILLE — Some Hernando County middle and high school students started the new year Monday without textbooks in certain subject areas.

    District officials say the delay occurred, in large part, after the publisher, Pearson Education, was forced to rework texts to reflect Florida's change from Common Core standards to the Florida Standards.

    In a memo sent to School Board members Sunday, the district reported that many math and language arts textbooks were missing; information regarding the exact number and a date for when they might arrive was not available....

  3. Many textbooks missing in Hernando after publisher recall


    BROOKSVILLE - Some Hernando County middle and high school students will start the year off without textbooks in certain subject areas after the publisher, Pearson, was forced to rework its textbooks to reflect Florida's change from Common Core to the Florida Standards, district officials say.

    In a memo sent to school board members on Sunday, the district reported that many math and language arts textbooks are missing; the exact number of missing textbooks and a timeline as to when they would arrive was not immediately available....

  4. Hernando teacher who got second chance after showing up drunk resigns


    BROOKSVILLE — A Hernando County middle school teacher who was given a second chance to work in the district after showing up to work drunk has resigned after failing to meet the terms of an agreement.

    Erin Cougill, a language arts teacher at West Hernando Middle School, didn't meet the terms of the stipulation agreement by Aug. 1, according to district spokesman Eric Williams.

    The agreement stated that Cougill needed to be evaluated by an addiction or abuse expert and had to complete any programs or requirements recommended by the expert. She also agreed to random drug or alcohol tests for the 2014-15 school year and acknowledged that the district could take further action against her after the findings of the state's Education Practices Commission....

    Middle school teacher Erin Cougill didn’t meet terms of the agreement that let her keep her job.
  5. Hernando man accused of crashing truck, leaving 2 hurt in road


    BROOKSVILLE — Authorities arrested a Spring Hill man after they say he crashed a pickup, injuring two people whom witnesses described as a pregnant woman and a child, then left the scene.

    Charles Daniel Aaron, 44, faces charges of fleeing and eluding, driving with a suspended license, grand theft, hit and run, driving under the influence and cruelty toward a child. He was being held Thursday at the Hernando County Detention Center in lieu of $25,000 bail....

    Charles Daniel Aaron, 44, faces fleeing and eluding, and other charges in the crash.
  6. Application deadline extended for new aviation course in Hernando schools


    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District's new aviation course is at risk of becoming grounded before it takes off.

    With school beginning on Monday, only eight students have signed up for Aerospace Technologies I at Nature Coast Technical High School. The course will be canceled unless 10 students register.

    The district has pushed back the deadline for freshmen and sophomores to apply from Wednesday until Aug. 22....

  7. Former Hernando teacher pleads guilty in attack on ex-girlfriend


    BROOKSVILLE — Former Hernando County middle school teacher Jesse Mockler pleaded guilty Thursday to four charges stemming from an attack on an ex-girlfriend.

    Mockler, 37, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal mischief and pleaded down to lesser felonies of burglary of a conveyance with assault and witness intimidation.

    He was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days in the Hernando County Detention Center and 60 months of probation. He was given credit for time he has served in jail....

    Jesse Mockler was charged with assaulting an ex-girlfriend as she sat in a vehicle in her driveway.
  8. Hernando County School Board, District 5


    School Board | District 5

    Three challengers are looking to oust incumbent Cynthia Moore, who is seeking her second term on the School Board. It's the most crowded of the nonpartisan three board races. It features two longtime district employees, a self-proclaimed outsider and a passionate parent. If one of the contenders does not get more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary election, the top two vote-getters go to a runoff in November....

    Robert Neuhausen
  9. Hernando County School Board, District 1


    School Board | District 1

    Two candidates are challenging incumbent John Sweeney, who is seeking his third term on the School Board. The three contenders in the nonpartisan race come from different backgrounds and all have different ideas of how to tackle the district's most pressing problems.


    Mark Johnson, 64


    John K. Sweeney
  10. Hernando County School Board, District 3


    School Board | District 3

    This nonpartisan race features two first-time candidates vying to for the seat currently held by board member Dianne Bonfield, who is not seeking re-election. The biggest fundraisers in any of the three School Board races, both candidates bring a lot of name recognition and different beliefs about how to tackle various issues facing the district.


    Jay Rowden
  11. District 5 Hernando School Board races offers choice of four distinct candidates


    The crowded race for the District 5 seat on the Hernando County School Board gives voters a choice of four distinct candidates.

    Cynthia Moore is the incumbent, with decades of experience in the district and a strong track record of volunteering in the schools. Susan Duval brings the perspective of a longtime school district administrator with a reputation for running one of Hernando's best schools. Robert Neuhausen is an active parent with a belief that the schools need to communicate better. Anna Liisa Covell, an avowed outsider, believes the board hasn't done its job and needs a new look....

    Robert Neuhausen
  12. Former Hernando school administrator sues superintendent over job transfer


    BROOKSVILLE — Former longtime Hernando County School District administrator Ken Pritz has filed a lawsuit against superintendent Lori Romano, alleging he was wronged when he was assigned to new duties and then released from the district this summer.

    Pritz was employed with the district for 34 years and was appointed assistant superintendent of teaching and learning in July 2012. He was a finalist for the superintendent's position before Romano was hired in 2013....

    Ken Pritz wrote a letter under the state Whistle-blower’s Act.
  13. Hernando judge sternly warns residents who failed to show up for jury duty


    BROOKSVILLE — In a slow and deliberate voice Monday, Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. read the names of Hernando County soldiers who had been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Silence filled the hearing room as Merritt recalled for the group of about 20 residents the sacrifice the soldiers made for their country.

    He pushed back his chair, walked to the American flag hanging behind him and lifted it....

    Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt had stern words Monday in his Brooksville courtroom for the nearly 20 people assembled.
  14. Aerospace academy ready to launch in Hernando County


    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District is looking to the sky to help prepare students for the future.

    Beginning this fall, the district will launch the first course in what it hopes will become a robust aerospace academy for high school students interested careers in aviation. The goal is to give students a foundation for those types of jobs, bolstering the local workforce and attracting new industry to the county....

  15. Race up for grabs for open Hernando District 3 School Board seat


    The former head of the Hernando County Education Foundation, and mother of three children in the school system, is taking on a retired businessman and husband of a county commissioner for the open District 3 seat on the Hernando County School Board.

    With incumbent Dianne Bonfield bowing out of the race after initially filing to run for re-election, the contest between Beth Narverud and Jay Rowden has become one of the tightest and most up for grabs this year. Although Rowden arguably has better name recognition, Narverud has extensive ties to the business community and is involved in a number of education organizations....

    The Hernando County School Board District 3 race pits Beth Narverud against Jay Rowden. The two have raised the most money of any School Board candidates, with Rowden bringing in $16,000 and Narverud pulling in $14,140.