VIDEO UPDATE: Citizens’ movement for Marco high school picks up momentum

Samantha Malloy, 36, speaks of the need to work with the Collier County School Board on the Island's prospects for a new high school.


Samantha Malloy, 36, speaks of the need to work with the Collier County School Board on the Island's prospects for a new high school.

The youngest visitors to the 'Town Hall' meeting for a Marco Island High School flex their muscles before the adults begin the discussions Saturday at Mackle Park. Caelan, 3, and Madline, 6, show off for dad, Chris Burt, who hopes he can someday send his daughters to an on-Island high school. 
Kelly Farrell/ Staff

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

The youngest visitors to the "Town Hall" meeting for a Marco Island High School flex their muscles before the adults begin the discussions Saturday at Mackle Park. Caelan, 3, and Madline, 6, show off for dad, Chris Burt, who hopes he can someday send his daughters to an on-Island high school. Kelly Farrell/ Staff

Interview with Mario Sanchez

Mario Sanchez talks about Marco Island high ...

— Marco Island’s future high school may be a matter of getting the homework done.

Islanders yearning for the high school discussed what needed to be done to make their dream come true on Saturday at Mackle Park.

The citizens’ movement began with two people about two years ago and grew to about 200 people following the “Town Hall” meeting led by Marco resident and college professor Mario Sanchez.

Requests went from whispers to shouts after a joint meeting between the Collier County School Board and Marco Island City Council on Jan. 20.

The School District is proposing solar panels for a commercial endeavor on the School District’s undeveloped Island land known as Tract K.

Solar power could offset the School District’s electricity bills. Some say the business venture with an Island solar firm is a stretch from the intent of the developer, Deltona Corp., who deeded three parcels of Island land to the Collier School District in the 1960s.

The stand-alone solar panels proposed for Tract K by the Marco-based firm, United Energy Technology, could take four acres of Island land set aside for the schools.

Collier schools Superintendent Dennis Thompson said earlier in January that the 11-acre site is too small for a school. Nesting American Bald Eagles on the site will also delay development of the land.

“Let’s talk about the high school first. Where to put it is secondary,” Sanchez said Saturday.

Thompson has said that the Island doesn’t have enough students to support a high school.

There are about 2,000 school-aged children on Marco Island and about 500 high school students.

The proposed high school would be either a public school or a charter school, which essentially works as a contractor for the school district.

“This would not just be for the gifted, genius, advanced placement or local” students, Sanchez said, noting it would be for anyone.

Several residents, including Jay Santiago, stood up offering an anecdote of how a small school of 500 students or fewer has yielded successful graduates.

Santiago and Sanchez pointed out another challenge -- local politics.

“This Island is immensely politically charged and that’s an understatement by a person who came from a communist country (Cuba),” Sanchez said.

Santiago said City Council’s “friendships” with the firm proposing solar power on Tract K may pose the greatest challenge.

“We don’t need to wait for government approval of this idea in order to move forward,” Sanchez said.

Roger Hall, 67, said a Marco Island high school will attract younger families to the Island, adding to its diversity, a goal City Council has voiced in its visionary plans for the Island.

The School District may fear losing Islanders as “donors” to Lely High School, but a high-quality Island school will increase property values and tax income, said Hall, a former Realtor.

The citizens’ movement began with informal gatherings in Fay Biles’ Island home.

Biles, a member of Florida Gulf Coast University’s foundation board, is working with FGCU to garner support and ideas for shared resources.

Lely High School is rated a D school based on students’ scores on the standardized exams, the FCATs.

Marco Island Charter Middle School is rated an A school.

Sanchez said he didn’t believe the FCATs were reliable standards and were not his basis for creating a new high school.

The round-trip commute to Lely costs Island students one to three hours per day depending on where they are on the bus route, he said.

“I wonder what you could do with three more hours a day in the classroom,” Sanchez said.

Peter Piro, a psychology teacher at Edison State College, said college students coming from foreign high schools are often better prepared than those coming from U.S. schools.

Marco Island’s high school should focus on the desired outcome of comparing students’ achievement to international leaders in education, Piro added.

“We can raise the bar. I can tell you it works. I’ve done it,” Sanchez said.

As a tenured professor at Miami-Dade College, he said he knows that students, including minorities and non-English speakers, have greater success as expectations rise.

While the community gathered at the park, petitions were circulating at other Island events, particularly youth athletic events. About 200 people signed the petition, including approximately 100 people present at the meeting.

