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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. Artwork, entertainment, hands-on activities to highlight Suncoast Arts Fest

    Visual Arts

    WESLEY CHAPEL — About 125 artists will showcase their wares at the 12th annual Suncoast Arts Fest on Saturday and Sunday at the Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel.

    From pottery to jewelry, sculptures, paintings and photography, there will be plenty to take in as new and returning artists pitch their tents against the backdrop of storefronts along Paseo Drive.

    Other enticements will include roaming entertainers, a kids art garden and art makerspace, an emerging artist booth featuring the work of middle and high school students, professional chalk artists creating masterpieces on swaths of open walkways and live music....

    Cotee River Elementary student Kiaraliz Saldana creates a clay owl during a 3-D Sculpture class, made possible through the Arts for Kids grant program.
  2. Fivay student's perseverance pays off with opportunity to perform at Carnegie



    The lifelong dream for many a musician is to play Carnegie Hall in New York. For Fivay High School student Shane Falco, the opportunity could come earlier than he ever imagined.

    After auditioning last fall, Falco, 16, has been selected to perform with the 2017 High School Honors Performance Series. He is one of 750 musicians selected out of a pool of more than 18,000 nominees from around the world. Acceptance is based on talent, past achievements and an audition recording....

    Fivay trumpet player Shane Falco has been selected to play in the 2017 High School Honors Performance Series.
  3. Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway is a community effort

    Human Interest

    PORT RICHEY — At 5 o'clock in the morning, Paul and Cindy Banky hopped on the No. 21 bus at Bolton Avenue and U.S. 19 in Hudson, embarking on a journey that had them picking up the No. 14 at Ridge and Little roads and finally landing at Faith Baptist Church on Ridge about 6:30 a.m.

    There, the Bankys, ages 65 and 63, respectively, joined hundreds of people lined up — most in cars — as they waited for the annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway that was to start at 9 a.m. Dec. 16....

    Fresh produce like okra was given away.
  4. Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count measures health, trends in bird population


    NEW PORT RICHEY — The West Pasco Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count takes place a few days after the holiday and organizer Peter Day is hoping for some new volunteers who want to get outdoors. Maybe walk off the holiday indulgences while making a contribution to citizen science.

    Whether a beginning birder or full-fledged enthusiast, all are welcome to join the count. Just be sure to wear proper clothing and walking shoes, bring a pair of binoculars and be ready to look, listen or log the count....

    Terri Gonzalez, left, and Joe Colontonio check out a pair of hooded merganser ducks during a West Pasco Audubon Society  nature walk in 2014 at Jay. B. Starkey Park in New Port Richey.
  5. Harvest time, arriving snowbirds spur library's Tasty Tuesdays market


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Traffic is picking up at Tasty Tuesdays, the New Port Richey Library's weekly organic market, held in the center courtyard between the library and City Hall.

    While steadfast vendors were able to hold their own through the summer months with offerings of cukes, tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant and other handmade sundries, the annual post-Thanksgiving snowbird bump and Florida's ongoing cool-season harvests bring a boost for local organic gardeners....

    Cindy Cadle unloads a shiitake mushrooms harvest from her organic farm to sell at the Tasty Tuesdays community market held weekly at the New Port Richey Public Library.
  6. PHSC bachelor's in nursing program achieves milestone — accreditation



    After 23 years of work in the health care industry, Charles Rummens is back in school and well on his way to obtaining a bachelor of science degree in nursing at Pasco-Hernando State College.

    "I've done everything from charge nurse to unit manager," said Rummens, who is currently employed as a staff floor nurse at Consulate Health Care of Bayonet Point.

    Balancing work and school can feel like a tall order for Rummens, 48, who lives in Port Richey with his wife and three college-age daughters....

    After 23 years working in health care and currently a floor nurse at Consulate Health Care of Bayonet Point, Charles Rummens, 48, is one of 122 students currently enrolled in PHCC’s nursing program. Rummens’ goal is to provide care for veterans.
  7. Olympics for young minds are a hit as new school year gets under way


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Trinity Cardona, 10, was feeling pretty good about her move to a new school as she watched a blinking, miniature robot skirt across a table in the newly painted media center at Cotee River Elementary School.

    "This is incredible. I've never seen anything like this before," Trinity said as the robot moved left, then right, then twirled around.

    It might seem magical, but it wasn't. The robot's color sensor was following a circuitous route that Trinity designed by drawing static codes with red, blue, green and black colored markers on a sheet of white paper....

