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What’s New ?in City Government Communications

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 8:12pm

By Maureen Chodaba

Communication is the key to transmission, conveyance and disclosure of information between individuals. In the operation of any legislature, it is the path of transparency among those in positions of authority and the citizens of that protectorate. And so it is with the City of Marco Island as government communications just became more effective and clear.

Some may remember the days before the construction of the Community Room at 51 Bald Eagle Drive, when meetings of city government were held at Mackle Park. A handheld microphone was passed from councilor to councilor in the course of the meeting. That setup was eventually updated with an analog system. The agendas, minutes and videos of all meetings of City Council, Planning Board and other governmental committees have been available online since January 1, 2014. However, the maintenance of legacy hardware with the analog system was neither time nor cost effective. New digital hardware installation began on June 7, 2016 and was completed on June 17, 2016. This new digital system provides better control of communication on many levels.

First, pertaining to the system at the meetings themselves, the Request to Speak function of the old system has been replaced with D’san Deliberator software and interfaces, an electronic meeting manager for small legislatures. The deliberator provides touch panel control for the chair position to regulate the speaking order of councilors in an open and fair manner. This certainly improves communications among council and committee members, but there are more new features of the system that improve communications with the public as well. City of Marco Island Information Technology Director Mark Jackson said, “We’ve also added new microphones that capture and process audio much better than the previous gooseneck microphones. Often times the staff or public share pictures, documents or even video. The installation of four 65” and seven 16” dais monitors displays presentations to our in-house audience much more vividly.”

Jackson went on to say, “We have an operator in a control room watching the meeting on a monitor fed by all of our mounted cameras throughout the community room. There are many ways to operate the system. Our department focused on the switcher’s ability to use macros. Macros allow for us to save and store camera command sequences such as pan, tilt and zoom which can be recalled with a single mouse click.” The main solution is known as Broadcast Pix, but the new system is not bundled from just one manufacturer. It consists of several pieces of equipment, each with a specific function, allowing broadcast to the viewers.

This new system provides new effective channels of communication throughout the processes of city government, increasing public involvement and awareness. Encouraging public participation, Jackson concluded by saying, “There is a lot going on behind the scenes. We encourage all presentation such as documents, pictures, PowerPoint or video that you would like to share at one of our meetings to be presented to our city clerk, Laura Litzan, at least 48 hours in advance.” Litzan may be contacted at [email protected] for more information.

East Naples Matters

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 8:08pm

Donna Fiala

It’s amazing to see how quickly the Hobby Lobby is going up since it started coming out of the ground. It took a long time to get started, but now they are moving quickly. I wonder how that will work, now that there will be two shops with crafts and creative items to use for decorating and flower arrangements and holidays, etc. I believe the big difference is that Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays, but Michael’s is open 7 days a week, and Michael’s is quite a bit smaller. I think there’s plenty of business to go around though. Many commercial realtors in the northern end of our county have no idea of the potential and sell the area short, but they judge the area by what they see driving down U.S. 41 East, and do not look any further to all of the surrounding communities that the 951/41 corridor will serve. Just take a look at the magnificent Marco Island, Isles of Capri, Fiddler’s Creek (estimated at buildout to hold 9,000 homes), Eagle Creek, Lely Resort (over 6,500 homes), Naples Lakes Country Club, Verona Walk, Forest Glen Country Club, Isles of Collier Preserve, Treviso Bay, Reflection Lakes, Naples Reserve, and that is just naming a few communities, and doesn’t even reflect the folks coming from Golden Gate and the Estates, the City of Naples – which is much closer than driving up to the other end of town, and all of the East Naples communities not yet mentioned like Lakewood, King’s Lake, Queen’s Park, Royal Wood, and on and on! I could never understand why those commercial realtors located in the northern end of the county had no idea what was going on at this end! Marco Island realtors realized the benefit and worked on it! Yes, and we truly need more sit-down restaurants, so hopefully some more quality restaurants will find this area. If they even took a look at the success of the Outback, Carrabba’s, Eurasia, 21 Spices, etc., they would realize the area is hungry for new and great restaurants! (Just a little play on words there.)

• We are in the planning stages for our seasonal tours again this year. These tours, mostly of county facilities, have been conducted for about 12 years, and people still fill them up. This year, for the third time, we will acquaint you with the jail facility, looking at it from the right side of the bars. We are still working on a few more tours but so far we have three planned and in place. I think this year we will mention it in this column at the same time we invite previous tour members. We’ve had a few people who had quickly secured reservations in the past – some for three, four or even five people, and then the morning of the tour they cancel all five and those become five empty seats that some of our wait list wanted so badly. We will be a little more careful this year.

• You have probably read some of the back and forth about all of the low income housing clustered in one particular area…East Naples, yet the critics lash out at the letter writers but never offer THEIR community as another place to house these people. It’s really tough on the schools and children in these low income homes because their schools remain Title I schools. Their dedicated teachers do not receive merit pay that A schools in other areas receive, so there is usually a huge teacher turn-over each year. It’s also very difficult to start each year with 1/3 of your school population unable to speak any English. Of course it slows the rest of the classes until the youngsters can understand what is being said. The principals and teachers are incredible! They work so hard to bring their schools up to a better standard, but then again more new homes are built and they go right back to square one. One of them is Parkside Elementary School, located deep inside Naples Manor, who told me that up until two years ago they had a 71% turnover rate in teachers because it was so difficult to teach under these conditions, yet the concentration continues and those defending this saturation don’t even seem to care. I can bet you THEIR children or grandchildren live in other school areas. These little tykes are our FUTURE! How can they succeed when they are all clumped together in one area, unable to even learn what it is like to be an American? Would you want that for your family members? Why aren’t people crying out to say enough is enough! We do not want to create another Detroit or Chicago or Cleveland, but if we continue to concentrate all the lower income people in one area, those of you who support that effort will create exactly that! There should be an outcry to stop this harmful procedure! And you say, well, we have just formulated a new affordable housing advisory board to solve the problem! Who is the head of that board? The people who are concentrating these houses in one area in the first place. And while I’m at it…why are two very low income housing villages about to build holding their controversial Neighborhood Information Meetings in August while all of the surrounding neighborhoods are out of town? And why does the major newspaper in the area condone this concentration of very low income housing and lash out at those of us who want to give these children a better chance at life rather than packing them all into one area? AND – do any of THEIR employees live in any of those low income areas? Do they even QUALIFY for low income? Where do their children go to school? Those who live in nice plush areas should never throw stones at those of us who are supporting the population of low income – they should offer to take some of the burden on themselves! There are many dynamic areas with moderate income housing in East Naples that young professionals can buy or rent, but these young people are told by the realtors that, “they don’t want their children in ‘those’ schools!” Here are homes in the $200 to $250K range that young professionals can buy, in areas with older homes with nice backyards, big trees, close to parks and the beach, finally close to some shopping, but they are afraid to put their kids in our schools. Ask the realtors if that statement isn’t spot on! I’ll name a few: Lakewood, Queen’s Park, some of the earlier Lely developments such as Lely Golf Estates and Country Club Estates, Reflection Lakes, Sierra Meadows, The Aster, Napoli, and that is just the beginning of the list. These really nice homes are reasonably priced, which is what people are really crying for, but they are in East Naples! Let’s work together as a community to distribute the lower income housing amongst the entire county! Why should one community shoulder the responsibility for all the others? Did you know that some major developers are beginning to plan new cities further east in Collier County and their plans do not contain ANY affordable low income housing! Where are their work force people going to live? I’ll give you a guess!

Letters to the Editor: Clarification

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 8:07pm

In your last edition, a letter writer mentioned the comprehensive rental ordinance and I wanted to address their question. One of my goals of this campaign has been to speak with as many Marco Island citizens as possible so please email me at [email protected] at any time to discuss the issues.

