Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Young Grads

This is the time of year when youngsters graduate and teachers (and parents) breath a sigh of relief. Today was the day the students graduated my wife's school whose classrooms are located on the campus of Keys Community College. Carol, my wife's boss, kicked off the ceremonies at the College's Tennessee Williams Theater:Graduation ceremonies all over the world are the same or similar I guess, and being child free all I can really remember is my own liberation from English boarding school life in 1975 and more recently graduating myself from the College after years of messing around finally getting my studies done. Keys Center Academy is an unusual school for girls who are in high school but not making it on the general campus. This specialized intensive schooling gets the support of the Administration and the School Board. Chair John Dick, on the right below, has been an indefatigable champion of the center, and outgoing member Andy Griffiths on the left has too and will be missed.
Reverend Sarah Fowler, Deacon at the congregations of St Peter's and St Paul's episcopal churches is a well known voice for charities around Key West and offered up her words of support for the new graduates as well at the convocation. The school's various outgoings, field trips and goofs around the classrooms were recorded and presented on a slide show because in a school with less than two dozen students everyone is friends with, and dramatic participants with, everyone else.My wife is not technically a Principal in the District because her school is technically part of Key West High School but she has of course made some friendships with people over the three years the Academy has been operating and she is always going on about the principal at Gerald Adams school, and this year she snagged Frannie Herrin to speak and speak she did, upbeat cheerful and brief (as she promised she would be).And there they were all angelic in white, and tearful and emotional and grateful for the second chance they got, after heading for failure elsewhere in their short lives.I watched one mum I know eyes glued to her offspring on stage and later we laughed about the relief of getting it done, a landmark success and a glorious first step in what was a wobbly academic career.
You, she graduated, FCATs and all the other horrors of modern standardized testing behind her...for now.These girls have been turned around thanks to individualized class work, close attention by teachers and endless patience "...I know I wasn't the easiest student to deal with..." is a common theme at Keys Center graduations.We live in parlous times for education in America and our leaders scream about paying taxes, and cutting deficits and not creating jobs and on and on and on but here one can see the impact of supporting these marginal students, of making a contract with them that if they apply themselves they will be driven to graduate.
The most painful part of the contract they sign is to give up their cell phones at the beginning of each school day. And if they don't show up for school these students live with the absolute certainty that their parents will be contacted. And if they don't fulfill their contracts they will be kicked out. In an era when discipline and deadlines are scorned by schools and rejected by unsupportive parents Keys Center Academy with rigid rules and requirements is an example other schools, and other parents could learn to imitate. "The teachers care..." is another common theme around here. And the big bugaboo of never giving up is often spoken of by the students.

My wife hates saying goodbye to the successful students but by next September, two weeks into the new school year she'll be all over the next bunch, planning success strategies for them. Luckily the outgoing superintendent and his replacement Jesus Jara have both pledged their support for Keys Center Academy as the district struggles with a nine percent cut in a 90 million dollar budget.
Cathy sang, everyone got dewy eyed...

...and then we hit the buffet table.

I cheered my wife on and thought about the end of school on Friday and summer vacations, once held to allow kids to help bring in the harvest and now practiced as a tradition and little else. I think she'll sleep soundly for a week before she starts planning next year's classroom tactics.

Key West Bight 3

It was a warm night in front of Mac's Seagarden curio shop and a good place and time to have a chat with a friend. Most people seem to gather at Mallory Square or other preferred spots to watch the magical moment of sunset so the Bight was relatively quiet during my early lunch break one recent evening.

I used to eat raw oysters until it was pointed out to me they are alive in that state and I got the feeling i was eating goldfish so I swore off them.

I don't think many of the places she could see on her map of Key West she would find on the sign post... Fishing anyone?They seem to have rebuilt the shed on the fuel dock and it looks about right to my untrained eye, as a nice bit of restoration.The Key West Bight is a pretty place to be at sunset,and I enjoyed wandering the docks for a little while out of my work night.

Omar And His Dad

Early morning on Sugarloaf Key and I thought why not take Cheyenne down to the bridge so she can sniff and I can take pictures. Good idea.I came across a couple of anglers, and I must have brought them luck because as soon as I arrived the old man hooked a fish which his son took in his hand covered with a rag, unhooked the fish and tossed it back saying it was too small. The old man peered into the depths disconsolately as the fish disappeared in a flash of silver underwater.Cheyenne looked like she could get into this fishing lark. "Too small," Omar told me with a grin. He is from Cape Coral where he moved after growing up in Miami and he had brought his 75 year old father down for a weekend of fishing to celebrate father's day, albeit a little early. The sun was coming up and he told me they had been there since six the night before, "like me at work," I said.We talked dogs for a while, about Bo who Omar used to let out first thing in the morning and he would tour the Miami neighborhood before coming home in the evening just before Omar got back from work cleaning pools, and the dog "stank something fierce" from his adventures.
Cheyenne decided she liked the taste of bait fish, and the old man looked down at her and said severely "Es gorda" - she's fat. So she is.
I started to get sleepy and after I gave Omar directions to the Tiki Bar and motel on Ramrod where he had set his heart on spending the next evening drinking Cheyenne and I took off. She was mighty reluctant as the old man still had lots of lovely bait fish to hook.Omar collected the dead bait from a bucket and sliced them up for his father. "He used to do this for me," he said with a sad little smile,"now I have to do it for him."

The day was looking good, good enough to spend it with your Dad fishing if you were lucky enough to be able to.

Marathon Yacht Club

The Marathon Yacht Club has a charming old club house at the end of what must perforce be a dead end street in a town that abounds in them. You can dock a boat here:Though if you are not a member of the club or an affiliated such organization entry is not permitted. There is a deliciously 1960s air to the club, a low building in beautiful traditional blue and white:The setting is perfect, ample parking and a view over the endless open waters of the Gulf of Mexico north of Marathon.I can only imagine how much this place bustles in winter but at the time of year the overflow lot was empty except for my illegally parked vehicle, and of the five cars in the inner lot two had out of state tags. I imagine the proportion is even higher when the snowbirds return.It seems like a nice little oasis off the beaten track, a couple of blocks off Highway One and the only sound was that of the occasional boat buzzing by and the wind whistling through the flagpole rigging.

So the next time some nerd drags you to the end of 33rd Street in Marathon and tells you this is Fort Zinderneuf...

...you will be able to reply with confidence: "Fort Zinderneuf? No silly, that's the Marathon Yacht Club." And you will be correct.