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

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  1. Brooksville middle school lands band instructor, keeping program alive

    Blog

    BROOKSVILLE - Parrott Middle School has a new band director.

    After months of anticipation and worry that the program might fold, principal Brent Gaustad on Tuesday announced that he has hired former Central High band director Luke Cramer, who had been let go from Central after the band and chorus program dissolved because of low enrollment.

    Numerous parents had expressed concern about he future of Parrott's program and the negative impact it would have on Hernando High's band if it ended....

  2. Brooksville middle school lands band instructor, keeping program alive

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Parrott Middle School has a new band director.

    After months of anticipation and worry that the program might fold, principal Brent Gaustad announced Tuesday that he has hired former Central High band director Luke Cramer, who had been let go from Central after the band and chorus program dissolved because of low enrollment.

    Numerous parents had expressed concern about he future of Parrott's program and the negative impact it would have on Hernando High's band if it ended....

  3. Spring Hill woman killed in Orlando hit-and-run remembered for her humor, smile

    Accidents

    SPRING HILL — People couldn't help but be drawn to 20-year-old Nicole Marie Brennan.

    A free spirit with a healthy sense of humor and a big, inviting smile, she accepted easily, judged little and genuinely wanted to improve the lives around her.

    "She loved you for you," said her mother, Monika Brennan. "She always tried to make people feel better about themselves."

    And that's one of the things family and friends will miss most....

    Nicole Brennan, 20, of Spring Hill “really cared about everyone,” a former teacher said.
  4. Hernando utility workers say they had no doubt: 'This is a dead body'

    Public Safety

    SPRING HILL — For Hernando County utilities employees Thomas Hirchak and Carmine Dorsi, there was no mistaking what was brought to the West Hernando Convenience Center on Thursday morning in the bed of a white pickup.

    The man driving the truck believed he was dropping off a mannequin, but the workers saw signs of humanity — and death — everywhere.

    There was the discolored skin. The body's heft. The tattoo on one of the legs. And the smell....

    Two Hernando utilities employees discovered the body of a man in a Dumpster at the West Hernando Convenience Center on Thursday after cleaners mistook it for a prop.
  5. AP scores improve in Hernando but still below averages

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Results on Advanced Placement tests improved slightly this year in the Hernando County School District, with increases in both the passing percentage and the number of students who took the exams.

    Hernando County students earned passing scores — a 3 or higher out of 5 — on 46 percent of the exams they took in 2014, up a little more than 1 percentage point from the previous year....

  6. Trooper dismissed after DUI, drug arrest in Spring Hill

    Crime

    SPRING HILL — A Florida Highway Patrol trooper has been dismissed after he was arrested on duty last week on charges of driving under the influence and felony drug possession, according to FHP.

    Commercial vehicle enforcement Trooper Shaun Robert Morel, 36, of Spring Hill was fired July 10, the day after he was arrested.

    "Troopers are and should be held to the highest standards of integrity and trust," according to an FHP statement. "Morel's actions showed that he failed to uphold those standards expected of our members, and this behavior will not be tolerated by the department."...

  7. Mistaking body for mannequin, workers toss it in a Dumpster

    Crime

    SPRING HILL — For the second time this year, someone in the Tampa Bay area has mistaken a body for a mannequin and thrown it in a Dumpster.

    It happened in St. Petersburg this spring when a security guard trashed the body of an elderly woman who had jumped to her death from her 16th-floor apartment.

    And it happened in Spring Hill on Thursday when two workers hired to clean out a house believed the body of a man who hanged himself in the garage was a mannequin used for a prank. One of the men took the body to a dump, where county workers became suspicious and called deputies....

    Hernando Sheriff’s Office investigators work Thursday at a Spring Hill home where a body was found hanging in the garage. The body was taken to a transfer station. 
  8. Low grades prompt administrative changes at several Hernando schools

    Blog

    BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County School District superintendent Lori Romano has announced administrative changes throughout the district after several schools earned low marks in the latest round of state-issued school grades.