    Trinity Cardona, right, Antonio Stone, center, and Rashawn Clay, draw color-coded lines for an Ozobot to follow using tools bought with Title 1 funds for the new Makerspace inside the school’s media center.
  8. Readiness camp gives young students a preview of kindergarten



    It was the last day of Kindergarten Readiness Camp at Calusa Elementary School, and Johnny Velasquez, 5, donned in a red Spider-Man T-shirt, was showing off the helicopter he had engineered from a bin filled with plastic toy connector discs.

    "That's wonderful," said exceptional student education intervention teacher Julie Morris, bending down in the school media center to admire Johnny's finished work as others built their own contraptions. "Would you be able to show that to a friend? Can you be a teacher and show them how you made it?"...

    Calusa Elementary ESE interventionist Julie Morris talks with soon-to-be kindergarten student Olivia Ostapow as she works on an activity at the four-day camp. 
  9. New shelter aims to aid homeless in west Pasco



    It was time to get the show on the road. Sue Campbell made her way past the rows of folded chairs to the front of the newly painted room to quiet the din of local notables and guests gathered for the grand opening of the ROPE Center's new sleep facility.

    Then she apologized for the poor acoustics.

    In a month's time, the white walls wouldn't feel so stark, and the ship-gray concrete floor would be covered with beds and footlockers that would dull the echoes. ...

    The new sleep facility is a 2,400-square-foot building on stilts that sits adjacent to the ROPE Center in Hudson. 
  10. Pasco education notes


    Connerton Elementary: School picture makeups, Nov. 2.

    Cypress Elementary: Fall Festival, 5:30 p.m. Thursday. • Advisory council, 8:30 a.m. Monday. • Makeup pictures and class pictures, Nov. 2.

    Gulf Middle: Picture retakes, Tuesday.

    Gulfside Elementary: All Pro Dads breakfast, 8:45 a.m. Thursday. • Advisory council, 4:15 p.m. Thursday.

    Hudson Elementary: Fear Factor Fall Festival, 5 to 7 p.m. Friday....

  11. Friday night frights: Mitchell High adds Halloween twist to homecoming


    It's typically a whirlwind week filled with queens and kings, the court, the parade, the dance, dress-up days, rodeo games, the return of alumni and of course the Friday night bout on the gridiron.

    This year's homecoming celebration at J.W. Mitchell High comes with a twist and a creative nod to the upcoming national celebration of all things spooky.

    Creepy Hollows Fright Night, a collaboration of the arts, will be held in the hours before the 7:30 p.m. kick-off Friday against Springstead High. The event is part art show, part haunted house and part drama performance, said art teacher Donna Fulton, who coordinated the effort along with drama teacher David O'Hara....

  12. Pasco students don wacky duds for Red Ribbon Week


    On Monday, students at Connerton Elementary in Land O'Lakes were asked to wear crazy socks to school. Pajamas were the requested attire Tuesday at San Antonio Elementary in Dade City. Today, students at Weightman Middle in Wesley Chapel will don wacky ties to promote the message to "tie down drugs." The Pasco County Sheriff's Office will be out in force, offering student presentations throughout the week....

  13. Pasco school briefs



    Active Parenting Classes for Parents with Teens will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. each Tuesday from Nov. 1 to Dec. 13 at Bayonet Point Middle, 11125 Little Road, New Port Richey. Topics include improving communication with your child, teaching responsibility and values, nonviolent discipline techniques and more. Child care will be provided. Classes are free, but participants must buy a $5 handbook. For information, call Shannon Hill at (727) 774-2630....

  14. Pasco County school newsmakers


    • These Hudson High students were recently inducted into the newly formed school National Thespian Society troop 7707: Erica Bamberski, Alexandra Avila, Katelynn Acosta, Brandi Denham, Renee Ledoux, Codi Wayand, Courtney Wehunt, Ashley Haynes, Jordan Haynes, Gabrielle Jones and Eliza Smith.

    • American Legion Post 79 recently presented donations totaling $900 to the Richey Elementary Special Olympics Team and to the Richey Elementary Project Playground fund....

  15. Pasco school events


    • Schools throughout the country are observing National School Bus Safety Week this week, so now is a good time to review those all important safety rules. The theme of this year's observance is "Be Aware — Know the Danger Zone!". That's the area extending 10 feet in all directions from the school bus, where most serious student injuries and deaths occur. Bus riders should be aware of the proper procedures when boarding, getting off the bus and crossing the street, and commuters should remember that it is illegal to pass a school bus when red lights are flashing and the stop sign arm is out. For information and resources, go to or