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Date of Issue: May 11, 2006

AME dedication draws 600 guests

AME students and Principal Kathy Hayes lead guests from the auditorium to the flag pole during the May 1 dedication ceremony.

Approximately 600 people attended the official opening celebration of the new Anna Maria Elementary School campus the evening of May 1.

Festivities began in the school auditorium, open for the first time since its partial renovation. Parents, kids and guests packed the darkened room - so many that some had to stand. Opening the celebration, AME Principal Kathy Hayes addressed the school board members, saying, "If ever a school needed an auditorium, does this not show you we do?" She was referring to the fact that the auditorium was almost eliminated from the plan.

Each class paraded into the room tossing confetti and balloons as they passed the crowd on their way to the stage.

After all were assembled on stage, Hayes introduced several speakers, including district school board chair Frank Brunner, Manatee County School Superintendent Roger Dearing, contractor W.G. Mills representative Tom Peacock and AME construction team representative Mike Pierce.

The challenges endured throughout the construction process were not lost on any of the speakers, almost all of whom made light comments - cracking jokes that, luckily, the audience found humorous.

Brunner began by commenting on the choice of music played as students entered. "I'm glad you're in a lot better mood than the last time I was here. We've gone from ‘Another One Bites the Dust' to ‘Celebrate.'"

Brunner said this school is what happens when you take a leap of faith and that he felt fortunate to help deliver this school to a well-deserving community - one with a long, proud tradition of success that will continue for many years to come.

Dearing recalled how he learned about the AME community. His sixth day on the job as Manatee County's new superintendent of schools, he got a call from an Islander reporter inquiring "if I knew there were people ready to chain themselves to trees? .... Later that night I showed up here for the superintendent roast," he said, referring to the furor over the bulldozing of one of two oak hammocks and the community meeting that followed.

All jokes aside, Dearing acknowledged that concessions were made on both sides and thanked the community for its support.

Guests followed students outside to the flagpole, where Cub Scout Pack 7 raised the American flag for the first time since completion of the school. AME fifth-grader Lindsay Bell sang the "Star-Spangled Banner" and former AME students Trina Rizzo, Blake Rivers, Rachel White, Shelby Shinn, Matt Danziger and Justin Suca led students in reciting the school pledge.

Guests then proceeded to the front entrance where Hayes and Dearing quickly snipped a ceremonial ribbon and everyone piled into the new building.

In the school cafeteria, W.G. Mills provided refreshments and, as people waited in line, there were several opportunities to order memorabilia items.

AME parent and photographer Rolf Bertram is taking orders for artistically enhanced photographic images of the old AME campus. A catalog of his work is available at the school for viewing. Ten percent of each order benefits the school art department.

Island artist Rob Reiber, a Manatee High School art teacher, is selling a watercolor print entitled "Our Little School by the Bay," and all proceeds benefit the school.

Members of the school's memorabilia committee also took orders for T-shirts, featuring an old black-and-white photo of the school that was found in the school archives.

Memorial brick pavers are also on sale, and there are plans to feature Reiber's watercolor image on a T-shirt before the end of the school year. For more information, call the school at 708-5525.

As guests finished mingling in the cafeteria, AME fifth-graders took groups on tours of the campus.

Seen mingling among the crowd were Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann; Island Mayors John Chappie, SueLynn and Carol Whitmore; Holmes Beach City Commissioners Sandy Haas-Martens and David Zaccagnino; former Holmes Beach City Commissioner Billie Martini who volunteered at the school for many years and donated funding for the outdoor "gym"; Chief Jay Romine and School Resource Officer Pete Lannon of the Holmes Beach Police Department; all members of the Manatee County School Board; former teachers and principals including Jim Kronus, Tim Kolbe and Larry Simmons, Elizabeth Moss and Joyce Ellis, many Island Rotarians, families and "friends" of AME.