INTERACTIVE: Island high school movement forges on in face of state, school district opposition

Following state’s announcement of no funding for Tract K solar, school officials announce state’s not funding Tract K high school either

Lely High School Principal Ken Fairbanks talks to eighth grade students and parents at Marco Island Charter Middle School Wednesday evening as they prepare the newest round of freshmen.
Kelly Farrell/ Staff

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff // Buy this photo

Lely High School Principal Ken Fairbanks talks to eighth grade students and parents at Marco Island Charter Middle School Wednesday evening as they prepare the newest round of freshmen. Kelly Farrell/ Staff

Marco resident and Lely freshman Alex speaks on life at Lely

Alex Popoff, 14, sets the record straight ...

Lely instructor on Marco's students

Lely's JROTC instructor David Price speaks at ...

Lely High School Principal Ken Fairbanks talks to eighth grade students and parents at Marco Island Charter Middle School Wednesday evening as they prepare the newest round of freshmen.
Kelly Farrell/ Staff

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff // Buy this photo

Lely High School Principal Ken Fairbanks talks to eighth grade students and parents at Marco Island Charter Middle School Wednesday evening as they prepare the newest round of freshmen. Kelly Farrell/ Staff

Do you think Marco Island should have a high school?

See the results »

View previous polls »

— Political wrangling over Island land owned by the Collier County School District and the proposition for a Marco high school continues.

Collier County School District Chief Operations Officer Michele LaBute said Tuesday that the state of Florida will not grant the district permission to build another high school.

The reason? Several Collier County high schools have vacant seats.

The issue came up during the operations subcommittee meeting Tuesday afternoon. By early Wednesday, Islanders working to get an on-Island high school regrouped based on information shared in the meeting.

Committee member James Horner brought the issue up Tuesday, asking what was happening with Tract K, the 11.6 acre parcel, which is located on the west side of Tigertail Court between Somerset Drive and Century Drive.

The property, along with the piece of land that holds Tommie Barfield Elementary School and the Marco Island Charter Middle School, was given to the district by the Deltona Corp.

The Tommie Barfield site was given to the district to be developed into a school. Tract K has no such requirement in the deed, the Naples Daily News reported Tuesday.

Jada Shigley, the public relations designee for the Island high school initiative, said the property is referred to as a “school site” in the deed so it is meant for a school.

LaBute told the committee that there are 325 high school students on Marco Island. Of those, 289 attend Lely High School. The remainder attend high school elsewhere, she said.

LaBute said the district has more than adequate vacancies at Lely, Golden Gate, Barron Collier and Naples high schools to accommodate the high school students on Marco Island. Those schools have vacancies as a result of declining student enrollment.

LaBute said to construct a new school, the district has to show a need for a new school. There is not one at this time, she said.

“Just because CCSB has set criteria for high schools in terms of size and offering everything to everyone does not make their policies practical, effective or even realistic,” wrote Shigley in an e-mail to the Eagle Wednesday.

Even if there was a need for a high school, LaBute said the district would not be able to offer the Island’s 325 students the types of programs or activities that larger high schools have. A small high school in the district has about 2,000 students, she said.

In addition, she said the minimum amount of land the district needs to build a high school is 17 to 23 acres for elementary schools. High schools, with athletic fields and other amenities, would need even more land.

“You could potentially build a small three-story school on it,” LaBute said.

The site was once considered as a potential place for the Marco Island Charter Middle School. The site was nixed, however, when the district discovered a nest of eagles in the center of the property, LaBute said.

The Collier County School District proposed putting a four-acre solar field on Tract K and donating the remaining seven acres of land to the city.

Two grant proposals totaling more than $3 million were put forward by the district and Marco-based United Energy Technology to fund the proposed solar project, which would provide energy to the schools on Marco Island. Monday, those plans did not make the short list of energy projects to be funded by the Florida Energy and Climate Commission.

After the state announced no grants for Tract K solar on Monday, the district said no high school by Tuesday.

“We had no intentions to ask the county for a new charter school. We have explored other avenues,” said Fay Biles, an Island proponent for a future Marco high.

There is a process by which those interested could directly petition the state for a high school.

While those rallying for the school say the movement will continue, they expressed some frustration.

“Instead of encouraging and fostering our ideas and motivation for improving education, all we hear from CCSB is ‘No, No, No,” Shigley said.

“The School District uses empty seats as the criteria of a system based on dollars and head count, not one based on education,” Shigley added.

Islanders who support a high school of excellence are encouraged to meet Saturday.

The meeting will cover the launch of the new Web site, land-use, grants and other funding options. The group will meet 1 p.m. Saturday at Marco Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall,

Interested attendees are encouraged to contact Island resident and high school initiative member Jane Watt via e-mail at

Students and parents what do you think? Vote in our poll, go to or contact Content Editor Kelly Farrell, or 213-5335 with your experiences and opinions.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 28

Marconian writes:


lelymom1 writes:

You pro Marco HS people should listen to this intelligent young man. He speaks the truth from personal experience. Way to go, young Popoff!