Regarding the comprehensive rental ordinance I was against it because I felt it had morphed from an effort to find an appropriate solution to the problems surrounding some short-term rentals into a large and unnecessary city bureaucracy that ultimately wouldn’t have accomplished its intended goal. This became clear to me especially once condo associations that were already effective at handling any problems internally were pushed aside in favor of a government-first solution. Making our City government the rental police just for the sake of appearing to “do something” was never going to work long-term.

While the comprehensive rental ordinance proposal would never have had the desired effect it likely would have created many unintended negative consequences. What I am for is protecting the property rights of each of our citizens. Yes, that includes the right to rent what you own but it also must include a responsibility to protect our citizens from violations of their right against nuisance. This would bring common-sense balance to the issue.

Even though I was against the comprehensive solution, I tried to find appropriate middle-ground to advance a common-sense solution for the community. During the debate over the comprehensive rental ordinance in an effort to alleviate concerns from all parties involved, I proposed a sunset provision that current-Chairman Bob Brown stated at the time was a good idea. A sunset provision would have given the City the opportunity to collect actual data on the ordinance and given the public the chance in 3 years to reevaluate its effectiveness and determine if the program needed to be tweaked, scrapped, or left unchanged. Unfortunately, the rest of the Council didn’t seek to take up that item before the Council passed the final version that ultimately was rescinded after a large and successful petition drive to call the item up for referendum.

The best way to deal with nuisance issues (whether it’s for short term rentals or full-time residents) is to ensure that we have the resources to provide adequate enforcement of existing ordinances and that the standard of enforcement is uniform without creating unnecessary costs (taxes) and additional bureaucracy.

Ultimately, I am for working together to find the right solutions for our community with the least amount of government interference so long as all of our rights are protected and against the old Hatfield and McCoy feuds led by those who want to divide the island and pit neighbor against neighbor for short term political gain. I look forward to working to find the best solution that’s in the best interest of our entire Island community and I hope I can count on your help.

Jared Grifoni, candidate for Marco Island City Council

Letters to the Editor: Marco Beaches

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 8:07pm

Marco Beaches

I’m not usually a complainer. Having said that, people should know that a lot of money was spent moving sand around our Marco beach this summer. This was done to fill in low areas that were accumulating rain water. Big loud machines worked night and day from Residents Beach to South Seas Towers. After several weeks of this, it seems to have helped one area and moved the problem to another.

All the walkers from Tigertail Park, who walk around the lagoon to the gulf, now are walking through slippery odorous muck on a dry day, and watery low spots after a rain. People pay $8 to park at Tigertail, and are asking for refunds because access to the beach is not what they expected.

I hope the people in charge of this project are aware that they have spent a lot of money for nothing.

JoAnn Brandau

Classical Education vs. Progressive Education

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 8:06pm

By Jory Westberry

If you’ve been following the campaign rhetoric during campaigning for the Collier County School Board, you may have heard the term “Classical Education” proposed by two candidates as the ideal education for the students in Collier County schools. But what is it and how does it compare to the education our students are receiving now?

Classical education began with the Greeks and Romans over 1,000 years ago and declined during the 1800s with the Progressive belief that students “learn by doing,” rather than memorizing.

Classical education is based on the Trivium subjects, which are grammar, logic and rhetoric. In the teaching of language/verbal arts for ages 5-11, (grades K-6) the focus is on grammar, syntax, structure and vocabulary. Factual information is emphasized, i.e. memorizing the 20 main rivers of the world or scripture through direct instruction, chanting/singing and discussion of reading.

For ages 11-14, (grades 7-9) the focus is on clarity of logic, reasoning and debate. Students are encouraged to argue their points of view. For ages 14-18, (grades 10–12) the focus is on eloquence and persuasion in both writing and oral presentations. Literature, math, science, history and fine arts are also taught at each level.

Progressive education has made some interesting transitions. “Learning by doing” is now called “hands on learning” and is highly effective for students performing science experiments, writing and acting, technology projects such as building electrical circuits or inventions with littleBits or creating three-dimensional pottery. Grammar, literature, phonics and poetry are components of the language program.

Math has also made some transitions. Students are taught to understand numbers before learning the standard algorithms and they also learn alternate methods of solving problems. When multiplying three-digit numbers together, for most students, the process is more complicated and less understood when learning the standard algorithm as the first step.

In public schools today, teachers are using standards, their creativity and a choice of resources that they know are effective to teach students. They have the freedom to design lessons, whether foreign language, the classical literature in English, writing, math, social studies, science, music, art, technology or physical education that engage and challenge their students and then measure the depth of student learning. The challenge for our teachers is having the time to create those dynamic lessons. (That’s another article soon.)

There are significant differences between Classical and Progressive/Modern education so these examples only scratch the surface. The point is not that Classical education is wrong; it might serve some students and families well. The question is whether a Classical education would serve all students in the school district, and in doing so, negate years of research on brain functioning, learning styles, retention of learning and more.

Critical Wildlife Areas

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 8:03pm

By Charlette Roman

State-designated Critical Wildlife Areas, or CWAs, established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), are very important for the preservation of our local environment. These specified areas ensure that the most vulnerable wild creatures are protected for future generations. Because wildlife will concentrate in a CWA, we can protect large numbers by closing off a very small area. Marco Island benefits by having two CWAs.

The Big Marco Pass CWA, which includes all of Sand Dollar and parts of Tigertail lagoon, was designated as a Critical Wildlife Area in 1988. This FWC-managed area protects shorebirds and seabirds from human disturbance during critical periods of their life cycles, such as nesting, feeding or migration. In 2001, the US Fish and Wildlife Service designated Sand Dollar as critical habitat for the endangered piping plover. While the entire area is protected by law, FWC adjusts the posted areas throughout the year to provide maximum use of this natural resource by people, while balancing the protection of the birds.

Another CWA, visible from the Jolley Bridge, is comprised of the ABC Islands, known by historians as the “Bird Islands.” Since 2009, I’ve been assisting with avian research of the ABCs. These small mangrove islands provide unique habitat that draws large concentrations of birds, including great egrets, reddish egrets, great blue herons, and pelicans, which use the islands for nesting, roosting and raising young chicks. Other more seasonal visitors travel long distances just to roost on these islands, such as the magnificent frigate bird. A buffer around these islands, to keep adequate separation between people and birds, is posted with in-water signs to provide proper notification for boaters.

FWC is considering the designation of six new CWAs for Lee County as well as a modification to the existing Rookery Island CWA in Collier County. The Rookery Island CWA is part of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. It was established in 1993 for year-round protection of nesting and roosting wading birds. Over the years, bird activity has shifted to two other nearby islands. The modification being requested would expand the CWA to include other islands within Rookery Bay in order to provide flexibility as bird activity shifts. Designation of CWAs requires landowner concurrence. You can share your opinions with FWC by emailing [email protected]

The Wall Street Dollies: Investing in Friendship

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 8:01pm

By Maureen Chodaba

Understanding the ups and downs of the stock market can be a challenge. The jargon itself can prove to be baffling. For 20 years, a group of Marco Island women have been meeting to learn about the market and do some investing of their own. The Wall Street Dollies are proud to be one of the longest existing investment clubs in Florida.

The group originally started as a mini club within the Newcomers Club of Marco Island. Original member, Phyllis Marco, said, “Two other clubs said we would never survive. Here we are 20 years later!” The club’s primary objectives are to learn about the market and share that knowledge with each other.

Each member is responsible for researching specific stocks for the club’s portfolio. At their meetings, these stock updates, quarterly reports and SSGs (Stock Selection Guides) are presented and discussed. A portfolio bucket/watch list is created with the categories of rebalancing, potential to sell, hold, potential purchases, quarterly review, a “to do” list and a watch list. The bucket list provides a look back at a stock’s performance over the years. The club gathers much of its information from the Value Line, a highly regarded stock analysis. Members vote on the decisions to buy, sell or hold.