Some Islanders and educators said they were concerned about a small high school’s athletic offerings.

While opposition to the high school exists, no one stood up against the movement Saturday.

“We overcame a lot of opposition to get Marco Island Charter Middle School ... We need to find an approach that works for everyone again,” said Islander Jane Watt, 39.

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

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Comments » 33

sunkissed writes:

Tract K = A Grade High School
Community of Marco, build that high school. This is a wonderful and needed addition for Marco

playballonK writes:

a high school on K scares the crap out of opportunists like lazarus and elliot and their ilk.
these guys want a tourists 'utopia' w/ the only residents that live here come for 3 months a yr. and whos' high school kids go to school in the northern hometown from which they migrate from each january.
we want families to call marco home,... WE NEED TO FIGHT FOR IT!

ed34145 writes:

And how will a small high school ever provide the diverse opportunities necessary for today's students to get into competitive colleges? Perhaps an alternative school would work, but then that would defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?

extra234 (Inactive) writes:

since when do you need "diverse opportunities" in order to get into a good college?

sailingalong writes:

If you'all think that Arceri, Lazzarus, Eliot and Patterson are going to stand by while you take their track K and actually try and do something good for the island you are in for a rude awakening. They have big dollars at stake and they will pull every slimy trick in the book to kill this idea. They will be supported by their puppets on the council, Waldack, Gibson, Trotter and Popoff.

Wake up single family homeowners, you are about to get steamrollered again.

Marcoptomist writes:

ed34145, what do you mean by "diverse opportunities"? Instead of asking yourself how such a small high school would provide diverse opportunities, why not go to one of the upcoming meetings and ask that very questions and perhaps provide some answers or suggestions. I went to a public high school in a rural country town that had only 51 in my class. I'm not sure that my school had "diverse opportunities", however, we had many other great learning expreriences that you can't get at larger schools. One, we felt like a family and most everyone was friends and was willing to help. We had band, choir, , art, drama, student council, sports (baseball, football, cheerleading, basketball, volley ball, tennis, track, golf, wrestling, girls basket ball). There were 35 students in the class under mine and only 46 in the class older than mine. We barely had 150 students in our classes from 9th -12th. Nearly everyone graduated and went on to some form of higher education. I attended a State University and never felt that I was less educated or had less diverse opportunities than any of the other thousands of students that I was competing against. My thought I leave you is, if you can, please help this community by being positive and adding suggestions. I don't know if a High School will work out or not, however, it does not take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that any community is better with a quality high school. It provides the opportunity for families to move here, work here, raise their children here and as an added bonus, it is a fact that areas with great school systems have increase property values. This in turn provides even more added tax dollars to the county school systen. It is a win win situation. If you live here and would still want your child to have a diverse education, you certainly would have the choice to go to a different school, even Lely High, if that is where you would want your child to go to get a real world and diverse education. It would be your choice. If there ever was a high shcool built, I don't think anyone would hold a parent hostage and not let them attend a school of their choice. Many parents are already taking their children to other schools, both private and public. So, instead of being negative, why not spin it around and help provide answers to overcoming your objections.

conchsoup writes:

Let's look at the players to discern the motives.
Faye hates the founders of the solar panel project. They have been adversaries throughout the sewer debate and have been arm wrestling for power on the Island for years. Before that she was fighting against some of the old guard who wanted to incorporate Marco Island. Now she will do anything in her power to sow dissent against anything they propose even a solar panel project.

This is not about the merits of the solar idea. It is a power struggle pure and simple being played out on track K. Faye is up to her old tricks of trying to divide the Islanders again, this time by teaming up with "Professor" Mario who teaches Microsoft office skills in Miami-Dade.

Mario home teaches his daughter and this ploy to start a high school on Marco is following a failed attempt to start a Christian high school here.

If Faye Biles really wants to help the local kids she would do well to bring FGCU to Lely High School which could really benefit from the input. I speak as a parent now: Lely offers incredible opportunities to Marco's children. Hundreds have gone on to excellent universities and military academies often with wonderful scholarships. The advanced placement program there has truly served our local pupils well. The extracurricular activities like the marching band and sports and the debate team could not be matched in a small satellite high school.

Faye's politics of division and her never-ending struggle for power and influence and relevance are alive and well. But her motives are suspect.

