Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Duette Elementary opens school year with 16 students and one teacher

Lipman Farms manager Larry Moss joins Duette Elementary School students with their new backpacks. Provided photo

Duette Elementary School, Florida's last one-room, one-teacher school house, reopened this week with 16 students, the same enrollment as last school year.

Founded in 1930, Duette Elementary  actually has more than one room, but since the school has only one teacher, the students are usually in one room together. The school serves kindergarten through fifth grade.

Duette Elementary started as a "strawberry school" to allow children of farm families help bring in crops.

Donna King, the executive director of  Duette Education Foundation, Inc., provided a photo of this year's students with Larry Moss, manager of Lipman Farms, which provided stuffed back packs.

In 2009,  the Manatee School District decided it could not justify keeping the school open. Ever since, the Duette Education Foundation Inc. has been responsible for footing the bills to keep the school operating.

The community of Duette has more than 16 students, but many of them attend  conventional schools around Manatee County.

For more on the opening of  the 2014-2015 school year in Manatee County, see Meghin Delaney's story

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Going the extra mile to get the job done at Tara Community Development District meeting

Tara CDD chair John Schmidt, center, was flanked by district manager Matthew Huber on the left and district counsel John Vericker on the right. Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.
John Schmidt, chairman of  Tara Community Development District 1, was  hands-on during the district meeting Tuesday, July 29.

Not only did he offer audience members coffee before the meeting, he also sat down at a computer and opened the Skype connection to allow supervisor Michael Dyer to participate long-distance.

Also participating long-distance was supervisor Beth Bond, on a conference call, while watching the proceedings through a security camera in the community center.

During the meeting, two residents complained about the quality of lawn maintenance near their home. Schmidt promised that after the meeting he would stop by to check out the mowing for himself.

You had to admire the way Schmidt juggled having two long-distance supervisors taking part in the meeting, along with vice chair Joe Mojica, and supervisor  Dan Powers who were sitting around the dais.

By the way, those in the audience were sitting in chairs just as plush and comfortable as the supervisors. That's a rarity for audiences who at some meetings have a hard bench or folding chair for a seat.

For the business of the Tara CDD, see the Wednesday, July 30, Bradenton Herald/Lakewood Ranch Herald.
Tara CDD audience members watched the meeting from the comfort of executive chairs.  Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.
Michael Dyer participated  in the Tara Community Development District meeting via Skype. His image was shown on a flat-screen TV at right. Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

SWAT Networking Lakewood Ranch chapter honors new, returning members

Honorees at the July meeting of the SWAT Networking Lakewood Ranch Chapter. PHOTO PROVIDED
Six women were recognized as new and returning members at the July meeting of the SWAT Networking Lakewood Ranch Chapter.

Recognized were Shelly Gutowsky, of Boutique Out East; Debbie Lee, of Debbie’s Loving Pet Care; Laurel Rund, of Essence of Laurel; Kathleen Feeney, of Skin NV; Beth Prichard, of Planet Stone Marble and Granite; and Adrian Griffin, of Longboat Title.

SWAT, which stands for Successful Women Aligning Together, meets at four different locations around Manatee and Sarasota - Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton, Manasota and Nokomis. All women in business are welcome to attend.

Each month, a woman from each of the four chapters is honored for dedication and hard work, positive spirit and willingness to enhance themselves and their career. This month's Woman of the Month from the Lakewood Ranch Chapter is Tonya Merrill of Jennette Properties.

For more information, visit or contact Dr. Robyn Spirtas at 941-962-0884 or

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nolan Middle School FFA students make summer trips

Nolan Middle School FFA students recently returned from two summer trips.

The first was to the Florida Outdoor Adventures camp in Haines City, a four-day exploration into nature, sporting events wildlife management, firearm safety and hunter safety certification, challenge courses and leadership development.