If you are at all like me, some of this lingo may seem like a foreign language. However, several of the members admitted that they felt the same way when they attended their first meeting. Wall Street Dollies President Jo-Ann Sanborn said, “If I can learn this, anyone can!” The club is not just about the act of investing. It is about the education that comes about from their collective efforts. Club member Kathy Sullivan said, “These investments are not our life’s savings. Most members have other personal investments outside of the club. Many use the knowledge they have achieved through the club to help with decisions regarding those personal investments.”

In researching various stocks, the Wall Street Dollies also become apprised of new products, trends and technology. Several of the Dollies could claim to be experts on upcoming versions of the iPhone, Roomba, cloud computing and even Pokémon Go. Knowledge of these trends is actually a side effect of their stock market research.

Prospective members of the Wall Street Dollies must attend two consecutive meetings before obtaining full membership. There is an initial fee and a monthly fee of $50 for the club’s nest egg. Full members are required to attend seven meetings per year.

The Wall Street Dollies are a delightful group of enterprising women motivated by their desire for knowledge. But their most valuable attribute may be their spirit of friendship. After each meeting, they go out to lunch for fun and fellowship. At that special time, discussion of the stock market is considered to be off-limits!

A Look Back at the Dome Home

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 8:00pm

By Coastal Breeze News Staff

The back of the dome home, with blue awning. Mary commented how amazed she was at how well the awning held up,
despite the passage of time (1997).

In our August 5, 2016 issue, Coastal Breeze News featured a story on the Cape Romano dome homes, haunting structures that are disintegrating and slipping away into the sea. Readers were encouraged to email us their experiences, stories and photos. The response was overwhelming, and we will be sharing these special memories in this, and other upcoming issues.

One of the responses we received was from Mary Nelson, a monitor with the Collier County Sea Turtle Protection Program, who is also known locally as the “Turtle Lady.” Mary told Coastal Breeze News how much she enjoyed reading about the dome home in our last issue, because it brought back “so many memories of my start in the sea turtle program. And very fond memories of the many trips (two to three times a week 1995-2005) we would take to monitor, mark, and cage sea turtle nests with my volunteers, Sue and John Gerig and my husband Rich.”

When Mary took her first trip to Cape Romano, in 1991, there was about 300 feet of sand and a dock in front of the dome home. She also told us that there were birds and other animals in cages at the nearby stilt house. Her photos from the 1990s offer us another glimpse at a time gone by, and present a stark contrast to the state of deterioration and disrepair the dome homes now suffer. If you have photos or stories about the Cape Romano dome home, please email [email protected]

Sailing Center’s Summer Program Ends

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 7:58pm

By Don Manley

Participants in the MICSC’S advanced program get their boats ready for a day of sailing.

Rocky Cale is looking forward to the fall after another successful summer for the Marco Island Community Sailing Center’s youth program.

“Our advanced class really took off this year, which is what we were really trying to achieve,” said Cale, the nonprofit’s president, said of enrollment in the summertime program.

The Marco Island Community Sailing Center (MICSC) provides instruction to youths between the ages of 8 and 18 at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. The year-round program, which operates from the Marco Island Yacht Club beach, also provides instruction to adults, including private lessons.

For the first time, the MICSC will coordinate a newly established high school sailing team this fall with members from Lely High School, Marco Island Academy and Marco Island Charter Middle School. Many of the participants in the summer advanced class will be taking part. The team will be coached by Terry Naylon, the organization’s vice-president, who has been MICSC’s intermediate and advanced program coach for the last five years.

Jordan Pagach, 13, of Marco hoists a sail.

“I have a list of 16 kids that want to continue with this, so we’re in pretty good shape,” said Cale.

Cale said volunteer Grace Roloff played a key role in the summer camps this year.

“She was here every single day for us,” he said. “She just did an outstanding job and without her, we wouldn’t have had the success we did this season.”

Jordan Roeberts, 14, of South Africa, was one of the advanced level participants this summer. It was the second year that Roeberts, whose family spends summers here, has taken part in the sailing program.

“It’s awesome,” he said of his MICSC experience. “You get to sail almost every day, unless it’s bad weather. It’s been awesome.”

Participants in the MICSC’S beginner program use teamwork to get started.

That sentiment was echoed by Cole Stonebreaker, 13, of Marco, who took part for the first time, after his family’s move from the Chicago area.

“I like it, it’s great,” Stonebreaker said. “You get to sail every day and it’s Florida, so it’s always good weather.”

Regarding future goals, Cale said the MICSC hopes to be able to add additional space along the beach to enable the program to expand.

For more information about the Marco Island Community Sailing Center’s programs, visit, or call Cale at 239-642-1825, or the City of Marco Island Department of Parks and Recreation at 239-642-0575.

Marco Optimists Clean up in Orlando

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 7:56pm

Jake Watt’s Big Day 

By Barry Gwinn

Jake Watt, about to boom one downfield. Jake assisted on three of his team’s four goals in the championship game, the last assist breaking a tie as the clock ran out. Photos by Jane Watt

Jim Watt is the volunteer varsity soccer coach at Marco Island Academy. He is the only coach the team has ever had. His daughter Olivia, now a junior, is a star on the team. Olivia has two younger brothers, Jake, at Tommie Barfield Elementary School (TBE), and Jonathan at Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS), both soccer players par excellence. Watt is national sales manager for a thriving family business, King’s Company (commercial lumber), which has now gone global. He is constantly on the road keeping his customers happy and signing up new ones. In order to spend more time with all three of his kids, when he is home, Watt took another volunteer job with the kids’ soccer leagues in Marco Island, first with Surge and this year with the Optimists (OCMI). “I figured this would be a good way to keep the kids off the street, and give them something constructive and healthy to do,” Watt told me. His three children are on three different teams corresponding to their age groups. Although each of his three teams has a complement of six, less than half this number usually shows up for practice. The kids are dependent on their parents to get there, and there are those pesky summer vacations to contend with. The kids that do show up become part of a perpetual motion machine, engaging in fast moving drills, interspersed with ad hoc instruction by Coach Watt. Despite the heat, sweat, aches and pains, these kids love their coach and have bought into his program. I have never heard a complaint from any of them. When Watt can’t make it, the kids conduct their own practices, planned by Coach Watt beforehand and run by Olivia Watt.

Coach Watt and the triumphant first place U10 Marco Island Sharks. From Left: AJ Hobbs,
Jake Watt, Lincoln LaButte, Andrew Esperanza-Nava, Alex Macko, and Nick Gionet.

Coach Watt enters his teams in various recreational and comp league tournaments throughout South Florida, with increasing success. The kids give a good account of themselves and almost always end up on the podium. For the past two years however, the tournament they all look forward to is Disney World’s 3×3 (3 against 3) held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports facility in Orlando. It is a national tournament, with each team bringing six players (with one notable exception). This year, it was played on July 29, 30, and 31. Including family and players, about 50 Marco Islanders went up for the tournament. Dave Vergo, the owner of Accurate AC, with two sons on the U13 team assisted Watt with the coaching duties. “I couldn’t do this without Dave’s help,” said Watt, “Sometimes, we have two teams playing simultaneously. I take one, Dave, the other.”

