Michele Miller, Times Staff Writer

Michele Miller is a Tampa Bay Times writer in Pasco County. Miller coordinates and provides stories and photographs for Pasco entertainment features as well as the Top of the Class education feature.

Phone: (727) 869-6251

Email: miller@tampabay.com

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  1. Pasco class notes

    K12

    Briefly

    The Sydney Has a Sister Scholarship Foundation will host a silent auction fundraiser from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Beef O'Brady's Wilderness Lake Preserve, 7040 Land O'Lakes Blvd., Land O'Lakes. Auction items include golf packages, date nights, hotel stays, spa packages and more. Bidding closes at 8:30 p.m. Proceeds will go toward funding scholarships for high school seniors who have siblings with autism. For more information, go to www.sydneyhasasister.com....

  2. A passionate musician leads Richey Community Orchestra

    Human Interest

    Denise Isaacson is living a dream, one set in motion when she climbed onto a piano bench for her first lesson at age 4. She was enraptured by the sounds the black and white keys made and hungry to learn. But life for the daughter of a Methodist minister was nomadic. Instruction depended on whether the church organist in whatever place they were living was willing to teach.

    As a youngster she sang at her mother's church parties and in the choir. She could barely see over the railing when she performed her first solo — a hymn called Precious Jewels for her younger brother's baptism — battling stage fright the whole way through....

    Denise Isaacson, playing sax during practice with the 42nd Street Band, is a lifelong musician and an accomplished player of many instruments. As president and executive director of the Richey Community Orchestra, she works on all manner of details.
  3. Students harvest sweet potatoes at Gulfside Elementary

    K12

    HOLIDAY — It was harvest day at Gulfside Elementary School, and second- and third-grade students were mightily excited to be pulling sweet potatoes planted in the raised garden beds in May.

    "They went right through those sweet potatoes. It was like a bunch of ants running around. It was great," said master gardener Bob O'Brien, 65, who came with a handful of green-thumbed volunteers to show students how to pull the vines....

    It was harvest time at Gulf Elementary School in Holiday and students got to do the digging. Here, second-graders Mikiyah Cooper, from left, and Leighlanni Cruz harvest a whopping 5 1/2-pound sweet potato while Christian Miller, far right, pulls some smaller spuds.
  4. Rockin' it out in New Port Richey

    Events

    NEW PORT RICHEY — New Port Richey Main Street's 2014 ROCKtember Fest kicks off at 6 p.m. today in Sims Park along banks of the Pithlachascotee River. The two-day event features bands on the amphitheater stage and lots of family-friendly activities.

    The music lineup includes Lawless Intent opening on Friday night followed by tribute band Almost Styx (9-10:30 p.m. Friday). Saturday includes Woody and the Wood Tones (2:30-4 p.m.) and the Glad All Over Band (4:30-6 p.m.) The Bob Hope Band performs Saturday evening (6:30-8 p.m.) and a return of the Black Honkeys (8:30-10:30 p.m.)....

    The Black Honkeys are the Saturday night headliners during ROCKtember Fest in downtown Sims Park.
  5. Pasco class notes

    K12

    Calendar

    Sept. 19: Progress reports.

    Briefly

    • The Department of Mathematics and Science at Saint Leo University invites middle school and high school students to the free Math Circles outreach program from 5:30-6:30 p.m. each Thursday in Lewis Hall, Room 101. Includes fun activities to help students develop an enthusiasm for mathematics. Saint Leo University is located at 33701 State Road 52. Lewis Hall is the three-story academic building to the right, just inside the entrance to campus. Free parking in surface lots and the campus garage. For information, contact Monika Kiss, associate professor of mathematics, at (352) 588-8836 or email monika.kiss@saintleo.edu....

  6. Mitchell High grows its band

    K12

    NEW PORT RICHEY

    On Friday nights they line the gridiron, kicking off with the national anthem. They're a force to be reckoned with during games, pepping it up in the stands, then taking the field again for the halftime show.

    "Go For It" is the theme for the J.W. Mitchell High Marching Mustangs' show featuring songs by Muse and Radiohead that are meant to appeal to the high school demographic. Making it all come together is a lot of work — especially when you consider the size of this year's band....

    Mitchell High senior Kelsie Howell holds her trumpet in proper form while  awaiting instruction from band director Joel Quina during an afternoon rehearsal.
  7. Historic, long-empty San Antonio building opens for business

    Human Interest

    SAN ANTONIO

    For more than 30 years, the two-story red brick building on Curley Street sat empty. It's not that people weren't interested. A few times a week, someone would stop to peer in the windows, maybe rattle the doorknob, then venture next door to Jack Boyle's pottery shop to inquire if it was for sale or rent. It happened so often, in fact, that John Herrmann posted a sign on his late father's storefront asking folks not to bother the potter....

    The logo of Saf-T-Gas, John Herrmann’s business, is still visible in the building that once housed it. A yearlong renovation renewed walls, floors, windows, plumbing and more.
  8. Pasco class notes

    K12

    Calendar

    • Sept. 19: Progress reports.

