The event was a fundraising gala, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS), but looking around, you might have thought you were at the Cattleman’s Ball at an Oklahoma Grange hall.
The night had a country-western theme, and the attendees ran with it. Musical headliner the Ben Allen Band, showing up in their regular duds, fit right in, and if anything were “out-countryed” by the guests, the only time that’s likely to happen.
Everywhere you looked, the dining room at the Island Country Club was a sea of Stetson hats, string ties, checked shirts, blue jeans and cowboy boots. In fact, said event co-chair Allyson Richards, the school’s board almost scrubbed the entire theme, realizing they were partying in the rarefied environs of the Island Country Club, where jeans are strictly verboten.
“They were really nice about it,” she said, with the club telling the committee as long it was a private function, the dress code was their concern.
Wearing his own 10-gallon hat, MICMS board president Tarik Ayasun, who has been on the school’s board of directors since its inception in 1998. This was, he told attendees, perhaps their only chance to see “a Turkish cowboy.” After recognizing dignitaries including Collier Commissioner Donna Fiala and Marco Island City Councilors Larry Honig and Howard Reed, both resplendent in their western attire, he bragged a little on the school and its accomplishments.
“Our school has earned Grade A for 17 years out of 20, and 16 of those A grades are consecutively earned. Our school is the smallest of all the public schools in the county, yet we have the largest after school sports program and largest middle school bands in the county.
“We have been designated by the Florida Department of Education as a high-performing charter school and awarded a 15-year contract instead of the usual five-year contract by the district school board.” In fact, MICMS was honored last fall as one of the top five charter middle schools in Florida, out of 240 altogether.
After co-chair and board member Joan Pernice, who moved to Colorado but came back for the event, served as auctioneer for the brief live auction, including school-specific gems such as front row parking spaces all year at MICMS, guests feasted on filet and settled in for the sounds of the Ben Allen Band, or jumped onto the floor to join in the line dancing led by Marco Island Betty Newman.
On Wednesday afternoon, Richards reported that the school had netted something close to $20,000 with the event.