The solar panel plan should be weighed on its merits, not by the distractions of a screwy team of odd bedfellows stirring up controversy.

gators910 writes:

well conchsoup lets look at the solar panel plan and its merits.the cost for the project and the returned savings doesnt add up.8 mill to save a 100,000 a year is not a good plan. besides has anyone explained how long these panels will last and at what cost it will be to maintain these panels.does anybody know if this solar farm can withstand a category 3,4,5 hurricane?will they become flying objects into the surrounding homes and who will pick up the repairs to the farm and homes?please explain

Fossil writes:

conchsoup: Dr. Bile's has suspect motives on Tract K? Dr. Biles has held that position for more than 10 years. How many years have Lazzarus, Eliot and Patterson been planning this solar farm? Why did these pillars of the community do an end run around our political process to get approval for this project? How do you reconcile the position that the Marco Island Civic Association holds regarding Tract K? Both MICA and MITA have held this position since their inception. Today several other newer citizen's organizations support a high school on Marco Island. Sounds to me like these investors are are the real problem on Marco Island. Are those who oppossed the STRP forever condemed from haveing an opinion on anything that occurs in our City? What makes you believe that the same people who opposed the STRP are the same ones promoting a high school? Your personal attacks on Dr. Biles and Dr. Sanchez and anyone who agrees with their position on building our own high school is pretty lame. You are trying to demean and destroy all opponents of this investment scheme because the position of the investors and your defense of these investors and their methods is untenable. You lead me to believe that you have a personal interest in this financial scheme.

lauralbi1 writes:

Look: I haven't heard anyone talk about the Eagles and their impact on a high school construction. Only as it applies to the panel project. Th Eagles will hopefully be there a long time and need to be respected and protected no matter what we decide for this property.
The only other issue that everyone needs to accept is that whether by loan or by tax, Marco Island is going to have to pay for this school. CCSB has stated that they will not pay, and believe me they could not if they wanted to as all of Collier County (except us) would sue them. So for all the people screaming about expenses, supporting this, which I do, will cost us some how.
Ed Issler

dejonge65 writes:

Five hundred students is not too few for a High School. There were ninety four in my high school graduating class. I graduated fourth in my class and was able to get a tuition paid scholarship to the University of Michigan. I graduated from the University of Michigan with a Master's Degree in Aerospace Engineering.

strike3 writes:

tract k is the only piece of vacant land in collier county where you can put solar panels? how much land the CC school board own that at this point may never be used?

glad i don't live around tract k. that would suck having a power plant next to my house. I'm guessing you'll also need some high tension power lines as well leading from this eye sore.

how about a mini nuclear power plant on veterans park property? the manatees would love the warm water in the winter. we could put the island x-mas tree on top of one of the reactors.

People running this island are very similar to the members of our own US house and senate and their buddies. All a bunch of worthless rear wipes
only concerned about themselves. They're wrecking the country like the worthless rear wipes on marco will wreck marco.

tough choice here. high school that will improve the community and if run correctly cause people to want to live here offering a value to current and future property owners. serving many, creating jobs, etc.
a bunch of solar cells that looks like crap and does nothing for anyone living here. maybe we could throw in 50 or 60 wind turbines. the eagles would love those and people could see marco for miles.

idiots..........all of them!

MarcoFam6 writes:

I think a high school would be great!!! As for Sports and other activites why can't we just use Lely for that like homeschoolers are able to do???

playballonK writes:

welcome back strike3, you've been missed!

liberator100 writes:

strike 3"
you are the biggest idiot of them all. Just read what you wrote! Duh!

liberator100 writes:

Check out the following site:

Marcoptomist writes:

liberatory, that site is nothing more than a blog like this one that lets people rant about anthing and say anything they tend to disagree with. So, is it Sanchez you have a problem with or a High School? He spoke very openly and honestly at Saturday's town hall meeting. I assume you were there? Did you address any specific concerns or add to the validity of your case for or against? I doubt it. Please be constructive and help the community do the right thing..... Build a School somewhere.... on the island.

gators910 writes:

who cares about the rate my professors site.for some one who says they could care less about this property you seem to have alot to say..does this sound familiar"I could not care less about a solar park, a bald eagle or a high school on Tract-K."tract k was meant for the people of the island not just the good old boys...

liberator100 writes:

Who are these good old boys? Name some names gators910.
marcoptimissy: Yes I was there and addressed some specific issues. No, I don't have any problems with Sanchez; however, he seems to have a major problem with his students.