The tournament got underway on Friday, July 29, 8 AM sharp. The OCMI teams styled themselves, The Marco Island Sharks. They lived up to their name. The U10s, consisting of Andrew Esperanza-Nava, Nick Gionet, AJ Hobbs, Lincoln LaButte, Alex Macko, and Jake Watt, took first place in the Recreational Division. Last year, with essentially the same group, they could do no better than 4th. These kids had been showing up to practice with surprising regularity. They leap, bound and sprint through two-hour practice sessions in blazing sun and stifling humidity. This year, Watt was pushing them even harder. “You’re not going to rest until these guys are a first place team, are you?” I asked. “I hope not,” replied Watt, grinning from ear to ear. Perhaps the most remarkable boy on this team of 10 year olds is Jake Watt, the coach’s son. He is the most feisty and competitive kid I have ever met. He hates to lose, and has only two speeds – faster and fastest. He brings to mind a water bug, which most people couldn’t catch, even in a bathtub. In a 3 on 3 game, there are just not enough defenders to contain this tow headed blur. He seems to be everywhere at once. Jake has scored a ton of goals in competition this year, but what gives him the most satisfaction is assisting a teammate’s score. “Yeah, I would rather get an assist than a score,” Jake told me, “A pass to a teammate is much harder.” Jake was to get his wish, in spades, in the championship game. Out of the four goals his team scored, Jake had three assists and a goal himself. The U10s had to compete with nine other teams and in fact were undefeated going into the championship game on Sunday. The teams were evenly matched and AJ Hobbs kept the Sharks in the game with two first half goals. With seconds to play, the score was tied at 3-3. The opponents started a desperation attack with a pass to a player heading down field. Jake streaked in to block the pass and steal the ball. With the clock running down, Jake turned on the afterburners and raced down field. At the last moment, before time expired, he found teammate Andrew Esperanza-Nava for the winning goal. Pandemonium ensued. Parents rushed on to the field to hug the kids, Alex Macko did a back flip, and after shaking hands with the losers, the team took a joyful victory lap, high fiving all their fans. “I was too excited for words,” said Jake of his heroics, “Everyone on the team helped each other and that is why we won.”

Coach Tom Bonos with the all-Bonos U9 lineup. Playing with just four players, the Bonos brothers took home a hard fought second. From left: Christopher, Thomas, Jackson, and Wyatt. Photo by Meghan Bonos

The U13 team of five boys and a girl had tougher luck. The team consisted of Armando Anaya, Kevin Jungo, Kirra Polley, Matthew Vergo, Nicholas Vergo, and Jonathan Watt. They competed in the tougher Comp Division, most of whose teams have paid coaches and player tryouts. There was a lot of talent on this team, but they managed only a third place, after finishing first last year.

The U16 girls’ team consisted of Teagan Havemeier, Hailey Karp, Elizabeth Schultheis, Julia Wagner, Olivia Watt, and Danya Zarate. After losing the first game by a last second goal, the team rallied to win all the rest for a first place finish. They crushed their opponents in the championship game 8-0. It is worth noting that five of these girls will be starting for Marco Island Academy this year. Should be quite a season.

The most unlikely OCMI entry in the tournament was the U9s. All of the players and coaches on this team had the same surname. Just four players were registered. Thomas, 9, Wyatt, 9, Christopher, 9, and Jackson, 7, were the sons of Tom and Meghan Bonos, who were also their coaches. Meghan also happens to be the president of OCMI and responsible for its soccer operations. (OCMI also has a flag football program.) All the boys, the triplets plus Jackson, were eligible to play on the U9 team. (Grace Bonos, 4, did not make the team.) Tom Bonos, assisted by Meghan, had been coaching them in the OCMI Rec League for about a year. Players’ attendance at practices would not have been a problem for these coaches. Playing with only one substitute in 90-degree heat was. The boys tended to wilt when they had back-to-back games, and split their first day’s games. On Saturday, they managed to win both games, scoring six goals in the second half of the 2nd game, after being behind 4-1 at the half. In Sunday’s semifinals, the game went in to overtime, with the Sharks finally coming out on top. In the second game of the day, the championship game, the Bonos boys were clearly exhausted, but put up a good fight, losing 6-4. “For the championship game, they were down early and just ran out of gas,” Meghan said, “?I think they played their hearts out and left it all on the field in the semi-finals.”

So, how well did our OCMI boys and girls do up in Orlando? Competing against 29 teams from six states, fielding a total 154 athletes, the OCMI teams brought home 2- firsts, 1- second and 1- third. Their teams were on the podium in every award ceremony. Congratulations Sharks, for a job well done.


Lely Opens with Island Coast

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 7:52pm

By Roger LaLonde

Lawrence Liberiste hauls in a pass during practice.

It is a new head coach, with mostly new assistants, looking to begin a new day with the Lely football program.

It starts with Lely’s first fall game at 7 PM August 19, hosting Island Coast.

Maurice Belser gained his first experience with the Trojans in its spring game, shortly after replacing Culmer St. Jean.

Belser chose to replace many long-time coaches as he puts his mark on this year’s team.

New coaches include Derek Woods, linebackers, Cliff Cook, defensive backs, Bill Dunne, defensive linemen, Allen Carter, offensive coordinator and Talise Simeon, receivers. Returning is Mike Cassio, running backs coach.

Soon the new-coach chatter will be over.

“The team has made good progress, we all have worked at doing things right,” Belser said. “We will be working to play a disciplined game that can be the difference.”

One of the keys is defensive linebacker Will Glasser. “He’s nasty, plays whistle to whistle. He’s the leader of our defense,” Belser said.

Coach Maurice Belser explains how to block during drills with Robert Woodward and James Guerrier.

Defensive stalwarts also include Luc Thelice, Blazidy Duprat and Hakeem Durity. Bolstering the offensive line will be Chris Calcagnini and Marco Celus.

Junior quarterback Jacques Carter has experience and showed his potential in the spring game. He ran for 101 yards and threw for 181 and two touchdowns in Lely’s 33-27 win over Pompano Beach-Blanche Ely.

Running backs looking to make a difference are Jason Jean and Mark Noel, with Taeijon Wright and Jean Joseph as wide receivers.

Kicker Noah Reich “Is something special,” Belser said. “He can be a game changer.” In practice, with defenders charging, Reich kept his cool for a 42-yard field.

There are expectations for improvement after a 2-8 season. Its first game, although considered preseason, will show how far Lely has come.

Andrew Hurtis (left) and Marco Celus tangle in defensive blocking drills.

Lely opens it regular season schedule by hosting Gulf Coast at 7 PM on
August 26.

MIA Opens at Home Against Gateway Charte

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 7:50pm

By Roger LaLonde

Photos By Roger Lalonde
MIA’s Vinnie Moller would love to see this big a hole when the Manta Rays host Fort Myers-Gateway Charter on Aug. 19.

The lightning warning went off, forcing the Marco Island Academy football team to practice under a pavilion, behind Marco Island Charter Middle School on August 15.

The team is hoping they will provide its own lightning when it opens its season at home against Fort Myers-Gateway Charter at 7:30 PM on August 19 at Winterberry Park.

The Manta Rays lost 12 starters from a year ago, but is steadily building its own leaders.

“Bon Deese has been phenomenal,” Coach Damon Coiro said. “He and Tyler Gresham
are all in to bring success to the team.”

Defensive coordinator Pete Cugler in a demonstration with Will Carlisle as Brenden Howard looks on.

Deese and Tyler will join Vinnie Moller in the backfield and also play some tight end on offense. They also will serve as linebackers on defense. Cornerback Christ Fermosa has impressed Coiro. Howard, too, will play both ways as a defensive end and Jack Fabian is expected to bolster the defense at safety.

Senior Kyle Ginther will be the leader on the offensive line, along with Brenden Howard, Cameron Foss, John Roach, Jackson O’Shea and CJ Noel. Wide receivers catching quarterback Matt Grille’s throws will be Eric Fireman, Will Carlisle and Tanner Prange.

New coaches on Coiro’s staff are Pete Cugler, defensive coordinator, Chris Liebhart, receivers, Keith Scalia, all purpose and character, with Coiro serving as offensive coordinator.

Cornerback Christ Fermosa has impressed Coiro. Howard too will play both ways as a defensive end and Jack Fabian is expected to bolster the defense at safety.

Manta Rays quarterback Matt Grille is under center, as a makeshift practice was necessary after a thunder warning.

While the game does not count on the team’s season record, it is a measuring stick for MIA.

“For us to win against Gateway Charter, or against any team, is for us to limit mental errors,” Coiro said. “The team’s character, how they handle adversity, will also go toward determining our success. We want little successes to make big ones.”

An Olympic Experience

Thu, 08/18/2016 - 2:31pm

By Roger LaLonde 

Mercedes swam for Libya, her father’s home country.