    Art/Music/Theater

    • The African American Club of Pasco will host a Fall Program on Creative Arts for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. The 10-week program will be from 1 to 4 p.m. beginning Saturday at the former Booker T. Washington School, 6105 Pine Hill Road, Port Richey. There is no charge for the program, and snacks will be provided. For information, call (727) 849-5582....

  9. Scholarships give notice to kids who have siblings with autism

    Human Interest

    LAND O'LAKES

    It was a wistful conversation prompted by a roadside Powerball billboard and his wife's altruistic notion that gave Ernie Black the idea.

    Along with the "quit our jobs and travel the world" scenario they agreed to, Becky Black said her imaginary winnings would go to starting a scholarship for kids like their daughter, Sydney.

    As a career specialist in the guidance office at Sunlake High, Becky had done the research. She knew there was money out there for students who met specific criteria such as having red hair or being left-handed....

    “You realize that they are amazing people. They just act a little different than us. You just have to have the patience to get to know them.”
Gabriella Rivera, in her “Sydney Has a Sister” scholarship application, about her 6-year-old brother, Rocco
  10. Pasco class notes

    K12

    Calendar

    • Monday is Labor Day, no school

    Art/Music/Theater

    • The African American Club of Pasco will host a Fall Program on Creative Arts for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. The 10-week program will be held 1-4 p.m. each Saturday beginning Sept. 6 at the former Booker T. Washington School, 6105 Pine Hill Road, Port Richey. There is no charge for the program, and snacks will be provided. For information, call (727) 849-5582...

  11. Teens volunteering at hospital makes for a win-win

    K12

    HUDSON — For some kids, high school is four years of figuring out what you want to be when you grow up — or at least what direction you'll be heading in.

    Amir Hussain, 15, already has his path carved out.

    "My dream is to become a neurosurgeon," he said, adding that his interest was first piqued when his mother underwent a successful neurosurgical procedure.

    "The brain is a complex and delicate organ," he said. "And I'd like to be a part of that." ...

    Fivay High freshman Clarice Todd, 14, is a Candy Striper, greeting people, running errands and escorting visitors.
  12. Pasco class notes

    K12

    Calendar

    • Aug. 28: Adult education graduation

    • Sept. 1: Labor Day, no school

    Art/Music/Theater

    • The African American Club of Pasco will host a Fall Program on Creative Arts for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. The 10-week program will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. each Saturday beginning Sept. 6 at the former Booker T. Washington School, 6105 Pine Hill Road, Port Richey. Children will have the opportunity to try their talents in dance, acting, singing, beginning Spanish, geography, scientific technology, crafts, computer skills and creative writing. There is no charge for the program, and snacks will be provided. A show for parents, friends and members will be held Nov. 8. For information, call (727) 849-5582...

  13. Vendors, shoppers find a niche at open markets across bay area

    Events

    PORT RICHEY

    Mary Jo Rodriguez had been up at the crack of dawn baking bread with the hope that locals would venture out for the Sunday afternoon opening of the Market on the Bayou.

    "Bread is the big seller," she said, after tending to a customer at her vendor tent. "After that it's muffins and cookies, then brownies."

    Rodriguez, a former body builder, delved into the business of organic, vegan and gluten-free baked foods after researching healthy diet trends. Two years into it, her Better Baked Goods business is "busting at the seams," building a presence at fresh markets in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Safety Harbor, New Port Richey and Spring Hill....

    Annie Christensen of Annie’s Sweet Organics, center, waits on customers while Mary Jo Rodriguez takes inventory at Market on the Bayou in Port Richey.
  14. Boot camp for new Pasco teachers helps settle first day jitters

    K12

    SAINT LEO — In 36 years of teaching, Beverly Ledbetter never used a red pen to correct her students' papers. Sure, red stands out. But Ledbetter thought it would be deflating for a student to get a paper back that's bleeding negative commentary.

    More often, she used a green pen to point out to students what they were doing right.

    "Remember, you're here to help build self-esteem," Ledbetter told the 25 or so attendees of a Beginning Teacher Boot Camp at Saint Leo University....

    Beverly Ledbetter hosts the Beginning Teacher Boot Camp at Saint Leo University. Ledbetter uses the event to share her 36 years of teaching experience with new educators.
  15. Pasco class notes

    K12

    Calendar

    • Monday is the first day of school for students

    • Aug. 28: Adult ed graduation

    • Sept. 1: Labor Day, no school

    Art/Music/Theater

    • Middle and high school art teachers and instructors looking to exhibit student work might find some space in Picasso Hall for Emerging Artists at the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery, 6231 Grand Blvd. All media are acceptable for monthly exhibits during the school year including paintings, pastels, collages, photography, digital art, posters, up-cycled and mixed media. Instructors and students are encouraged to participate in the hanging of the exhibition and are invited to attend the opening reception, along with friends and family, to discuss their work. Instructors should contact the gallery at (727) 848-6500 or e-mail nprgallery@aol.com....