My wife and I are angry over the debate as to where to build our desperately needed high school. Before I get to the meat of that, however, I would like to share a bit of my school experience. Hopefully it will give you a taste of where we are coming from with our thoughts and feelings.
I have been in Bonita Springs for over 40 years. I attended Bonita Springs Elementary School. At that time, there was no Bonita Springs Middle School. The kids of Bonita were bused to various Ft. Myers schools. My brothers, friends, and I would have to wake up at a little after 4 am to get ready to walk to our bus stops. Sitting at our stops, waiting for the sun to start coming up, we were well accustomed to having a pair of Mosquito Control planes fly over our heads, dumping their pink payloads of poison on top of us. A cocktail of diesel fuel and Malathion.We spent hours on the bus, each way, picking up and dropping off kids at dozens of stops between Bonita and Ft.Myers. We stopped at almost all of the Ft. Myers schools because we had kids of all ages on our bus.
I had to attend Cypress Lake Middle School for my first year of middle school. I didn’t like school very much anyway, and I was nervous about having to go to school in Ft. Myers. It was a miserable 6th grade experience. No time for homework. No time for play. Just endless hours on the bus, heading to a school in another city. In those days, the expanses between cities and towns were different. Towns didn’t all run together with stores and malls and fast food restaurants. There was a lot of empty space, making the trip to another place much more pronounced. We would noticeably exit our town, and 2 hours later we would noticeably enter Ft.Myers. We would attend our classes, get back on the bus, and do it all over again.
Plans were set for the building of a temporary middle school in Bonita. It would just be a collection of portable classrooms, but it would save us hours of bus riding time daily, and more importantly, it would be in our town. Our home.
7th and 8th grades at Bonita Middle School were the only two years of school that I enjoyed in my whole life. My interest in the visual arts was piqued during these two years. My art classes, with my amazing teacher, Dianne Chase, was my comfort zone. I couldn’t get enough. Those classes lead me into my life-long career as an artist. Our school still had some of the same problems that we would have at any school, but they were “our” problems . We were going to school with people that we knew. People from our tight community of Bonita Springs. I am very thankful for those 2 years.
After my middle school stint was over, it was back to being bused to Ft. Myers. My mom was very nervous about sending me to Cypress Lake High. It wasn’t nice back then. I was sent to Bishop Verot, a Catholic school. In theory, this would be a safer school with a better education.
I am the first to state that you can take away benefits from almost any school. It is all up to what an individual wants to, (or is able to), put into that schooling. I neither wanted to, nor was I able to, put much in to my 2 years at Bishop Verot. The bus that we took to Ft. Myers had a pervasive culture of drugs, and eventually even worse things than that. We were on that bus for 4 hours per day. The nuns of the school were evil. Hell-bent and strangely aroused by punishing kids. We were exhausted both when we got to school, and when we finally got back home. Homework and study time really didn’t stand a chance.
My final 2 years of High School were at Barron Collier High in Naples. This school was closer to home, and I now had my 1975 Datsun B-210 to drive to school.
Barron Collier seemed much nicer than Bishop Verot. I was OK with going there. The problem was, that after all of the years of having to be bused to Ft. Myers, and after all of the years of dreading everything about school, I did very poorly in all of my classes. The art teacher at Barron Collier sucked, and without art classes to enjoy, all I had to enjoy was social time with my friends. I am not blaming anyone. That was just the way that it was for me. On graduation night, I was frantically running through the halls of the school looking for the guidance counselor to find out if I was graduating or not. It was that close.
So there is the background of my school career. It was miserable, unsuccessful, and an unhappy several years.
Fast forward 34 years.
My wife, (born and raised here), and I, live in Bonita Springs. We have 6 kids. 1 is attending Estero High School, 3 are attending Bonita Middle School, 1 is at Pine Woods, and we have a 3 year old in pre-pre school.
