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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Dirt flies at Anna Maria Elementary School
Words of dedication
Manatee County Superintendent of School Roger Dearing addressed a crowd of Anna Maria Elementary School parents, staff, teachers and community members with a brief dedication to the official start of construction at the Island campus. Dearing said AME's groundbreaking ceremony drew the largest crowd compared to similar ceremonies he attended in the past year. Islander Photos: Diana Bogan
Curious kids
Youngster from Anna Maria Elementary School couldn't help but take a closer look at the shovels and hard hats needed to set things in motion for a new building on the Island campus.
Breaking ground
Representatives from the Manatee County School District, Anna Maria Elementary School Construction Team and Holmes Beach broke ground on the site where the Island school's new facility will be constructed. Representatives digging in include AME Principal Kathy Hayes, school board member and former AME Principal Larry Simmons, Superintendent Roger Dearing, AME parent and construction team member Michael Pierce, school board member Frank Brunner, school board member Harry Kinnan, AME School Advisory Committee member Don Schroder, school board member Barbara Harvey, Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, Holmes Beach Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens, and parent/construction team member Suki Janisch.

The dirt finally started flying at Anna Maria Elementary School as students, staff, neighbors and district representatives celebrated the official start of construction at the Island campus.

Over the past few months, construction crews have been actively depositing fill, laying the grid work and support footers and putting up concrete block for the new two-story building.

But, Tuesday, Jan. 25, was the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Island school.

The ceremony was well attended not only by the AME community but also Holmes Beach City Commissioners Don Maloney and Sandy Haas-Martens, Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson and Holmes Beach Community Resource Officer Pete Lannon.

School board members attending the ceremony included Barbara Harvey, Larry Simmons, Frank Brunner and Harry Kinnan. Also present was former AME Principal Tim Kolbe and his family, and Manatee County School Superintendent Roger Dearing was the keynote speaker.

Prior to breaking ground, there was an hour-long presentation in the auditorium that included comments by AME Principal Kathy Hayes, Dearing, Brunner, Kinnan and parent representatives Suki Janisch and Lynda Hicks. The highlight of the presentation included an opening ceremony featuring fourth-grader Lindsey Bell singing the "Star-Spangled Banner" and sisters Holly and Trina Rizzo singing the duet "Defying Gravity."

Students also performed several songs as a group and recited the student pledge, which was written by AME's fifth-grade student leadership team.

Hayes told the audience that the "journey" [to the new school] has made people examine their attitude towards change. "We want to be on the cutting edge yet stand firm and embrace our legacy and tradition," she said.

She said the community is vital to AME and this was a welcome day as the community celebrates a new vision for AME. "It's a long-awaited day," Hayes said.

Dearing also gave kudos to the tight-knit Island community, acknowledging that a stronger sense of community at AME makes it a real neighborhood school. He thanked the community for working with the school board to make this day happen.

Speaking on behalf of School Board Chairman Walter Miller, who was unable to attend, Frank Brunner addressed the packed auditorium.

Brunner said since the last time he addressed the community two summers ago, we have all "grown a little and tightened our belts."

"The commitment from the school board to the community has been there a long time," he said, "and I'm confident as people drive by AME they will say what a wonderful school it is."

"No community deserves a new school more than this one," added Kinnan. "No other community has more diligently and passionately waited."

Parent-Teacher Organization President Lynda Hicks said she is often asked if the wait has been worth it. "It will be when we walk through the door and see our kids learning in a healthy, loving atmosphere," she replied.

Following the presentations, the officials present ceremoniously broke ground behind the existing school on the site where the new facility will stand.

The construction team will be meeting soon to discuss renovations to the auditorium and an existing classroom. Hayes said she is advocating that the auditorium and classroom building be linked by an enclosed corridor. Since the classrooms will be renovated to house the art and music rooms, an enclosure would make it easier to transport props, scenery and costumes without being affected by the weather.

Hayes also said the anticipated opening for the new school has been pushed back from October to December 2005. She said this would actually make the transition into the new building less disruptive to students because teachers could move in over the winter break.