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. Hernando School Board should have voted on move to six periods, member says

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Without public discussion or a formal vote, Hernando County School District superintendent Lori Romano recently directed all middle and high schools to reduce their instructional schedules to six periods a day for the 2014-15 school year.

    That decision didn't sit well with School Board member John Sweeney.

    During a workshop Tuesday, Sweeney let the superintendent and district staff know his feelings about making the switch without board approval and pledged to seek an outside opinion regarding the appropriateness of the action....

  2. School Board ponders big-ticket fixes at Westside Elementary

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County School District officials made it clear during a School Board workshop Tuesday that something needs to be done about the condition of Westside Elementary School — and soon.

    With precious little money for maintenance in recent years, the district has put off important roof repairs in favor of temporary solutions. The aging roof of the Spring Hill school now leaks in multiple places. Water trickles into some of the electrical fixtures. Ceiling tiles have collapsed....

  3. Renewed search of Chassahowitzka for missing Zephyrhills pilot turns up nothing

    Public Safety

    WEEKI WACHEE — A renewed search in Hernando County for missing Zephyrhills pilot Theodore Weiss was called off Tuesday afternoon after searchers said they had exhausted all leads.

    Hernando County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Denise Moloney said that 19 searchers from the Hernando Sheriff's Office, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Forest Service spent several hours combing the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area in an area of dense forest near U.S. 19 and Centralia Road, north of Weeki Wachee, in response to signals from an emergency locator transmitter....

  4. Ground search for missing Zephyrhills pilot suspended

    Public Safety

    The ground search for a missing Zephyrhills pilot was suspended Saturday evening after authorities spent a week hunting through Citrus and Hernando counties and miles of densely wooded forest.

    Hernando County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Denise Moloney said in a news release that "crews have exhausted our efforts and diligently searched our ground search area."

    Air searches for 74-year-old Theodore Weiss will continue, Moloney said, and new ground search requests will be investigated as needed....

    A board used to organize the search for missing Zephyrhills pilot Theodore Weiss, 74, inset.
  5. Hernando considers school closings due to excess space, maintenance costs

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Redistricting. Expensive repairs and remodeling. Even costlier reconstruction. Outright school closures.

    Those are among the unsavory options facing the Hernando County School Board when the board meets Tuesday to discuss how best to realign the district's 23 schools, make better use of resources and deal with mounting capital needs.

    A number of Hernando's 23 schools are far below capacity, a result of the addition of two new schools in recent years and declining enrollment tied to the economic recession. Pine Grove Elementary School, which has the most excess space, is at only 37 percent of its capacity, with portables. Eastside Elementary is at 53 percent capacity; Spring Hill Elementary is at 65 percent. Fox Chapel and West Hernando middle schools are both in the mid 50s. Central High is at 51 percent....

  6. Hernando School Board to consider closing schools

    Blog

    BROOKSVILLE - Redistricting. Expensive repairs and remodeling. Even costlier reconstruction. Outright school closures.

    All of those are among the unsavory options facing the Hernando County School Board when the board meets Tuesday to discuss how best to realign the district's 23 schools, make better use of resources and deal with mounting capital needs.

    A number of Hernando's 23 schools are far below capacity, a result of the addition of two new schools in recent years and declining enrollment . Pine Grove Elementary School, which has the most excess space, is at only 37 percent of its capacity, with portables. Eastside Elementary is at 53 percent capacity; Spring Hill Elementary is at 65 percent....

  7. Hernando School Board to discuss new bell schedules

    Blog

    The Hernando County School Board is set to consider two dramatically different bell schedules for the 2014-15 school year at a workshop next week.
    One proposal no changes to start and end times and saves no money. The other makes huge changes and saves a boatload of cash.
    So, let's talk about change.
    The second proposal, which has actually appeared before the board a few times, would save roughly $600,000, creating a "three-tier" busing schedule that eliminates the need for roughly 15 routes.
    To do this, many school times need to change.
    The start times at most middle schools would be bumped back more than 90 minutes, beginning at 9:10 a.m. The elementary schools would begin 40 minutes earlier. The high school times, already the earliest in the district, get even earlier, with a few beginning at 7:05 a.m.
    At least one board member has spoken against the large changes at a previous meeting, but it's not clear if that would be enough to outweigh the savings.
    The School Board is set to vote on the issue at its Tuesday night meeting.
    Click here to check out the plan....