The second was to the 86th Florida FFA State Convention & Expo, held in Orlando. FFA members and guests experienced motivational speakers, award presentations, exciting exhibits, challenging career development events, and plenty of entertaining activities. Many Nolan FFA students participated in state final career development events, which they qualified for throughout the school year. Kate Cranos, Shelby Parks, Jalyn Thompson, J. T. Girman, Hunter Martin and Savannah Freitag took part in the parliamentary procedure. Luke Cornwall also participated in extemporaneous speaking, and J.T. Girman was awarded fifth place in the state for his ornamental horticulture career development event.

Students also attended “A Day of Service” and visited a food bank in the Orlando area, where they sorted, boxed, weighed and labeled over 1,000 pounds of food. Along with attending general session meetings, students attended leadership workshops, working with state FFA officers from many states.

Here are some more photos of the students' trips, provided by Stefani Heidenthal, agriculture teacher at Nolan Middle School:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Junior members of Manatee County Cattlemen Association attend state convention

Members of the Junior Manatee County Cattlemen Association attending the state convention include, front, left, Genaveve Henson, Annabell Henson, back, left, Ben Hoffner, Chloe Bunyak, Casey Wingate, Anna Bunyak, Jennifer Green, and Darrylin Cannon. Provided photo

This year’s 2014 Florida Cattlemen Convention was held at the Marriott Marco Island Resort.

Attending for the Manatee Junior Team:

Marketing: Jennifer Green of Lakewood Ranch High School, Casey Wingate, who is home schooled, and Darrylin Cannon of Braden River High School.

Quiz Bowl: Genaveve Henson of Braden River High School, Chloe Bunyak,who is home schooled, Ben Hoffner of Palmetto High School, and Anna Bunyak, who is home schooled.

Public Speaking contest: Annabell Henson of King Middle School,  first place.

"We are very proud of our Sweetheart Jessie Embach.  She was a great representative for Manatee County, Cully Rowell said.

"All who attended had a great time watching the contestants, attending the meetings, and enjoying the great expo. Manatee County had approximately 86 members in attendance," he said.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Old ruin in Parrish remains a true mystery

Parrish ruin remains a mystery. Herald file photo
We were certain that the Bradenton Herald story about a mysterious ruin in Parrish that was published on July 4th would smoke out the truth.

It's mysterious masonry walls are scorched in places, and overgrown with semitropical vegetation.

No one seems to know much about it. Was it an old post office building? Was it an outpost during the Seminole Indian Wars?

Folks are asking, "What is it?" "When was it constructed?"

We want to know, too.

It could be one of the oldest buildings in Parrish, ironically situated among a row of modern neighborhoods between Old Tampa Road and the Manatee River.

Many of those who commented on the story wanted to know exactly where it was so that they could go out there with a metal detector. That's the reason we didn't give the exact location because it is private property and the neighbors would be unhappy with people tramping through the area.

Norma Kennedy, president of the Parrish Arts Council, said she is confident the truth will come out, especially after long-time Parrish residents see the photos of the ruin.

"There has been a lot of chatter on social media," Kennedy said July 9.

But we suspect that the folks who are old enough to know the story of the ruin probably are not  big users of social media.

So in case you missed it, here is a link to our story:

If you know what it is, give us a call at 941-745-7053.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bradenton resident Jack King returns from first visit to D-Day beaches in 70 years

Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr.  Jack King of Heritage Harbour returned recently from the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy with a whole new set of  memories.

Jack King
"The thing that impressed me most was the gratitude and hospitality of the people in Normandy," he told the Herald.

But it wasn't just the French who said thank you.

"Some of the German visitors came over and said thank you for saving their country," Lt. Cmdr. King said.

"Like my wife said, it's not like I didn't have an ego before," he said.

So much had changed since King was a young Navy radioman at Normandy during World War II, he had difficulty recognizing the place. It was the first time he had visited Normandy since D-Day.

King also visited the cemetery where thousands of U.S. fighters who lost their lives on Omaha and Utah beaches are buried.

"It was stirring, and it was emotional," said the 90-year-old.

While at Normandy for the observance that attracted many world leaders, King shook hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

For more on Jack King's memories of Normandy, visit