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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


  1. Flooded again, owner of popular skating center pledges to reopen by fall



    It was about 9 p.m. Aug. 3, and Jim Balay was in the Bahamas tending to his water sports business when he got a text from his air-conditioning guy back in the States.

    David Koerner had pulled by SpinNations Skating Center to check on the roller rink and found the parking lot under water — again.

    "Can you get a look inside the building, send a picture?" Balay wanted to know....

    Shane Madak, of Frontier Hardwood Flooring, works on a new rink at SpinNations Skating Center in Port Richey on Tuesday.
  2. Only two years old, charity for autism siblings continues to grow


    TAMPA — Fifteen-year-old Regan Black came to the awards ceremony prepared with words written on a lined slip of paper. Then she promptly went off script as she addressed the finalists for the Sydney Has a Sister Scholarship.

    "I don't know where this is going," her mother said with a grin as Regan launched into a scattered diatribe of fragmented sentences that ended with the lilting thought that "The sun will come out tomorrow."...

    Sisters Sydney, left, and Regan sit with their parents Becky and Ernie Black. Regan is autistic, and the sacrifices Sydney has made inspired her parents to found the Sydney Has a Sister scholarship program. After recruiting volunteers to help with numerous fund raising activities the Blacks were able to award six, $1,000 scholarships this year to high school seniors in the Suncoast area who have siblings with autism.
  3. For some students, preparation for the new school year began in summer


    LAND O'LAKES — It was about two weeks before the start of school, and Connerton Elementary kindergarten teacher Tricia Sherburne was already at it.

    "Who's sitting crisscross applesauce?" she asked the passel of youngsters gathered on a colorful carpet in a room filled with numbers and letters of the alphabet and books such as My School's a Zoo and The Night Before Kindergarten and Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar....

    Kaitlin Doran, Tyler Doran and Caleb Crouse, all 10, work together to create a pyramid using six cups and a rubber band during a team building activity at a leadership retreat for fifth-grade students at Oakstead Elementary in Land O’Lakes.
  4. Season tickets on sales for 2015-16 PHSC Performing Arts Series


    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco-Hernando State College Performing Arts 2015-16 season will kick off with a little Elvis and wrap up with a James Taylor tribute band, with nods to Frankie Valli, Billy Joel and other rock legends also on tap.

    While individual tickets do not go on sale until Oct. 13, those wanting the best seats for multiple shows are encouraged to purchase season tickets now. The schedule is as follows:...

  5. Downtown Zephyrhills fundraiser returns Aug. 29 with plenty of food, fun


    ZEPHYRHILLS — Some know it as the home of "pure water." For others, it's a destination for skydivers from around the world.

    But there's more to Zephyrhills than that. As cookie-cutter developments crop up here and there, the sleepy little city that originally was deemed Abbott Station by founder Harold B. Jeffries has gained a reputation for sustaining its hometown feel.

    "You know everybody; everybody knows you," said City Manager Steve Spina, who has called Zephyrhills home since moving from New York about 40 years ago....

  6. Pasco County: What you need to know for going back to school



    Students entering kindergarten for the first time must be 5 years old on or before Sept. 1. Pre-Kindergarten and Head Start/Early Start programs are available to students who will not make the deadline.

    Check with your school for hours and days to register.

    Students entering a Florida school for the first time at any grade level will be asked to present the following items upon registration:...

  7. Environmental camp gives students summertime hands-on lessons outdoors


    It was the first day of summer camp for Jaden Faulhaber, a freckle-faced 11-year-old sporting a perpetual grin as he was wrapping up the last leg of a geocaching scavenger hunt under the wooded canopy at the Concourse Nature Center at Safety Town. • "I thought it would be boring because it's science, but it's fun — it's an adventure," Jaden said before lead instructor Josh McCart asked the youngsters to look up from their handheld GPS devices for a "teachable moment" involving a crusty red lichen he had discovered growing on the bark of a flatland pine....

    Kapri Winthrop, left, and Mirabel Garnica use water bottles and a small motor to make a solar bottle boat at the Energy and Marine Center in Port Richey.
  8. Couple hope to spread their love of music, art with new Inspire Studios

    Music & Concerts


    A whiff of fresh paint hung in the air as Cristine Rhodes doled out rhythm sticks to the outstretched hands of children who had arrived with their parents to give her free class a shot.

    "We're going to go on a musical adventure," Rhodes promised before gently prodding the children to move to the beat they were making.

    Traeh Carrington, 8, of Hudson was itching to get at it. His younger brother, Asher, 7, took a tempered stance, warming as they moved from rhythm sticks to drums to the wonderment of interpretive dance....