MarcoFacts writes:

Never heard so much misinformed jibber jabber in my life! Track-K is owned by the CCPSB and is zoned residential and the citizens of Marco have no say in what happens there. You can scream, name call and march to the CCPSB by the thousands and they still own the property. Not to mention the Eagle who will be on Track-K for years to come...get the crap out of your ears and listen to the facts for a change.

Fossil writes:

MarcoFacts, me thinks it is you that is making misinformed jibber jabber. Fact of the matter is; Marco Island City government has a lot to say about what is built on Marco Island. As for the CCPSB; don't forget that those people are elected by the citizens of Collier County. Some of whom live in Marco Island.

lelymom1 writes:

Wondering if these new-to-Marco Islanders lived here when the charter school was started? I was here, and attended several of those first meetings. Two very different situations.

Did you know the people who started MICMS have happily sent their own children to Lely?

Some of what I have seen with some of the pro-MI high school group is this:

*Many fairly new to Marco
*No children at Lely
*Very little or no first hand experience with Lely High School
*Quick to repeat false rumors about LHS
*Quick to blindly follow someone they know very little about
*Wishing to secure a future job
*Pretending to be pro MI high school,but in reality have other agendas

Who is really thinking about what is best for the students of this island? Do you really think it's better to isolate your child in the four years they are preparing to compete for the limited number of scholarships that are out there?

Do you really want them to be isolated from experiencing the relationships they will develop with people of all races, colors, nationalities, and creeds? Someone please explain to me what good can come from this?

Although MICMS is a wonderful middle school, kids chomp at the bit to get off the island. Hard to imagine them wanting to continue that experience for another four years.

Many Marco parents sit back and wait for others to step up. Volunteerism drops off for many as their kids enter MICMS. Can't imagine that these same parents are going to spend time volunteering and raising money for a new high school. BTW, it's been reported that PTO fundraising at Tommie Barfield is down this year.

Speaking of money...MICMS struggles year after year to keep afloat through donations from parents and others throughout the community. A new high school would surely take funds away from MICMS. There's only so much to go around, especially in this economy.

For these reasons, keeping students on Marco for middle school makes sense, but let your kids spread their wings and experience all the great things that are going on over the bridge at Lely High School.

Marcoptomist writes:

lelymom1, why was a middle school started on Marco? You were here. I assume you were for it. Fund raising is down everywhere.

It may be that kid will chomp at the bit, but, I ask you, if your children are chomping at the bit or were when they were in the middle school, why would you not simply take them off the island to Manatee Middle? I don't know about you, but, it should be the parents that help guide and make the important decisions while raising their children. Anyone who would rather send their kids off to Lely, that is simply their choice. And in your case, you think it is better for you child. Many parents may feel otherwise. I have not said one bad thing about Lely High and have supported the school with donations. However, given the choice of sending my child or grandchild to a community high school right here, rather than to go off the island, I would prefer they go here. Again, personal choice. Children on Marco will get all the diversity they need to compete in college and in life at an exceptional small high school. Anyway, I am glad to see many people are starting to talk about it and hopefully, this community will have it's own high school in the future. A community of this size has a much higher tax base than any small town where I grew up and each and every little town of around 1000 people or more had their own high schools. Some towns are even smaller. I could go on and on. I just don't believe this is an issue of Marco against Lely or parents against solar panels. Simply put, residents are coming to understand the importance of a high shcool. It may never work out, but, I hope so.....

waterday writes:

This is not about Lely. I support Lely and I send a child to Lely. I support Marco Charter Middle also. Tract K should be for a Marco High School. My children did not chomp at the bit at Marco Middle, they both loved this school and have never once wanted to leave our island! that is rubbish. Lely Mom: if your childs want off the island.. you have Manatee, and Lely High. Also I have been here for 25 years, I am not a new parent to the island. (you also have this info wrong) I have also invested time and donations to the Marco Charter School. I have a child at Lely, and have first hand experience.. the school is not up to standards, it is a D school, and it shows in many ways! My child expected a better school comming from Marco Middle, and was disappointed. Yes, we support Lely but it is time for change. If the teachers at Lely can not get the D grade up to A... all student there deserve a better school. The teachers are failing the students at this school. A D grade is not exceptable for any school or students!

gingerblue writes:

"And how will a small high school ever provide the diverse opportunities necessary for today's students to get into competitive colleges? Perhaps an alternative school would work, but then that would defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?"

