From the car wash on Bald Eagle Drive to the “big” Publix on Barfield Drive, this is familiar territory. I have not lived in any other place where the manager of the local Publix Supermarket will take it upon himself to deliver the one item you had difficulty finding while shopping, to your home!Marco Island is where volunteerism is almost a religion, where many islanders volunteer for many different causes passionately and without complaining or making a big deal of it.
In my thirty-three years here on Marco Island, I have served in leadership positions on many civic organizations. But without hesitation and any reservation, I can easily say that my job as board member and President of the Board of the Marco Island Charter Middle School for the past twenty years gives me the most satisfaction.
For those who are still in doubt; Charter Schools are Public Schools.
Legislation was first passed in 1996 in Minnesota and the following year, Florida passed similar legislation that would allow for public charter schools in the state.MICMS was founded in 1998-1999 by a group of concerned parents who wanted a public middle school on the island so that their children would not endure a long bus ride to and from a Naples based middle school every day. My wife and I remember spending endless hours driving to and from Golden Gate Middle School in Golden Gate first and then to Gulf View Middle School in downtown Naples and finally to Lely High School for after-school activities.
The bus ride alone was approximately one hour each way. The irony is that today approximately 150 students endure that bus ride daily because they live off the island in the East Naples corridor and are seeking the quality public education programs that MICMS offers.
MICMS serves three grades, sixth, seventh and eighth and has a current enrollment of approximately 400 students.
MICMS has earned a grade of “A” for 17 years and has earned 16 of those “A” grades in a row, over the last sixteen years. Although we are the smallest public middle school in the area; we have the largest after school sports programs and one of the largest middle school bands in the county.
The uniqueness of a public charter school is that it has a local school board, consisting of local business leaders, bankers, lawyers and administrators. We have been extremely lucky over the years to have some of best board members one could wish for. Our board members serve selflessly, giving up a lot of their own time to make sure our school continues to be successful.
Funding for the operations of MICMS comes from the state but passes through the district, at which time two percent of that money is retained by the district (as allowed by statute) for administrative purposes. This is basically why our MICMS school board must do additional fundraising each year, averaging approximately $ 170,000.
MICMS is audited every year and receives the highest ratings in Collier County.
Parents are asked to do 40 hours of volunteer work for the school and most if not, all parents dedicate time towards their volunteer hours. Marco Island is a great community and we even get volunteers from residents who no longer have children or grandchildren in our school.
One of the unique aspects of MICMS is a little-known fact that our school averages 160 students or 37 percent of our total student body who go home to non-English speaking homes and approximately 100 students who qualify for the free and reduced lunch programs, for which the school receives no tax dollars, unlike the traditional public schools. I am sure this fact alone may surprise those who still believe that we are a private school and we pick the best of the best students from the county to achieve our “A” status.
This year, we are proud to announce that at least five of our own graduates from past years are serving as full time teachers in our school.
I can write and write more about MICMS and our athletic and academic achievements and how great our teachers and administrators and staff are. However, for now, I will stop here and thank those few parents who had the vision and ability to start MICMS almost twenty years ago.
This week, both MICMS and our sister high school, Marco Island Academy will open their doors to new and returning students. MIA is itself a success story, which makes us all proud.
And as to our students, it must be a joy not to travel back and forth to Naples schools spending their valuable time on buses every day of the school year.
Thank you, Marco Islanders, for your support and thank you for those visionaries who successfully fought the battles to start and gift MIA and MICMS to our island.