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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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....

  4. 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....

  5. 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.
  6. 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....

  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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....

  10. 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....

    In her third grade reading class teacher Tracy Burke, center, passes out a reading worksheet to Tristin Staton, 8, on how to compare and contrast on Thursday, September 12, 2013. Burke is several teachers that instructs single-gender classes at Westside Elementary School in Spring Hill.
  11. Late textbooks have arrived in Hernando classrooms


    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District has received all of the textbooks that were delayed as a result of the switch from Common Core State Standards to the Florida Standards, according to district spokesman Eric Williams.

    The textbooks, primarily concentrated at middle and K-8 schools, arrived over the first two weeks of the new school year.

    Although the textbooks are in, Williams reported that the district is still waiting on a number of accompanying supplementary workbooks for the texts in grades 6 through 8. A few high schools also are missing support materials for English, math and other college readiness courses....

  12. Pasco-Hernando State College reports 13.3 percent enrollment growth


    Pasco-Hernando State College saw double-digit gains in student enrollment this semester, the biggest increase of any state college in the Tampa Bay area and the largest for PHSC since 2009.

    Nearly 11,100 students registered for fall classes at the college, which has five campuses in Pasco and Hernando counties. The enrollment is 13.3 percent higher than last year's, which hovered around 9,800....

    Lauren Belle and Tomas Moore study in biology class at PHSC’s new Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch in January.
  13. Fewer students in Hernando this year, but some schools lack enough space


    Winding Waters K-8 School has so many students this year that classes are being taught on the stage and in the faculty lounge. The occupational therapist provides services in the hallway. Closets have been converted to offices, and offices have been transformed into space for resource rooms.

    For the first time since the school opened in August 2011, enrollment has been closed, meaning new students can't register, even if they move into Winding Waters' zone....

    Music teacher Barb Weiss teaches a kindergarten class of more than 18 students on the stage in the cafeteria at Winding Waters K-8 school on Tuesday.
  14. Autopsies reveal head, neck wounds in Brooksville slayings


    BROOKSVILLE — Autopsies of the three people shot and killed Friday night in south Brooksville showed that all of the victims suffered gunshot wounds to the head and neck, Brooksville police reported Tuesday.

    Police said that just before 9 p.m. Friday, 42-year-old George Mason III of Lutz fatally shot his girlfriend, Tarasha Townsend, 37, Ralph Peyton, 29, and 81-year-old Jannie Taylor, at 820 Peach St....

    George Mason lll is accused of killing three people.
  15. Hernando schools consider GPS tracking system for buses


    BROOKSVILLE — Only three days into the school year, a kindergartner from Brooksville Elementary School walked off his bus at the wrong stop and briefly went missing, triggering a frantic search and sheer panic for his family.

    While the boy eventually arrived home safely, the incident resonated with district officials. Shortly afterward, district transportation director Doug Compton and Hernando superintendent Lori Romano met to address what could be done to prevent the mistake from reoccurring....