Uh, most graduates from "small high schools" go on to Ivy League schools. I certainly did, as did most of my graduating class. All 62 of us.

extra234 (Inactive) writes:

LOL gingerblue, I love it. Nice response. I went to a high school with a graduating class of 85 and then went on to college and law school.

Never once did I get asked how would I be able to succeed in college, law school, or life because I didn't have "necessary diverse opportunities". In fact, like your experiences, my small high school was a selling point during the admissions process!

marcoislandres writes:

Here is the problem I have with Lely, it's a 20 mile round trip for the children on Marco about the same distance as Golden Gate children would have to travel to get to Lely but Golden Gate has it's own High School. I am not saying we should have a High School because Golden Gate does I just think our kids have one of the longest commutes for a City in Collier. We have the land and we should use it for a school as it was intended.
lelymom1 have you been to the public schools on Marco? they have more "races, colors, nationalities, and creeds" then the large east coast public schools I went to up north.

lelymom1 writes:

marcoislandre (marcoislanders?)- You have got to be kidding about the diversity at Marco Island schools. Both schools are overwhelmingly white.

It doesn't matter where you went to school and what kind of school it was. That's not relevant. We don't want to do things the way you did them "up north".

marcoislandres writes:

Lelymom1, MarcoIslandRes is not a misspelling as I think you imply but is short for MarcoIslandResedent.
The reason the schools here on Marco are "overwhelmingly white" is because most of the people who live in the school district are white.
The statement you made in your post above is crazy "Do you really want them to be isolated from experiencing the relationships they will develop with people of all races, colors, nationalities, and creeds? Someone please explain to me what good can come from this?" Are you saying people who live in Vermont or Montana where they have very few minorities are not getting a good education or at a disadvantage because they did not go to a school with minorities?
It sounds like you want to do things just like they do up north, its called busing and that did not work out to well.

longtime writes:

Tract K...K is for KIDS! Whether it be a high school, sports facility, should be a bout the kids! Does anyone know that the Club Marco condo complex was a school site??? Where was the school board, MICA...then? What did the people of Marco get from that? The Salvatori and Beck families donated monies for a ball field on Marco in memory of a child each family had lost. That ballfield is now a parking lot. Put the solar panels on the roof of the school or shopping center,but do not take any more space away from our KIDS! We need BALLFIELDS!!!

lauralbi1 writes:

Look, this needs to be studied. The Charter School will be broke in 2-4 years and will no longer have the money to operate. Maybe we could combine Middle School and High School and have the Charter School do both. After all, we are only talking about 8 classrooms for High School. Then Tract K could be atheletic fields for the school.
Just a thought, but we need to get demographics, costs, sources of money, Charter School finanacing,etc etc and we need to research this.
Ed Issler

freedomofspeech1 writes:

Hey Ed....Now you are making too much sense for these people!!

MarcoFam6 writes:

Over the past couple of weeks I have watched as two sides form over the possibility of a high school. During this time I have seen the ugliness in people that just amaze me. Now don’t get me wrong I think that freedom of speech is one of the greatest things about this country. It is just that I am bewildered that such a small great community as ours would instead bicker and use words as insults or weapons than come together and find a compromise. What about putting the solar on the roof of the high school? Has any other options for making both work been explored?

I am not saying that I know everything there is about what revolves around the issues of Tract K. I am far from an expert, but hey I can admit that. What I do know is I am a parent. As a parent who genuinely cares a great deal about all of my children I feel that I should fight for their best interests and I also strive to want the best that I can give my children. Please tell me what parent doesn’t want better for their children then they have had. Isn’t that was life is about? Passing on what you learned and how you can make a difference in the next generation? Lely is what Lely is. Yes, they have a high minority student population. Yes, the teachers are there are probably very overworked. Yes, there are students there who prosper and achieve a great education, others don’t. There are a million reasons or as it may be excuses. Bottom line is they are a D school.

I am not a Lily White bigot Marco Islander. I am a hardworking parent who wants my children to succeed in life, to prosper, and go out into this world and give back. Yes I protect my children. Like I said I am a parent. I look at Tommie Barfield and the Marco Island Charter School and I am impressed. Look what Marco has to offer our children on this island. I am involved with my children’s schooling and have found teachers and staff at both schools outstanding! I want that for my children when they reach high school. I want them to have the best.

Let’s find a compromise. Let’s make this work so that the children of this island will have the best. So as the island children grow older we know as the people who live on Marco that we gave the children here the best we could.

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