MarcoFacts writes:

Let's face it, the only people dogging Lely are those with no experience with Lely and probably no children of school age. This is the same group that opposes everything the city and county does! The whole pro-high school group are people with no vested interest, only a desire to be negative whenever possible!

Fossil writes:

What young Popoff says is probably true. Lely is a very good school and the people that run it only want the best for the students that attend it. That said, his testimony has little relevance to this story. As for MarcoFacts claim that Marco Island parents and supporters of this inititive, have no vested interest in it, that is false. Comments like that are written only to distract the reader and show a lock of understanding. Marco Island parents believe our community needs a high school so that our children can acquire a good education in OUR community, without traveling 20 miles a day to do so. They also agree with the ROTC instructer that Lely and it's programs teaches and promotes good civic participation in their community. They simply want our children to experience that within the enviornment of their OWN community, Marco Island. Our community is NOT Lely or Naples. Our community is the City of Marco Island. Our City is big enough to give an excellent education to it's students and should do so. Our children should not have to travel 20 miles a day to get an education. Our City Council should be responsive to it's community and give our own children an education in the City WE established.

liberator100 writes:

Fossil and Moronian.
You have absolutely NO idea what you are talking about. You both sound like a pair of racists living it up on Marco. Bring on the white sheets!You wrote(Our community is NOT Lely or Naples) There is no question as to what you meant by that. Stop living in the past.
Fossil: What have you ever contributed to any of the two schools on Marco Island? Just name one single item.
There will be no HS on Marco Island.
Marcofacts: You are 100% correct.
Alex: You are a good, smart, intelligent young man. Good luck to you in everything you do.

marcoislandres writes:

I don't know why some of you people are so against having a high school on Marco, I have two children in school here and would like them to go to high school here also.
I do not have a problem with Lely I have a problem with the commute my children will face each day.
And stop playing the race card just because someone wants their children to go to school in their own community does not make them a racist.
MarcoFacts please tell me how wanting a high school makes me part of a "group that opposes everything the city and county does"

Flowerpower writes:

Fossil, you don't even live on Marco anymore so why do you continue to blog? Of what concern are Marco's youth to you? liberator100 has a very valid question, "what have you done for the children of Marco Island?" Name one thing! What have any of the people pushing for a HS on the island done for Marco? I have two kids in Lely and one that graduated from Lely who is now attending Stetson. There are many success stories of kids who attended Lely and went on to major universities and military academy's. This is just one more thing for the complainers to complain about. Get a life...

Marconian writes:

oh, OK! well when my mixed niece and her black daddy come to marco in July to visit, I would like to come to liberator100s house so she/he can explain to them of how much of a racist I am what century do you live in anyhow what an IDIOT!!!

themessiah writes:

You try to cover your elitist attitude under the guise of "I don't want them to have the commute".

Where do you shop for clothes? Where do you go for entertainment? When you want to purchase a car, where do you go?


Commuting is a part of life. Don't sit in your little box (Marco Island) and make remarks disguised as ridiculous concerns that aren't relevant!

themessiah writes:


"Black Daddy"......

We rest our case!

GBR writes:

My thoughts,(for what they're worth);

Your timing couldn't be worse.We are in one of the worst recessions of all time and you want to spend $30 million on a high school for 325 kids???

Good luck

If you are all that determined to have a school, get together and build your own private school.

Now is not the time to make demands of taxpayer money.

lauralbi1 writes:

Hopefully someone on the committee reads these blogs. The only way to make this happen, and I feel that it should and can happen, is to incorporate the High School into the Middle School. We don't need to ne a one room Country School, but if everyone is serious about this, they would realize that financially that is the only way this can happen, affordably.
Ed Issler

marcoislandres writes:

The commute may not be a concern to you but it is to me. As far as me being an elitist far from it I am a minority, my grandparent did not even speak English and I did not go to collage.
When you buy a car or clothing it is not called commuting it's called shopping, commuting is to and from work or school....look it up.
GBR you may be right about the timing but I think people got motivated because the school board was going to give the property away, I think people would feel better if they knew tract K will be available for a school in the future if needed and If you think the people who want the high school should pay for it tell the people who want the dog park they should do the same since it will only benefit dog owners.

Fossil writes:

liberator: You are proving my point. When you cannot contribute to the conversation you and your friends revert to name calling. All of what you say is distraction and has no relevance to the article or to my contribution. Race is NOT a factor. Traveling 20 miles a day to attend school is the issue. Children living in a community the size and wealth of Marco Island should not have to commute out of their community to attend school. Marco Island and it's leadership has failed our children. How do any of you expect a young family to establish a small business and move to our City, if their children must travel so far just to go to school? They might as well establish their roots in Naples or Lely. It's time to make it right.

Fossil writes:

Flowerpower: I don't know who you think I am but you are wrong on so many levels and you are wrong on that one too. Although I want to leave, I am unable to sell. Marco will have a high school if our parents work for it. I have never said that Lely high school couldn't give our children a good education. Now let's get back on track. Why do you believe that what is good for your children may not be good for other children? Some parents have different priorities then you do. Can you not respect their priorities? The proponents of a Marco Island high school want exactly what you do, a good education. The only difference is they want it in their own community, closer to home.