It has been eight years since Marco Island’s Mercedes Farhat stood on the starting block for her 100 breaststroke Olympic heat in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

A Lely High School graduate just two months before, Farhat was in a stratosphere of world-ranked competitors.

As her heat race ended, all Farhat thought was, “I am not going to let that girl out touch me.” She didn’t.

A top Florida high school swimmer, Farhat won her heat, but did not record a fast enough qualifying time to continue.

Yet there were so many big-time moments for her to remember.

With the opening Olympic parade she was the lone woman representing her father’s home country of Libya.

Her competition name was Asmahan Farhat.

“It was so cool. I was part of the women’s rights movement in Libya, opening the doors for other women to follow,” she said.

Kamal and Asmahan Farhat, her competition name, in traditional Libyan apparel worn for the opening night parade.

Farhat trained for the 2012 Olympics, but due to social pressures and political strife that followed the 2011 Libyan revolt against dictator Moamer Kadhafi, swimming pools and clubs became almost non-existent.

In 2016, with friendly support, Libya’s Daniah Hagul competed in the Rio Olympics. She swam the 100 breaststroke, but did not move on after the first round.

In 2008 the historic Libyan clothing was such a standout, even TV crews set cameras down to get photos of Mercedes and dad Kamal, her swim coach.

It was layers of clothing topped off with a huge gold necklace “that draped over my entire chest,” Farhat said. “Then a scarf around my head and more gold jewelry from that and huge gold bangles around my wrists.”

All that and the athletes didn’t get to see the show. They waited outside to be called into the parade. They were No. 99 on the parade list.

“We could see the fireworks though, which were amazing,” she said.

Mercedes with her dad and coach Kamal before a practice round

Ironically, only those in the arena got to see the Farhats in the parade.  A jammed crowd at Mercedes’ home in Marco were ready to cheer, but a break in TV coverage took place as the Farhats were to march. Mercedes later saw it on video replay, but no one at her home, or around the country, saw it live.

No matter, the excitement continued.

Before her heat she warmed up in the same lane with Michael Phelps.

“It was crazy, it was nuts,” Farhat recalled. “I have posters all over on my bedroom walls of him. I have three of his biographies, but never got them signed.”

“I was right next to him. I can honestly say that you swim faster when Michael Phelps is in your lane.”

In describing Phelps swimming past her, she said, “Normally a big guy will make the water choppy. I could feel his power that pushes the water, there were barely forceful waves. It was so smooth. I wondered if someone actually passed me.”

In the Cube, Mercedes before her swim. Submitted Photos

At the time new suits, Speedo LZR Racer and a Blue 70, were being boasted as the fastest suit ever created.

“If you signed a contract to wear the suit in your race they were giving them away,” Farhat said.  “Speedo gave me a $500 swimsuit that was not even on the market yet!”

For her efforts, Libya gave her the Most Valuable Athlete medal, which was saved along with the many swapped Olympian pins.

Her most cherished pin was from Dara Torres, at 41, the oldest swimmer to medal in the Olympics.

Torres was a University of Florida grad, and Farhat was in her freshman year.

“She wasn’t giving out pins, but I didn’t care, I had a photo of her since I was six years old and I went for it,”
Farhat said.

Torres chatted with Farhat and they shared a Gator chomp. The next day Torres gave Farhat her pin.

Following her University of Colorado graduation, Mercedes with mom Christine and dad Kamal.

Farhat has connections with Olympians Ryan Lochte, Elizabeth Beisel and Caeleb Dressel from being undergrads at UF. Dressel shared gold in the 4×100 relay at the Olympics, with Phelps, Nathan Adrian and Ryan Held.

“Ryan Lochte was a lot of fun and Elizabeth is one of the funniest people I know. Anything she says seems to be hilarious,” Mercedes said.

After an outstanding 2012 Olympics, Lochte could only notch a gold medal in the 4×200 relay with Phelps, Connor Dwyer and Townley Haas.

Farhat marvels at how the sport of swimming has just taken off in the last eight years.

“Swimmers are crushing records,” Farhat said of this Olympics. “They are setting records by seconds.”

Katie Ledecky set two world records in this Olympics on her way to an overall five gold medals and one silver.

Submitted Photos
Mercedes Farhat’s Most Valuable Athlete award, and a host of Olympic pins she swapped for at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

She breezed to a world record win in the 800 meter freestyle.

After touching the wall she casually waited for the rest of the competitors. Ledecky set a world record time of 8:04.79, eclipsing her former record time of 8:06.68.

Taking silver was Great Britain’s Jazmin Carlin in a time of 8:16.17, a whopping 11.38 seconds slower.

Farhat graduated from the University of Florida and went on to earn her doctorate in pharmacy, recently graduating from the University of Colorado. Living in Denver, she looks forward to her new career with Walgreens.

The daughter of Kamal and Christine Farhat, she has a sister Louisa. Mercedes and Louisa helped set many records while members of the Lely High School swim teams from 2004 to 2008. Louisa has an engineering degree from the University of Florida. She now lives in San Francisco where she is a sales engineer.

Eight years ago Farhat said of her experience, “Just being in the Olympics will be something I will always cherish. I can always say, ‘I was an Olympian.’”

Her feelings remain the same.

Dying to Survive, Part I Coping with Heart Disease, Complacency, Indifference, and a Flawed Healthcare System

Thu, 08/18/2016 - 2:26pm

By Roy Eaton 

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Over 25 million Americans have the disease and over 600,000 will die each year. Approximately 700,000 will suffer a heart attack during the same time period and over 350,000 Americans will perish. The most common form of the malady is coronary heart disease, CHD, often referred to as arteriosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries. The most common subset arteriosclerosis, is atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the vessels that supply blood to the muscles, lungs, and organs including the heart. If one is fortunate and atherosclerosis is diagnosed at the earliest stage of advancement, precautions can be taken to stop, slow, and in some rare instances, mildly reverse its progression of plaque build-up, which is the main cause of blood flow obstruction within the arteries. Changes in lifestyle which include stress reduction, a healthy diet with proper nutrition, adequate rest, reasonable exercise and prescribed medication can add elasticity to the artery walls, strengthen heart muscles and improve blood flow. The end result of these lifestyle modifications can usually be determined by the degree of pain (angina) brought about by trial and error while engaging in daily activity.

Most survivors of a heart attack would likely confirm that some degree of physiological transformation follows such an event, which not only impacts their lives, but those of their loved ones and friends. But, what is often not addressed by physicians and immediately recognized by patients and family members, is the post psychological trauma caused by the event and the long term ramifications to the patient and loved ones if not recognized and properly addressed.

I am a survivor of the one of the least survivable heart attacks, one which occurs while asleep, and one which involved the left main artery, often referred to as “The Widow Maker.” The purpose in sharing the personal story I am about to pen is to provide hope and encouragement to those, like myself, who have heart disease and survived a cardiac infarction (heart attack), and others who have been diagnosed with the illness but have not experienced any form of cardiac event. It is also my intent to enlighten and alert those who may inherit the disease so they are diligent in their selection of healthcare providers, better prepared to handle their prognosis and more apt to take control and properly manage their care. The heart is the center of our very existence, and although an organ and muscle, it is also a metaphoric symbol of vulnerability, love, and mortality. If my story proves informative and returns some degree of normalcy to the lives of a patients and their loved ones, who, at times, can be overwhelmed and disheartened by the complacency and indifference shown toward them by some members of the medical community, then my lesson is of value and the time conveying my message, well spent.

I had been relatively healthy most of my life until the latter months of 1993. I scheduled an appointment with my physician in December of that year and told him of newly developed symptoms I was experiencing including tightness in my chest, headaches, sleepless nights, night sweats, and dry coughing. Most disturbing was the instantaneous, excruciating pain felt in my right temple when exercising. I told him of the most recent time this occurred when indulging in intense exercise that caused me to immediately drop to my knees in agony.

