Jane Watt has long nurtured a dream – to establish a high school on Marco Island. Not content to sit and wait for the school to appear magically, Jane worked tirelessly and endlessly to bring the school to reality.
Apart from doing all the paperwork, she and a group of dedicated citizens, have raised money, scouted possible sites, met with government and private leaders, and enlisted the help of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures, Michelle Rhee a well known educational pioneer who headed the school system in Washington, D.C. where she instituted sweeping changes in a failing system, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
We had an opportunity recently to pose questions to Jane Watt about the status of the school. The questions and answers follow:
Monte Lazarus: How many teachers have been hired thus far?
Jane Watt: I have signed contracts for three teachers and one more has an offer.
ML: How many students have applied for admission?
ML: Do you have a permanent building underway or completed? If so, how many students will it accommodate? Do you have all the necessary permitting?
JW: We are planning to have temporary portables for the first three to five years. The engineer is reviewing several comments from the review team at the city to make adjustments to the plans. The first year we anticipate between 175-200 students. We are running several projections to our budget. They run from 150-250 students total.
ML: Do you have all the necessary authority from the State of Florida and the Collier County School District?
JW: We have all the necessary approvals from the Collier County School District. They are our sponsor. The state oversees the district to make sure they are following all the laws that govern charter schools.
ML: Do you have an available budget for the first year of operations?
JW: We have a completed budget for the first five years that was submitted with our charter application based on 200 and 250 students.
ML: Apart from possible transportation advantages for students, are there any educational advantages for Academy students compared to other Collier County Public High Schools? If so, what are they?
JW: The school will have a smaller student population, so each student will receive more individualized attention. The students will have an opportunity to take a course in Biology that will include lesson plans written by Dr. Richard Murphy, director of education for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures. Students interested in media arts will have an opportunity to work with Emmy award winning writer, producer and director Mark Haffner. We have recently formed an affiliation with an Ivy League University, Cornell, to allow our students an opportunity to attend their summer college and receive college credit. The students will have an opportunity to participate in a student-run enterprise program, where the students will learn how to write a business plan, and market and run their own business. In addition, we will be developing our STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Students will be involved in the design of the permanent building of the school. We will also encourage students to bring their phone, iPads and iPods to school. These are just a few advantages the school will have over traditional district schools.
Students interested in football will have a chance to be coached by former NFL football player Mike Vanderjagt.
On June 16th Jane Watt will be at a fundraiser for the new school at the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami. The event features both Michelle Rhee and former Governor Jeb Bush.
For more information about the school or the fundraiser call 239-404-3622 or see our website at www.marcoislandacademy.com.