I do believe in the value of the best education possible for our children. When my daughter was young, my husband and I strived emotionally and financially to give her the very best education that we could. However, we personally made that choice without pushing our wishes on other people.
Proponents of the Charter School would have us believe that we are selfish if we do not automatically agree with their plans. Mrs Jane Watts and her Board would have the people of Marco believe that it is a “done deal” and that there is nothing that we can do about it.
I disagree. The wishes of the majority of people of Marco Island have to be taken into account. The character of our Island, as well as the Finances, will be severely impacted by a High School of 500 students – half of whom will be transported onto the Island from elsewhere.
Why are all the proposed sites right in the center of the town, which will make the most impact on residents. Mrs Watts has looked at Mackle Park – a beautiful oasis of green which would have been ruined. Also the YMCA which was clearly too small. And lately Tract K – the last available “green” space. Why has she not considered less valuable and less intrusive locations such as the road out towards Goodland, or even land just over the bridge on the 951. I suggest that there would have been far less dissent had she done this.
Currently, Tract K is posted with No Trespassing signs, but far more people would love to use it if it became an Eagle Sanctuary and wildlife refuge with a path through it. The Ordinance gives the Eagles a circle of 330 feet around them, and no doubt in most situations this would be enough. However, a school of 500 lively typical teenagers and the vehicular coming and going, would without doubt drive the Eagles away.
I question how many of our Island children would actually go to the Charter School. I know that the Island is known as “The Rock” by many of the young people, and they can’t wait to get off it and meet new people and have new experiences. As a young person I can’t imagine anything worse that spending all of my life up until college here on a little protected microcosm 4 miles by 6 miles. What a shock it would be to go to college after such a protected, cotton balled life. What is Paradise to those of us who have seen the World and worked hard in it, is more likely to be seen as a Prison to young people eager for life’s experiences.
We have here something that will be a huge negative impact on our way of life. A High School Trailer Town adjacent to Veteran’s Park for what, two years or more. Parking problems there at all times – especially Farmers Market days. Extra buses and cars for 500 students during the day. And what about Game Nights – all the traffic and noise from supporters of opposing teams as well as our own. And we will surely have 500 students let out of school at lunchtime and certainly after school, trying to find amusement in the town center. Or will it be as Mrs. Watts would have us believe, and they won’t be allowed. Does she propose to shackle them to the trailers? After living in a suburb of Chicago for many years, I can tell you that the natural exuberance of high school students in a small town leads to houses being toilet papered and mail boxes knocked down with baseball bats, parties in houses where parents are out, and minor vandalism. All these actions are part of the natural and normal transition into responsible adulthood, but do I want it invited onto Marco Island? Absolutely not! And I suspect, neither would the majority of residents if they were aware.
Why is it that this issue is coming to a head at a time when the Island has the least number of residents actually here. A large majority of our taxpayers are up North right now, and not aware of the depth of the proposals. Those of us that are year round residents are often traveling in August and September. Is this a coincidence? Or not?
So on that note, I believe that we need a formal voting procedure of all tax payers. It will without doubt eventually lead to more expenses for our City. Traffic changes, police action to keep everyone safe, loss of property values in nearby areas at least. We are all stretched financially in these troubled economic times. Now is certainly not the time to add more burdens. Mrs Watt says that the school will pay for itself – but what if it does not, and I do believe that at some time it will not. If there were no more available spaces at the Naples High Schools that would be a different matter. But whilst there is availability there, the energy of the proponents of the Charter School would be better used by improving our current schools with all the fervor that they are showing here.
We need to all have a voice – those of us who are here right now, and those tax payers who are currently up North. Our Council was elected to protect the interests of the majority, and I do not see them doing it. I see them supporting something for which they have no mandate. I urge the City Council to ensure they have that mandate by a referendum. Would it be so very terrible if the School were delayed by a year if it was the wish of the majority? Why all the rush right now? It makes me feel that we are being bamboozled.
The great orator, Sir Winston Churchill said some stirring words at the time of the Battle of Britain in World War II – “never in the field of human endeavor, has so much been owed by so many to so few.” With apologies to that great man, I paraphrase that in the event of the Charter School going ahead “never has so much been owed by so many for the benefit of so few.”