The physician knew from our previous conversations that I was quite stressed. He knew of the guilt I felt for encouraging my mom to sell her home of 20 years and relocate to a warmer climate. He knew of the toll taken as a result of my dad’s 10-year fight with emphysema and my mom’s current struggle with lymphoma cancer. And, he knew I had prematurely retired from my previous profession of over 20 years, had hastily abandoned friends to care for my mom, and was unhappy in my workplace. I asked for an EKG and a blood work-up. His response, “You’re 47 years old! You’re fine! You’re healthy and too young to be experiencing heart problems. I’m quite sure it’s allergies and congestion causing the tightness and cough. I’ll give you a prescription for Seldane D. If you’re not better in a month come back and I’ll order an EKG. Go home and relax, you’ll be fine.” I went home to Debbie and said, “I am going to have a heart attack within a month.”

On the night of January 13, 1994, I went to bed earlier than normal after completing a light workout. I awoke around 3:30 AM, with severe flu-like symptoms. I immediately felt an intense burning sensation in my shoulder and left arm, and had a terrible headache that made me nauseous. I felt an intense strangling sensation in my throat and upper-left jaw and began to lose control of most of my body functions. I woke my wife and asked her to take me to an urgent care center that was within a mile or two of our home. What happened next nearly cost me my life and made me far more diligent of what is defined as an “Urgent Care Center.”

On the morning of January 14th, my wife Debbie and I walked into an urgent care center, immediately informing the staff that I believed I was having a heart attack. We were initially told that I looked too young and healthy to be having an attack. “After all,” they said, “how could someone walk into a hospital and remain calm if they were having a heart attack? You don’t seem to be in very much pain.” I told them I handle pain well and that in my late twenties, I fractured the radial heads of both elbows in a freak accident, but managed to sit in a hospital’s waiting room in agonizing pain for hours before being admitted and treated. I was given an aspirin and told to wait. I demanded to be given a clot busting drug, but was told this could not be administered without a second opinion, and that another physician would be contacted for consultation. Hours later, nearly mid-morning, the second physician arrived. My wife Debbie and I could not believe our eyes. The physician called was the same doctor who sent me home a month earlier opting not to perform an EKG, instead prescribing a drug later taken off the market because it was found to restrict arteries. The next words to come from his mouth were even more shocking. “Send him home. He’s not having a heart attack. I told him last month he was fine.” I turned to Debbie and said, “Get me to a real hospital or I’ll be dead by noon!” Although the center discouraged my release, 45 minutes later I arrived at my hospital of choice. The last thing I remember hearing was “his blood pressure’s dropping, get him to intensive care now.”

After keeping me in intensive care for several days to stabilize my condition, I was transferred to another hospital that was licensed to perform cardiac catherizations, also referred to as angiograms. I had been heavily sedated and treated with hefty doses of morphine for pain, so my memory of the angiogram is somewhat clouded. I wasn’t surprised to learn several of my arteries were severely blocked and that my heart muscle had been slightly damaged, but was startled when told the lining of an artery wall had been nicked, forming a hematoma which left the area from my abdomen to right knee black and reddish-blue and swollen.

I had a high fever for the next two days and a planned angioplasty procedure to compress the plaque and increase blood flow had to be postponed. At the time of admission no single rooms were available and I was paired with a patient who coughed and hacked and said he had been diagnosed with pneumonia. My attending physician had to leave due to other commitments and I was assigned an interim cardiologist to perform the procedure. After being informed the longer the postponement, the greater risk of suffering another heart attack, I had Debbie sneak me from my room for walks, which worked, for my temperature the following day was mildly elevated, but permissible.

During this period in time, my family had been struggling with another medical crisis. Mom was “old school” and had unconditional faith in physicians including her current oncologist. I, on the other hand, was not as accepting and had sought a second opinion from a highly regarded specialist from a different geographic area. After all, why would I unequivocally trust someone who had sent mom to receive radiation treatment for lymphoma and had been mildly chided by the attending physician for not addressing the cancer with a combination of oral medications? The second opinion was, “the tumors were still growing and that she was not in remission as told.” I showed the report to mom’s oncologist who went into a mini-tirade saying he was the educated one in the room and who was I to question him. I later received an apology, but no longer had faith in her physician and worried constantly about her well-being.

Mom had her reservations, but didn’t want to change providers until a viable alternative could be found. Prior to my hospitalization, mom wasn’t feeling well and had made an appointment to see her oncologist. Unfortunately, it had been made weeks in advance of my hospitalization, and she called to seek a change in order to visit her son in intensive care. She was abruptly informed this was impossible at the time. No compassion was expressed for her condition or personal crises, simply a display of apathy. Debbie didn’t want to tell me of this, but I knew her too well, and she couldn’t hide it from me. Of course this weighed heavily on me as I retired for the evening to rest before my next procedure.

The following morning I was prepped, placed on a gurney, and wheeled into the cath lab for my angiogram by one of the nurses who would be assisting the attending physician. I felt somewhat comfortable with her even though she was the one who inserted my IV. I had an intense dislike for needles dating back to the time when I saw IVs being inserted between my father’s toes during his last hospitalization for emphysema because normal portals had collapsed. And, I had developed a fearful phobia of hospitals and doctors during dad’s ten-year struggle with emphysema, and my mom’s lengthy battle with lymphoma cancer.

A chill passed through my entire body and I began to uncontrollably tremble as my gurney was positioned in the center of the room…

Read more from Roy Eaton’s “Dying to Survive” in the next issue of Coastal Breeze News, on newsstands September 2, 2016. 

City Council Highlights

Thu, 08/18/2016 - 2:15pm

By Steve “Stef” Stefanides

Three Marco Island schools were honored for excellence at the Marco Island City Council Meeting on August 15. From left: Tommie Barfield Principal Karey Stewart, Marco Island Charter Middle School Principal George Abounader, and from Marco Island Academy, Principal Melissa Scott, Brenda Rhinehart and Board Chair Jane Watt. Submitted Photo

Marco Educators Honored at Meeting

City Council moved quickly through a relatively light agenda on last Monday as they dealt with proclamations recognizing educational excellence at the Tommie Barfield Elementary School, the Marco Island Charter Middle School and the Marco Island Academy.

Both Tommie Barfield and the Charter Middle School were presented with proclamations recognizing their “A” rating in the State of Florida and the Marco Island Academy was honored for being recognized by the Washington Post as being in the top 2% of High Performing Charter Schools within the nation.

Staff members from all three schools were present for the presentations.

Progress at Mackle Park

Parks and Recreation Supervisor Alex Galiana would report to council on a number of issues, but would provide an update on the new Mackle Park Community Center project. With the last day of summer camp at the park the contractor has received all his permits and was staged and ready to begin the demolition of the old building.

Staff has moved into temporary quarters in the old Teen Center trailer and work was rapidly proceeding on the necessary projects to enable the city to utilize the facility at the Family Church of Marco Island on Winterberry Drive. That facility on the church’s campus will be used to continue programing while the new building is constructed at Mackle Park.

Beach Committee Making Progress

The Beach Advisory Committee came forward to report of a number of projects they are working on and Vice-Chairman Katie O’Hara was pleased to report that they had made substantial progress having beachside vendors move away from plastic straws and convert their operations to the non-petroleum base straw for their drinks as offered on the beach.

“We are very appreciative of their efforts to make this transition,” said O’Hara. However the group did point out that they are still battling the issue of the new style straw littering the beach, primarily in the areas by the resorts.

“This is a constant effort in education of those that frequent the beach to leave it in the pristine shape they find it,” said Gene Burson, chairman of that advisory board after the meeting.

Marco Shores Wastewater Project

Councilman Victor Rios attempted to bring back to council the issue of how to pay for the work to be done to rebuild the older wastewater treatment process that is presently in place that services Marco Shores residents.

When the city purchased the utility from Florida Water Services they were required to also assume responsibility for the aging Marco Shores facilities. That physical plant is in need of replacement and the city’s Tallahassee lobbyist has received some initial funding for the project.

