This week is one I have been dreading and looking forward to all at the same time. The youngest of my five children will be graduating from The Island School and moving on to bigger things. This was the first year since 2006 that I haven’t had to fill out a registration form for the school, and I don’t mind telling you that was when I realized how poignant this Graduation Day is for me.
On Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007 I stood with my oldest daughter, Rowyn, on the sidewalk of the school and watched the ribbon being cut. She had spent her kindergarten year in a trailer that was used by Boca Bargains for a time. It was cramped and not an ideal situation, but midway through the year Erin Caiazza took over their teaching as a substitute and made all things seem right with the world. Her son, Nick, was also in the class, and she was a first-rate teacher and human being. Back then the older classes were in the Community Center, in two rooms with little lofts where children could sit and read.
I remember that Saturday, watching John Paul Turner blow the conch shell. I remember little Ashley Miller cutting the ribbon. I remember Karen Nuzzi and Megan O’Connor being there. Karen has been with the school longer than anyone, and she is still there. Megan just left last year but came back for this graduation and remains in contact with everyone, though she lives in North Carolina.
I remember Sue Sligar, whose hard work essentially got that school built, speaking along with Commissioners from Lee County, Robert Johnson, Bayne Stevenson and School Principal Rosa Ramos.
And I remember thinking how lucky we are to have this little school.
In the beginning years, sometimes there were less than 20 kids attending. Now we are up to 60+, usually with more on the waiting list. But the individual attention to each child seems to be the same, whether there are 15 students or 63. It was the same for my son, Keagan, my twins, Eirinn and Rory, and for my new graduate, Piper. They might not all have good memories of the school now, but as adults they will look back and realize how lucky they were to have such an opportunity.
My kids will join the prestigious ranks of Capt. Dumplin’ Wheeler, who is proud to say he finished fifth in his class … out of five students. A friend of mine, Hazel Presley Singletary, attended the school many years ago as well, when it was for all grade levels. Many of the fishing captains and old families who have managed to remain on the island, whether to live or work, attended school there in some form or fashion.
The first school on the island was established in 1908 and was located on 1st Street. The school at the Community Center came into being in 1929. It closed down in 1963, when younger families started to move off island. In 2000, people started expressing interest in bringing it back to life, and Sue Sligar stepped in to become the voice of the parents and the school. There were many residents who were against the idea, and it wasn’t an easy win. She saw it through, though, with a tenacity that most people don’t possess.
I think that Mrs. Louise du Pont Crowninshield, the woman who donated the land on “Alphabet Street” and built the Community Center almost singlehandedly for the children of the island, would be proud of what we have here. Even that many years ago she knew how important our children are and how much it means to parents who can be just minutes from their little ones during the day.
I just want to thank everyone who has looked out for, loved, laughed with and taught all five of my kids. There are too many to name here, but know that the differences you have made in so many lives will never be forgotten.
Marcy Shortuse is the editor of the Boca Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.