    Romano said her decisions were made after reviewing school grade data in an attempt to match individual strengths with the greatest needs.

    Spring Hill Elementary School assistant principal Nancy Johnson will move to Pine Grove Elementary to replace Heather Urban, who resigned Tuesday. Both schools earned D grades for the 2013-14 school year, though Pine Grove's overall score was lower, narrowly missing an F....

  9. Low grades prompt administrative changes at several Hernando schools

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County School District superintendent Lori Romano has announced administrative changes throughout the district after several schools earned low marks in the latest round of state-issued school grades.

    Romano said her decisions were made after reviewing school grade data in an attempt to match individual strengths with the greatest needs.

    Spring Hill Elementary assistant principal Nancy Johnson will move to Pine Grove Elementary to replace Heather Urban, who resigned Tuesday. Both schools earned D grades for the 2013-14 school year, though Pine Grove's overall score was lower, narrowly missing an F....

  10. In year of mixed results in Hernando, higher grades at Eastside, Fox Chapel are lauded

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — After being branded last year as Hernando County's first F school, Eastside Elementary administrators predicted a big improvement this year.

    But even they were surprised just how well the school performed.

    Last week, the school learned that it not only had shed its F, escaping costly mandates that accompany two consecutive failing grades, but also had jumped to within points of earning a B....

  11. Two new principals appointed to lead Hernando schools

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District has appointed two longtime educators to fill the principal vacancies at Westside Elementary and West Hernando Middle schools — the latest appointments in a string of summertime administrative changes.

    Lori Lessley, 51, will take over at West Hernando Middle, replacing Carmine Rufa. Lessley served as an assistant principal at West Hernando between 2011 and 2013 before moving to an assistant principal position at Springstead High School for a year....

    Lori Lessley, 51, will take the helm of West Hernando Middle.
  12. Man arrested after standoff with Hernando deputies

    Crime

    HILL 'N DALE — Hernando County Sheriff's deputies arrested a 27-year-old man who had barricaded himself in a shed for several hours Monday afternoon.

    At about 2:20 p.m., deputies were called to 6387 Raley Road to find Andrew Raymond Vaughn-Elliott, who was wanted in a felony domestic violence case from earlier that day. When deputies arrived, Vaughn-Elliott claimed he had a handgun and got on the roof of the residence. As additional deputies arrived and took up tactical positions, he moved to a shed and barricaded himself inside....

  13. Hernando man charged with abuse of toddler

    Crime

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County sheriff's deputies say a 31-year-old Weeki Wachee man badly injured a toddler after losing his temper, hitting the girl and shaking her while he was left in charge of his girlfriend's two children.

    Troy Matthew Hibbard faces a charge of aggravated battery on a child. He was being held Monday at the Hernando County Detention Center with bail set at $50,000....

    Troy Matthew Hibbard, 31, was watching his girlfriend’s two kids when the girl was hurt, deputies say.
  14. Hernando sheriff's budget increase could mean higher tax rate, official says

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando property owners face a potential tax rate increase in the coming fiscal year to pay for the higher budget being sought by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

    Early projections show the rate increase — 0.1048 mills — would generate roughly $708,000, enough to cover the shortfall, according to George Zoettlein, the assistant county administrator for budget....

  15. Family of slain sheriff's informer files wrongful-death suit

    Civil

    INVERNESS — The mother of a 27-year-old Citrus County Sheriff's Office informer killed during a drug deal in 2012 has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the agency.

    Her claim: The Sheriff's Office failed to protect the identity of her daughter, Jamie Lee Seeger, and because of that, on the night of July 25, 2012, she was fatally shot inside her car in Crystal River.

    "They were directly involved in her death, and I am 100 percent sure of that," said Wendy Moore, 46....

    Jamie Lee Seeger was shot to death in her car in July 2012.