Marconian writes:

themessiah if you want to turn this personal that can be arranged! But I would go as far as to assume in person that your just a scared little man, and could only talk the big man behind your computer screen you don't know who I am or anything about me and further more not even people of color play the race card anymore and yes i did say black daddy cause he is black and its her father so before you make anymore idiot remarks may i be the first to tell you to to take your comments and stick them straight up your backside you probably like it anyway!!!

Sailor writes:

Although many of you think you points and concerncs are valid, they are'nt at all in fact. The problem is that an eagle is on track k and will most likely be there for a minimum of 5 more years because even if it leaves at this very moment the law states you must wait 5years before removing the nest. You all believe you have really good points and are looking out for your kids but honestly you are wasting you time. Unless your child is still in elementary school they will ever be a freshman at the 'dream school' you all keep talking about. And regardless of the eagle, why fix what was never broken. Not just lely but all the schools in naples are more than worthy of you kids.

Sean_Jean writes:

Dear Moronian:

It's obvious that you are racist and have no class. As for the comments about black daddy, I am a man of color and resent your racist comments. I was born in Haiti, and am proud of my heritage. I have a son who currently attends Lely and is proud his skin color and his school. Furthermore I would be proud to meet you anytime, anywhere, if you have the courage. Use of such degrading and condescending language makes you worthy of a good whoopin!


Sean Jean Apres'

gators910 writes:

lets get ready to rumble,how about some mma fights to see who wins tract k..

Marconian writes:

IM not even going to respond to the ignorants im reading!Fossil is correct its just distraction to take away from the subject matter.and Sean jean apres don't let your mouth overload your a--!!!

Leroy writes:

Marconian sounds a lot like the mentally unstable John Putnam! Be careful Sean_Jean, he might insult you again. He talks a big game but is a total coward who hides behind his computer and throws insults & then run like a little girl.

TheVoice writes:

To whom ever is stirring the pot with a.k.a Marconian.I can assure you for I know him personally he is not racist! And as far as him being a coward! I believe you owe an apology! This man served in the united states marine core after high school, was in operation desert storm and toured afghanistan then Iraq for a second tour which lasted 17 months! so you can imagine what he has seen and done...As for someone feeling they could what was the word? Give him a whoopin! I don't feel you would want to enter that world with this man,not that he would bow to that low for you. Ill start the apologies for you.sorry that they speak badly of people whom they know nothing! and thank you for all that you have sacrificed for those people and your flag...HURAH SEMPER FI!!!

themessiah writes:


First "Black Daddy" now you resort to spewing gay innuendo on me?

I think your remarks justify my comments as well as all the others on here.


themessiah writes:

The Voice,

Just because someone served in the armed forces does NOT automatically exclude them as a racist.

Remarks such as "Black Daddy" and "Stick it up your backside because you like it anyway" are absolute racist and homophobic remarks.

Hitler served in the armed forces. Was he not a racist? Or are you one of the folks that believes that the Holocaust was a fabrication?

I believe as an ASSociate of the Moronian, you fall into the realm of guilt by ASSociation.

Semper_Fidelis writes:

I spent 22 years in the US Marine Corp and think you have all gotten off topic. Besides, just being a Marine doesn't mean you're above the basic laws of ethics and moral standards; we are held to a higher level! The point is that this young man is proud of his school. Congratulations to Alex Popoff, he is a fine young man who articulated his thoughts like an adult; something the individuals on this blog have failed to do! Marine or not, I think Marconian does deserve a proper bottom kicking.

actualmarcoresident writes:

lely is an amazing school! LTC Price is a great teacher and helps all of his students succeed.

actualmarcoresident writes:

Well this is all very relevant but...

Who here has ever been to lely?

Who here has ever talked to a lely student?

Who here will be affected by this new high school at all?

"and there's your sign"

- I love lely and am receiving a great education from lely. I am taking JROTC with LTC Price and in all honors classes. I do not feel that a high school on Marco island could benefit me in ANY of the ways that lely does. Maybe i wouldn't use gas driving to school every day but is it worth it?
- Not to me. or anyone who would need to give up a class they love. For me it would be JROTC, ROTC is not just a class to me. ROTC is my family. For another student it may be band, art, construction, criminal justice the list goes on and on.
- and all for what to save gas? If you could offer everything that lely currently does, im all for it, but you cant! The fact is that with a smaller class size you cant have as many classes, so you cut classes, and then what are you left with? Core based curriculum?
- No thank you! High school is not about the core classes it is about learning as a whole and growing and becoming adults.

Fossil writes:

What happened? This article is not about Lely, Iraq, military service, young Popoff and his praise of Lely, race, ethics or morality. This article is about parent's on Marco Island wanting to build a High School on Marco Island. Sounds to me like many of the contributors would benefit from further education. It is obvious that they cannot read or stay focused. Build the High School, Marco students need it or they are likely to end up like some of the contributors above.

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.