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 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 for the child and moments of sheer panic for his family.

    While boy arrived home safely when he was dropped off by a classmate's relative, 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....

  2. Push for passage of penny sales tax set to begin in Hernando


    BROOKSVILLE — With the primary election now in the rearview mirror, the campaign to sell a penny sales tax to Hernando County voters on the Nov. 4 ballot is about to get going in earnest.

    And the group leading the push already has amassed a sizable war chest of donations: $154,000.

    In the coming days and weeks, there will be supportive postcards and fliers sent through the mail, yard signs and billboards, and an online presence in the form of a Facebook page and a soon-to-be launched website....

  3. Former Pasco teacher accused of trying to set up sexual encounter with teen girl


    BROOKSVILLE — A former Pasco County high school teacher was arrested Wednesday after authorities say he tried to set up a sexual encounter with a teenage girl via an online chat.

    Robert Edward Smith, 61, of San Antonio is accused of engaging in long-term computer chats with a person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

    During the conversations, authorities said he and the girl talked about sexual activity and what sorts of acts he would like to perform on the girl. On Monday, he requested a meeting with the girl, and the two agreed to meet at the Holiday Inn Express on Cortez Boulevard west of Brooksville....

    Robert Edward Smith, 61, was a teacher at Land O’Lakes High.
  4. Three new members guaranteed on Hernando School Board


    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board is in for a dramatic makeover, with three new members guaranteed to come aboard after the November election.

    In Tuesday's nonpartisan primary election, Beth Narverud handily defeated Jay Rowden for the open District 3 seat, which was left vacant by retiring board member Dianne Bonfield.

    Incumbent John Sweeney, who became embroiled in a controversy this year involving the changing of his son's grades, was knocked out of the District 1 race with the fewest votes of the three candidates, leaving Mark Johnson and Don Whiting to duke it out in the Nov. 4 runoff....

    In Tuesday’s nonpartisan primary election, Beth Narverud defeated Jay Rowden for the open District 3 seat, which was left vacant by retiring board member Dianne Bonfield.
  5. Little information released in shooting death of 28-year-old man in Spring Hill


    SPRING HILL — The Hernando County Sheriff's Office says 33-year-old Justin Artt shot and killed 28-year-old Mitchell Ingle at about midnight Monday at a house at 5337 Freeport Drive.

    Other than those basic facts, however, authorities on Tuesday disclosed little information.

    They would not explain what might have prompted the shooting, nor the relationship between Artt and Ingle....

    Mitchell Ingle, 28, was shot to death, but it’s not yet clear why.
  6. Mother upset after 5-year-old son gets off Hernando school bus at wrong stop


    BROOKSVILLE — The bus filled with Brooksville Elementary School students had arrived at a stop Wednesday afternoon and was letting students out when the driver heard a disturbance.

    The driver turned his attention to the incident on the bus.

    That's when Michael Whitehouse, a 5-year-old kindergartner, managed to slip off the bus unnoticed at the wrong stop, with no parent or guardian there to pick him up....

  7. Spring Hill man agrees to deal, sentenced to prison on sex charges


    BROOKSVILLE — A 27-year-old Spring Hill man accused of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 12 has pleaded guilty to four counts of attempted sexual battery, one count of lewd and lascivious molestation, and one count of lewd and lascivious exhibition, according to Assistant State Attorney Erin Daly.

    Daniel William Hoover, who was facing the possibility of a mandatory life sentence had he been convicted at trial, reached the plea agreement with the State Attorney's Office. Daly said the agreement spares the child from the trauma of testifying....

    Daniel William Hoover will spend more than 25 years in prison on child sex charges.
  8. Former Hernando detention deputy enters open plea on child abuse charges


    BROOKSVILLE — A former Hernando County detention deputy accused of severely burning a child with a hair dryer, then failing to seek medical attention, has pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse and child neglect, according to Assistant State Attorney Erin Daly.

    Cody Lee Marrone, 21, faces up to 35 years in prison for the abuse charge, a first-degree felony, and neglect charge, a third-degree felony....

  9. With increased enrollment, aviation course set to begin in Hernando


    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District's first aviation course will begin this year after nearly being canceled because of a lack of interest.

    District officials say Aerospace Technologies I at Nature Coast Technical High School now has 12 students; it needed 10 to move forward.

    By the original deadline last week, only eight students had applied for the course, which is open to freshmen and sophomores. The deadline was then moved back to Friday....

  10. Partisan politics enters District 3 School Board race in Hernando


    Longtime Spring Hill resident Lori Eley was shocked by the robocall message she found waiting for her on her answering machine Monday.

    In a voice reminiscent of an emergency weather alert, a man warns that Hernando County School Board candidate Jay Rowden is asking people to request to vote by visiting a certain website that might seem to be official.

    "It is not," the message states. "It is a website owned by an officer of the Hernando County Democratic Party and is designed to trick you into giving up your email. This was an important voter alert."...

    Jay Rowden, a Democrat, is using a website to direct voters.
  11. Ridge Manor man sentenced for second time in his father's murder


    BROOKSVILLE — It took Hernando Circuit Judge Stephen E. Toner just a few minutes to hand out consecutive life sentences to 23-year-old Stephen Horne on Thursday for the murder of his father in 2010.

    Horne stood off to the side of the courtroom in an orange prison uniform and with his hands cuffed in front of him. He held his head up and occasionally looked at a row of family members sitting near the front of the room. Tattoos covered his face and neck. He didn't speak before the judge's ruling and he didn't speak afterwards....

    Stephen Horne, who killed his father in 2010, had his original conviction overturned.
  12. Investigation of grade change for Hernando School Board member's son comes to no conclusions


    BROOKSVILLE — After a nearly six-month investigation, the Hernando County School District has failed to reach a conclusion as to whether district staffers acted improperly in changing the grades of School Board member John Sweeney's son and whether any staff member released confidential student records to the public.

    Due to the nonreappointment this summer of a former principal involved in the case and the inability to find who released records to the news media, the investigation has been labeled "inactive," according to Heather Martin, the district's equity, policy, investigation and compliance administrator. Likewise, the district reached no conclusions about Sweeney's involvement because it has no authority to investigate a School Board member. A state ethics investigation of Sweeney is still ongoing....

    School Board member John Sweeney denies any wrongdoing.
  13. 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."...

    Sixth-grader Anna Crisci, center, chats with classmates Marilyn Mandarino, left, and Chloe D’Ambrosio as they wait for instructions from their Field Activity Program teachers during Gulf Coast Middle’s first day of school.
  14. 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....

  15. 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....