  8. To save money and lengthen class periods, Hernando schools plan move to six-period days

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Many Hernando County students will notice a big difference in their schedules starting next year: fewer periods.

    The district's middle and high schools will offer only six instructional periods a day. Instead of having the opportunity to take 28 credits during their high school careers, students will take only 24 — the amount needed for a traditional diploma.

    "It is streamlining what it is our students are taking," said curriculum supervisor Marcia Austin. "What we opted to do is offer more focus."...

  9. Hudson woman dies after being thrown from four-wheeler at party in Hernando

    Public Safety

    BROOKSVILLE — It was about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, during an afternoon of birthday festivities, when Jessica Oras jumped on a four-wheeler and called to her friend Rachel Gernaat to hop on back.

    Oras, 23, skirted the edge of Whitehurst Pond, northwest of Brooksville, then told Gernaat she was going to go faster.

    "I just had a bad feeling," Gernaat recalled Monday afternoon.

    Soon afterward, the pair hit a bump, and both women were thrown from the vehicle....

    Jessica Oras, 23, left, was killed in a four-wheeling crash on Sunday in Hernando County during a birthday party for friend Rachel Gernaat, right. Cousin Ryan Oras, 20, is in the center.
  10. Change of colors, mascot at Eastside Elementary part of school's 'new persona'

    K12

    HILL 'N DALE — Eastside Elementary School has undergone numerous changes since it received Hernando County's first F grade from the state last summer.

    It got a new administration, a revived media center and spruced-up grounds. School officials placed more emphasis on student data. They launched a host of initiatives and measures to turn around the school, including writing boot camps on weekends and a new mentoring program....

    “It means something,” said Eastside principal Mary LeDoux of the new colors and mascot.
  11. To deal with cut in funding, Hernando school district implements hiring freeze

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — For the second time this school year, the Hernando County School District has implemented a hiring freeze to address budget concerns that are largely tied to the district's declining enrollment.

    In January, the school district saw a reduction in state funding of roughly $1.9 million that was the result of lower-than-forecast enrollment numbers, according to the district's chief financial officer, George Gall. ...

  12. Hernando School Board rejects plan to restore busing for some students

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — It took months of information gathering and discussion, 15 options, three workshops and two meetings, but the Hernando County School Board's great debate over courtesy busing has concluded.

    The result: no changes.

    By a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, board members killed a plan that would have restored courtesy busing for elementary school students living between 1 and 2 miles of their schools....

  13. Hernando teachers, School Board approve salary increase, performance-based pay

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — After months of negotiating and a week of voting, Hernando County teachers have overwhelmingly ratified a new contract that includes an average raise of nearly $1,850 this school year and paves the way for performance-based increases for all teachers beginning next year.

    Roughly 90 percent of the district's instructional personnel who cast ballots — 1,018 — supported the measure. About 10 percent — 108 — voted against the measure, according to an announcement by Hernando Classroom Teachers Association officials at Tuesday night's School Board meeting....

  14. Hernando teachers union, School Board approve new contract

    Blog

    BROOKSVILLE - After months of negotiating and a week of voting, Hernando County teachers overwhelmingly ratified a new contract that will bring an average raise of nearly $1,850 this school year and paves the way for performance pay for all teachers beginning with the next year.

    Roughly 90 percent of the district's instructional personnel who cast ballots - or 1,018 - supported the measure. About 10 percent - or 108 - voted against the measure, according to an announcement from Hernando Classroom Teachers Association officials at Tuesday night's School Board meeting....

  15. After years of stagnation, commercial activity on the uptick in Hernando

    Retail

    The 20-acre site at the corner of Cortez and Mariner boulevards doesn't look like much yet — just a dirt lot dotted with some signs and a handful of bright yellow earth movers.

    That will soon change.

    Hernando County residents are brimming with anticipation at what will be the first major shopping center to open in Hernando in several years, a project that includes such big-named tenants as Bonefish Grill, Hobby Lobby, Mattress Firm and the Vitamin Shoppe....

    Construction is under way at Cortez Commons, where land has been cleared for the shopping center at the intersection of Mariner and Cortez boulevards west of Brooksville. The shopping center has lined up Bonefish Grill, Hobby Lobby, Mattress Firm and the Vitamin Shoppe as tenants.