We want our kids to have successful and enjoyable school careers. So far, so good. All of our kids, are straight “A” students. We haven’t seen a single “B” until this year. They are all self-driven, conscientious, smart, and artistic. We want that to continue.
Our oldest son is in his second year at Estero High. My criticisms of Estero High may not be fair, but they are real. How much of a chance does a school that is running at 110% capacity have to provide a top-notch education? Or any education? Every class bulges beyond the class size amendment guidelines. Teachers can only do so much. I am sure that most of them are trying to do their best, but my son is starting to lose interest in some of his classes. There are no alternatives for us besides Estero High. We could bus our son to Ft. Myers to a school that is running at only 105% capacity…
We hear the clock ticking…
Our kids’ educations are going to start suffering as the schools, yearly, become insanely more overcrowded.
We feel this race against time for our children’s best interests.
Our kids are amazing kids,who work extremely hard to get good grades. They are now planning out their college paths.
We, the parents, are getting angry.
Behind the relentless sound of the ticking clock, we hear the complaints of the selfish, old, scared, mid-westerners who moved to Hawthorne or Hunter’s Ridge, 3 years ago from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan or Ohio.
I want to tell you folks something….You moved to Bonita Springs. It’s our city. You moved to our community. You moved to our home, with our kids, our city government, and our beaches and warm weather. You moved to the place where we grew up, and where we work and where we are raising our families. You moved to a place where we need a Bonita Springs High School to educate our kids properly.
There is no real place as “Hawthorne” or “Hunter’s Ridge”. They are simply walled-in enclaves of self-righteous people in the dusk of their lives, wanting to enjoy all of the benefits that our city has to offer, without having to give anything back, or to actually live with the people that make their lives here. I really have no problem with that. It is foreign to me, but some folks need all of their neighbors to have the same colored mail box. They need neighborhood rules on when you can and can’t urinate. They need “Guard Houses”, manned by $7 per hour, Golden Guardians to protect them from the hordes of raucous Bonitians.
Hawthornians, Ridgians, live how you want! It’s your money….have at it! We don’t want you among us anyway. Build your walls higher! Build a supermarket inside of your hideout….you’ll never have to come out again! More often than not, you are rude, self-entitled, slow driving, wastes of our natural resources who inexplicably feel the need for a license plate on your car announcing which conformist neighborhood you live in, (is that to prevent Silver Alerts?).
Just know this…and this is the important part…
Your silly little neighborhoods don’t have any more say than anyone else in this city! We don’t care what you want! It doesn’t matter what you want! We don’t care if you have money! Hawthorne is pinched in between a trailer park and a cow field. What did you pay for that prime location? Hunter’s Ridge was built on swamp and cow field. Unfortunately it is too late to revert these pretentious, pretend palaces, with their Styrofoam walls and columns back to perfectly good cow fields, but that is the tragedy of “Growth”, (don’t get me started on Growth).
Although the Imperial Parkway location does make the most sense for our school for many reasons, I will be sporting a large, wicked grin on my face whenever the first shovel of dirt is turned on either location. School Board, Rise Up! It is time to show some muscle! It is time to do both what is right for our real community, and to show our little make-believe kingdoms how insignificant their blow-hard opinions are. Though all of the nonsensical predictions of doom and gloom won’t come to fruition when the High School is built, I still hope that it will make these selfish curmudgeons miserable for their remaining years.
In a poetically perfect world, Hawthorne and Hunter’s Ridge would each choose their youngest warrior and march him out past their Guard House to do battle against the other kingdom’s chosen warrior. Wielding Nerf swords and brightly festooned Depends undergarments, this geriatric duel would determine which empire would remain pristine, and which would be utterly destroyed by having a new high school nearby.
It is not a perfect world, but having happy, educated kids is a first step in striving for one. Shame on you selfish bastards! Where did you go to school? Shame, shame. You all are embarrassments to Bonita Springs. Go home.
P.S.—As for the nickname for our Bonita Springs High School, I am casting my vote for either the “Black Bears”, or the “Chupacabras”.