At present the city is proceeding with some design criteria for the project, which has been estimated initially at around $6,000,000. Firm numbers would not be in place until final specifications are drawn and bids are received on the total capital costs.

Councilman Larry Honig called a point of order in the discussions to remind the council that they had already chosen not to proceed to place money in the 2017 budget to acquire a legal opinion as to council’s legal rights to assess the property owners at Marco Shores. “We agreed as a council not to move forward with the attorney’s assessment; therefore this issue is moot and the discussion should be ended,” said Honig.

When Councilman Rios attempted to debate the issue, Councilman Honig reminded the chair that the point of order had to be ruled on and shut down any further comments from Rios. Chairman Brown reminded the board that it was an informal discussion during a budget workshop and any consideration of reconsideration was really not in order, which Honig agreed with.

City Manager Roger Hernstadt reminded council that they would have to make the business decisions regarding how to proceed and that decision would have to be made during early 2017.

A motion by Councilman Rios to add the item to a future agenda failed for a lack of a second, and the meeting would quickly come to an adjournment.

New Beginnings, New School Year

Thu, 08/18/2016 - 2:10pm

By Don Manley

Photo by Don Manley
The office at Tommie Barfield Elementary School was busy on the first day of the 2015-2016 school year.

The teaching and learning are underway and so are the clubs, sports and other activities that are part of the newly begun 2016-2017 school year.

As always, the process involves that momentous and shared rite of passage for youngsters, the first day of kindergarten. It’s an experience that Jordan Carmignani of Marco Island can now chalk up in the “Been There, Done That” column.

Jordan recently kicked off his school career at Tommie Barfield Elementary School (TBE), where he was escorted by his mother, Tracy Carmignani and his brother Steel, a fourth grader, on that oh so important first day.

“Jordan was very excited,” said Tracy Carmignani of her son’s demeanor, after dropping her sons off at the schoolhouse door. “He ran to the car with his backpack on and big brother Steel was showing him the ropes.”

She described her emotions at having her youngest starting school as a happiness tinged with a dab of sadness.

“I’m very excited for him,” Carmignani said of Jordan. “He’s ready. His brother told him the first day of school was going to be horrible, so he was good and scared, but that’s what big brothers do,” she added with a chuckle.

TBE Principal Kathleen “Karey” Stewart shared some of the same emotions as the Carmignanis regarding the new beginnings that are part and parcel of each new school year.

“Lots of anticipation and excitement about continuing full-steam ahead with this school year,” said Stewart, who is in her second year at the school’s helm.

Enrollment will again be at or near capacity, 590 students, at TBE, which is welcoming eight new teachers this year: Andy Noll, kindergarten; Sheli Lowrie; second grade; Megan Guidish, third grade; Sherry Ashley, fifth grade and ELL – English Language Learners –instructor Gladis June. There are also four new fourth grade teachers: Kathlyn Huynh, Cassandra Nocifora, Caroline Puthoff and Karen Van Der Eemf.

Stewart said TBE will continue its focus on the kindergarten through fifth grade initiatives that were introduced by the Collier County School District last school year: science and phonics instruction, and “cooperative learning structures,” which is students’ ability to work in groups as equal learners with equal participation.

TBE parents are encountering a new car-rider loop will be located at the front of the school outside the school’s front office. Under the new configuration, cars enter the southernmost driveway off Kirkwood Street, making a right-hand turn only. Cars heading south on Kirkwood Street are not permitted to enter the car-rider line. Cars enter the line-up along Kirkwood Street and then wrapping along Bermuda Road.

Assistance from the community in the form of volunteers is welcome, said Stewart.

“Our volunteers listen to students read, help them with math facts and help organize our home- communication envelopes, she explained. “They help in our media center too.”

Prospective volunteers can attend TBE’s annual Curriculum Night for third through fifth grade, which is set for 5 to 7 PM, Aug. 30. Curriculum Night for kindergarten through second grade night will be held from 5 to 7 PM, Sept. 13. Stewart said Volunteer Orientation Night is yet to be scheduled.

A new school year means a new dynamic, said George Abounader, principal at Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS), which is in its 19th year of operations.

“Each year in middle school, one third of the student population is new,” he said. “This large percentage of new students changes the personality of our entire student body and brings new energy and challenges which our highly talented faculty and staff recognize. No school year is ever boring for us.”

Enrollment should again be at capacity, 420 students, at MICMS, where there are two new teachers, guidance counselor Jennifer Reddick and Roxanne Shadrick, the reading teacher for all three grade levels.

Also new this year is a reading initiative utilizing the “Achieve 3000” software program, which is designed to assist students with increasing their reading level scores.

“With the increased rigor of the state standards, only three of the 67 school districts (4 percent) received a grade of “A” this past year, as compared to 22 of the 67 school districts (33 percent) the previous year,” said Abounader. “Our expectation is that Achieve 3000 will not only provide us with the support we need to maintain our school-grade of “A,” which we have earned for 15 consecutive years, but also keep our school’s ‘High Performing Charter School’ status, as designated by the Department of Education. We are trying to stay ahead of the curve.”

There’s also a new elective for eighth grade students – debate. “Last year was our initial year for a debate club and it was so well-received that we decided to add it as a course to our curriculum,” said Abounader.

MICMS has also instituted a new location for students who ride the bus to be dropped off and picked up at day’s end that is located on the campus of neighboring TBE.

Marco Island Academy (MIA) is celebrating its fourth year at its San Marco Road campus and as with TBE and MICMS, enrollment there is holding steady and expected to be at or near the maximum, in MIA’s case, 250 students.

Now in its sixth year, the public charter high school’s solid enrollment numbers serve as a barometer of sorts, said MIA Principal Melissa Scott.

“I think it signals how important choice is for students and parents, and that there’s autonomy in education,” she said. “I think that it’s important to teach kids that they can make independent choices. I think it’s very important to be autonomous, as young as possible. It’s a different world out there today. Choices are harder and colleges are more competitive and regardless of where they choose to go, as long as they have their path and they make the right choices for it.”

MIA has eight new teachers this year, including a math teacher who will work with ESE – Exceptional Student Education – students, which is a new position.

“I think that’s really important to have a solid foundation because I don’t want those children labeled,” said Scott. “I want those students supported and I want their dreams to be achieved, like any student in the school.”

Scott was enthused about the new staffers’ talents.

“It’s the resources they’re bringing, their backgrounds, their education and they all want to be somewhere where they have choice in the classroom and they want the students to love the subject matter,” she said. “I’m getting goose bumps thinking about the experiences the students are going to have in the classroom.”

At Manatee Elementary School, the theme for 2016-2017 is “Manatee is Who We Are,” a maxim that adorns the front of t-shirts. The back is emblazoned with “I am Magnificent, I am Attentive, I am Noble, I am Amazing, I am Thoughtful, I am Exemplary, I am Empowered,” the first letter of every third word spelling out “Manatee.”

“It’s kind of our motto this year to keep the kids focused and moving forward,” said Manatee Principal Wendy Borowski,

Enrollment should be between 795 and 810 students, which has been the norm, she said.

There are seven new teachers this year, three of them who’ve transferred from other schools in the district: Matthew Sibert, who teaches fourth grade, fifth-grade teacher Jill Baldwin, and ELL Immersion teacher Emma Gonzalez.

A former Manatee student and classroom assistant, first-grade teacher Maribel Noguez, is among the three instructors making their teaching debuts this year. Joining her are Dionne Yanes, kindergarten, third-grade teacher Stephen Sullivan and Albert Pavon, the pre-K-disabilities instructor.

Borowski said the school will be conducting fundraisers during the school year to finance an update to the school’s media center. “Were 22 years old and it’s time to revamp our shelves with new books,” she said. The school also hopes to find someone to finance its teacher-led, after-school, academic program, after the benefactor who’d supported the program for years, passed away.

Classroom volunteers are needed help with reading to students, as well as in the media center, on field trips and in assisting ELL students with their English. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact school counselor Debbie Eby at 239-377-7600.