    At a free Saturday morning music class at Inspire Studios in Port Richey, owner Jason Rhodes teaches a lesson on percussion to, from left, Asher Carrington, 7, Traeh Carrington, 8, Addsyn Wolford, 5, and Chelsea Miller, 5.
  9. Main Street Blast set for Friday and Saturday in downtown New Port Richey


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Construction or not, the show must go on.

    And so, as tradition would have it, New Port Richey kicks off its annual preamble to the nation's birthday celebration with the 18th Annual KIA­fest Main Street Blast downtown this weekend.

    It's a blast from the past in a local kind of way, with the celebration returning to the historic downtown due to the ongoing renovations at Sims Park....

    The Black Honkeys, shown performing in front of Amalie Arena in Tampa before a Lightning game in May, will headline a musical concert on Friday night in New Port Richey. Bands also will perform on Saturday night.
  10. Club to celebrate Juneteenth's 150th anniversary Saturday


    PORT RICHEY — It has been 150 years since Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to deliver news that the Civil War was over and that slaves were free, though it was a rather tardy announcement.

    The date was June 19, 1865 — 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, two months after Lincoln's assassination April 14, 1865, and about a month after the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Florida by Brig. Gen. Edward McCook,...

  11. Environmental education teacher Jean Knight introduces one last class to her passion



    Life, like the water cycle, sometimes takes a person full circle — a thought not lost on Jean Knight in the moments before she greeted a new group of students for the last time at Cross Bar Ranch.

    After 37 years of teaching in Pasco, most of it as an instructor at three environmental education centers, Knight is retiring.

    "I started with Pine View Middle, and I'm ending with Pine View Middle," she said Monday as a yellow bus rumbled up 6 miles of dirt road, bringing a day of adventure, knowledge and, perhaps, inspiration for budding scientists and environmentalists....

    Instructor Jean Knight leads seventh-graders on a tour of Cross Bar Ranch. She has led environmental tours for 29 years.
  12. Every Tuesday is organic market day at New Port Richey Public Library


    NEW PORT RICHEY — As fresh markets go, Tasty Tuesdays is a delightfully homespun offering held in the courtyard outside the New Port Richey Public Library.

    Typically, seven or eight local growers lay out their seasonal harvest, along with a handful of vendors peddling honey, fresh eggs, orchids, organic baked goods and coffee; a couple of master gardeners offering advice on how to do it yourself....

    Cindy Cadle tends to customers, from left, Alona Berkstresser, Nita Long and Donna Clark during the Tasty Tuesdays farmers market at the New Port Richey Public Library
  13. High school ends, but not opportunities for these students



    David Guadarrama didn't start high school thinking about what was coming next. College definitely wasn't in the picture. "I didn't really take education seriously before," he said. "In my freshman year I was struggling to get a 3.0 (grade point average). This year, during my last semester I had a 4.5."

    Fueled by scholarships, some financial aid, a hefty push from a college prep program and his own resources, Guadarrama is set to graduate with honors in a class of 282 at Pasco High. To top it off, he has figured out what comes next — the University of South Florida, with thoughts of a career in the science or medical field....

    Pasco High seniors, from left, Jodie Pizano, Sergio Contreras and Eric Martinez finish up their final AVID project on May 19. AVID opens the doors for students to think of college as a reality.
  14. Top twins: Jake and John Wahl finish No. 1 and No. 2 among Bishop McLaughlin grads



    Neck and neck is a road most traveled for Jake and John Wahl, 17, a somewhat reserved yet affable set of identical twins who are gracious about fielding the typical questions that people ask them.

    • Who was born first? John, by 15 seconds.

    • How do people tell you apart? There are subtle differences, but the color-coded sneakers help.

    • Do you ever swap identities? They've been known to pull a fast one — maybe on a teacher passing back tests so they can be the first to see each other's score....

    Jake, right, is valedictorian and John is salutatorian for the class of 2015 at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School. The competitive brothers are headed to Florida State University in the fall, but will not room together.
  15. Richey Elementary students pitch in to tell their tale


    Students in the Wheel enrichment program at Richey Elementary wrapped up months of hard work with a presentation of Fairy Tale Follies on May 14 in the school theater. The play, featuring 40 characters, was written by teacher Sclena Brantley and adapted by students for their stage. Brantley noted that students in other facets of the after-school program also pitched, working with teachers and parents to sew costumes and create props and sets for the show. Cooking students also contributed by preparing and serving healthy snacks made with vegetables from the school garden....

    Chelsea Cristopher-Sanchez, 12, left, is a queen determined to rid her land of bad storybook characters such as the Big Bad Wolf, played by Alyssa Maske, 12.