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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

Email: miller@tampabay.com

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

    K12

    Registration

    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:...

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

    K12

    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....

    Environmental education instructor Donna Hoague, right, answers questions. One lesson at the camp, she said, is water quality testing to learn about water’s importance to biodiversity.
  3. Couple hope to spread their love of music, art with new Inspire Studios

    Music & Concerts

    PORT RICHEY

    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....

    Traeh Carrington, 8, from left, Asher Carrington, 7, teacher Cristine Rhodes and Chelsea Miller, 5, take part in a class.
  4. Main Street Blast set for Friday and Saturday in downtown New Port Richey

    Events

    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.
  5. Club to celebrate Juneteenth's 150th anniversary Saturday

    Events

    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,...

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

    K12

    LAND O'LAKES

    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.
  7. Every Tuesday is organic market day at New Port Richey Public Library

    Consumer

    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....

    Carrots from Tasty Tuesdays.
  8. High school ends, but not opportunities for these students

    K12

    DADE CITY

    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 in the AVID program, from left, Jessica Gamez, Eric Martinez and David Guadarrama look through a yearbook on May 19. AVID is dedicated to closing the achievement gap by preparing students for college.
  9. Top twins: Jake and John Wahl finish No. 1 and No. 2 among Bishop McLaughlin grads

    K12

    SPRING HILL

    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....

    Competitive in the classroom as well as in athletics, identical twins Jake, left, and John Wahl are still distinct individuals.
  10. Richey Elementary students pitch in to tell their tale

    K12

    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....

    From left, Trey Koenig, 10, plays Puss in Boots; Kaylie Moschetto, 10, is a fairy; and Samantha Mioduszewski, 11, is Amalie in Richey Elementary School’s production of Fairy Tale Follies. The drama students have been rehearsing since September, said teacher Sclena Brantley.
  11. Season-ending jamboree at Sertoma Youth Ranch features a musical mix

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING LAKE — From reggae, to a Grateful Dead tribute, to rock 'n' roll and Spanish funk fusion, it's there for the picking as festival season wraps this weekend at the Sertoma Youth Ranch.

    The Orange Blossom Jamboree, continuing through Sunday, is a final blast for ranch regulars that will feature more than 50 bands pumping out an eclectic musical mix in a woodsy setting.

    "We try to take the best of what Florida has to offer — the whole gamut — and put it out there," co-owner and event coordinator Megan Baker said....

  12. Calusa Elementary School club aims to educate students about the problem of bullying

    K12

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Madison Morrow might be just 10 years old, but she already has found a purposeful cause, one she takes on every other Thursday morning in the media center at Calusa Elementary School.

    That's where members of the school's Anti Bullying Club meet, Madison said, to learn "that bullying isn't cool and how to be a be a friend when kids are getting bullied and sad."

    She already has the makings of a public speaker, quieting the chattering din of 40 club members with the lilting sound of a mallet being dragged across a three-note chime. Then she takes command, wearing the club's signature purple T-shirt and bedazzled handkerchief skirt and leggings, her hair pulled back neatly in matching french braids....

    Calusa Elementary fourth-grader Madison Morrow works on a mural on April 17, Global Youth Service Day. 
  13. Centennial Middle School seventh-grader finds a cause: cancer patients

    K12

    DADE CITY — Sally Campbell never got to meet the great-grandmother after whom she was named. Cancer had a hand in that. But the memories shared by loved ones helped propel the Centennial Middle School seventh-grader into joining a cause to help others affected by cancer — maybe even help put a smile on their faces.

    Sally, 12, found something to pour her heart into after hearing about SOCKS (Students Organizing Cancer patients Krazy Socks), a nonprofit organization started by Pasco High student Courtney Nathe that provide socks to cancer patients....

    Sally Campbell, 12, has  collected thousands  of socks for cancer patients.
  14. Nature Coast Handbells turn to pops for spring concert

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING HILL — The age-old practice of ringing handbells is a staple in many Christian churches, particularly come Christmas and Easter, when the melodic clinking of clappers against shiny metal heralds a joyful celebration.

    But there's more than one way to ring a bell in these modern times, and the Nature Coast Handbells group promises to show just how at their concert Sunday at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School....

  15. Seafood, blues and boat show highlight annual Cotee River fest

    Events

    NEW PORT RICHEY — This weekend's 2015 Cotee River Seafood and Blues Festival promises to serve up some of the gulf coast's best offerings, whether it be a basket of deep-fried grouper bites drenched in lemon, a lazy paddle down the Pithlachascotee River or a slice of local blues — all played out over three days at Sims Park in downtown New Port Richey.

    Live music is the main attraction at the three-day event, and there's plenty to like, particularly since admission is free. ...

    Charlie Morris Band plays Saturday at 3 p.m.