As with her fellow principals, Borowski is glad a new school year has arrived.

“It’s always very exciting. It’s always about regenerating the energy and getting everyone pumped up for the kids. Underlying everything is the belief in what they do as teachers and a belief in moving the kids forward. Moreover, it’s exciting to see how happy the kids are to be here. There’s that energy. That, to me, is why we do this.”

Raymonds Resign

Thu, 08/18/2016 - 1:43pm

By Roger LaLonde

In a shocking move to most, Roger and Karen Raymond have resigned from Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS), effective September 1.

Roger Raymond has served as athletic director for MICMS since the beginning, creating all sports programs. He did the same for Marco Island Academy before resigning last year.

Karen Raymond has been the school’s musical director from the start, some 14 years ago. Her many musical productions were highlights each year.

Raymond is known throughout the state for his coaching abilities. His outstanding record at MICMS as a cross country, track and basketball coach put the school on the map for sports.

Raymond said the resignations were for family reasons, related to his mother and children who live in the Orlando area.

“At this point they just need some help from us. We need to be closer,” he said.

Raymond has been offered basketball and cross country coaching positions at Osceola High School near Orlando.

“Damien Shadrick will be taking over my position at MICMS and I will be assisting in the transition,” Raymond said. “He was on my first basketball team back in 1998.”

Raymond said that his relationship with both schools has been strong.

“I was to have served as the announcer for MIA’s football game on Friday night.” The Raymonds are going to Orlando over the weekend.

In regards to MICMS, Raymond said, “George (Abounader, Principal) couldn’t have been nicer to us.”

George Abounader had strong praise for the couple, sharing the following with Coastal Breeze News:

“Roger and Karen have been on the Island for over 30 years, and with our school since the day it was founded, over 18 years ago. Their legacy for the Island, in general, and our school in particular, is robust and widespread. Roger has done more for youth sports on our Island than anyone I know. He has organized hundreds of teams, games, tournaments, and matches and has coached thousands of school-age children over his sterling career. Karen has taught chorus for 18 years, and throughout those years close to 2,000 students experienced her passion and energy for the performing arts and performed in scores of productions that she directed. Our school is honored to be associated with Roger and Karen, and we are privileged to call them our friends. They are distinguished citizens of Marco Island, loyal employees of Marco Island Charter Middle School, and will be missed in many fundamental ways.”

Raymond said he will be at the school through September to help Shadrick get started.

In an email to the sports media he said, “Thank you for making my life seem special on so many occasions. I am grateful and humbled by this.”

New Hotel Proposed – Updated meeting information

Tue, 08/16/2016 - 11:46am

By Steve “Stef” Stefanides

Site plan. Submitted

The Marco Island Planning Board is about to undertake a review of a major project which may continue to enhance the Town Center District of the island. Earlier this year Hendricks Commercial Properties Group received approval for an upgrade of its property known as the Island Plaza at the corner of Bald Eagle and North Collier Boulevard.

Small Brothers Marco, LLC is now proposing to build a hotel in the Town Center District of Marco Island. The location for the 165 room hotel would be on land that has previously been used as the staging area for the construction company building the new Herb Savage Bridge. The combined parcels are located at 580 Elkcam Circle and 870 Park Avenue on the island across the street from Winn-Dixie.

In addition to the 165 rooms, a 4,000 square foot restaurant, a rooftop pool, pool deck and an enclosed private garage will be part of the proposed development.

“We are extremely pleased to bring this project to the city for its approval,” said Patrick Neale, spokesman and representative for Small Brothers, which is an affiliate of Cleveland Construction, who will manage the construction of the new facility. “This project is in line with Marco Island’s reputation for being one of the top quality communities in all of South Florida and will enhance the area,” continued Neale.

As part of the vision for the project, Small Brothers is proposing to construct a “significant” amount of public parking to support activities that are run at the local park. They will also be looking at improving pedestrian and bike access to the park in addition to providing a band shell for the community and a waterfront boardwalk in Veterans Community Park.

These improvements in public parking could also help alleviate some of the parking woes which have plagued the city and businesses over the last two seasons in the Town Center District and have been part of ongoing discussion at the Planning Board and City Council level.

The cost for the capital improvements to the park and parking upgrades will be borne by the developer, according to city staff.

The plans provided to the Coastal Breeze News also showed other capital improvements and enhancements within the park that will be discussed during the developer’s presentations to the city planning board. The developer is proposing a Planned Unit Development (PUD) amendment to the city’s planning board that would encompass the enhancements to the Veterans Community Park and the building of the new hotel facility.

The Planning Board will meet at 9 AM on Friday, September 2 to hear from the representatives of the developer. Check Coastal Breeze News online for developing stories on this and other breaking news at






Extortion Threat at Marriott

Tue, 08/09/2016 - 1:49pm

By Steve “Stef” Stefanides

Marco Island Police received separate calls early Monday morning August 8 threatening harm by gunfire and possible explosive devices against the Marco Island Marriott Resort on South Collier Boulevard by an unidentified male subject.

“Upon receipt of the threats we immediately involved our sister agencies such as the Marco Island Fire Rescue and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and began a process of isolating the property and taking appropriate action to protect the lives and properties that may have been involved,” said Marco Police Chief Al Schettino in a statement to the Coastal Breeze News.

“In a situation such as this and given the times we live in we also recommended a shelter in place order for those in the immediate vicinity. Once it was determined that there was no validity to the threat we lifted the order.”

The unidentified caller was attempting to extort an undisclosed cash payment from the City of Marco Island to avert the threatened attack.

“Our personnel did a great job and we are thankful for the expert assistance provided to us by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and by our own first responders at the Marco Fire Rescue Department.”

Chief Schettino also contacted the local office of the FBI regarding the possible threat and brought them up to speed regarding the situation.

Read more about this and other breaking news in the August 19 edition of the Coastal Breeze News or check back for breaking news at


It’s Time to Pay Attention

Tue, 08/09/2016 - 1:48pm

Rumination from the Rock and Beyond

Jory Westberry

No one is around you to see you, so be honest with these questions. Raise your pinky if you voted in the school board primary election two years ago. I don’t predict many pinkies in the air because about 38,805 out of 185,016 of all Collier County registered voters voted in that election. With Vote by Mail ballots, the question is, Why Not Vote? You don’t even have to go out in the heat.

One of the benefits of a democracy is having the right to vote, but it should mean more than that. Nelson Mandela once said, “An educated, enlightened and informed population is one of the surest ways of promoting the health of a democracy.”

Raise your pinky if you want a healthy democracy. I can’t speak for you, but I really do want a healthy democracy! I want our students and citizens to be able to think critically, read and research thoughtfully and weigh the pros and cons of their investigations, justify their beliefs, speak cogently on topics of interest or current events and write persuasively about their opinions or conclusions. A healthy democracy depends on being informed and able to look propaganda, whitewash, rumors, exaggerations and lies in the eye and scoff while shaking your head, “No.”

The outcome of the primary election two years ago put a new face on the Collier County School Board with only (brace yourself) 9% of the voters making that choice. Nine-percent? Really? In a primary election, the winning candidate has to have 50% of the votes plus one more vote to be declared the winner. Do the math and raise your pinky if you’re shocked. I was more than shocked.

Former Congressman Walter H. Judd stated, “People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote – a very different thing.”

This year is different. It’s two years later and two more seats on the Collier County School Board are up for election. There are four candidates, two with a “return to the past, negative” agenda and two with a “progressive, positive” agenda.

Don’t take my word for it, ask a teacher or other educator, do your own research and make this election a priority. There are other county and state positions on the ballot so that might add more incentive to vote on August 30th.

Raise your pinky if you plan to get more informed. Great, go for it!


Jory Westberry has been a dedicated educator for over 40 years, the last 14 as Principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary, where she left her heart. Life is rich with things to learn, ponder and enjoy so let’s get on with the journey together!