THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2013
STAFF CHANGES by Observer Staff
by Robin Hartill | News Editor
North end: Getting younger? Some families with school-age children say they’re seeking the close-knit environment Longboat Key has to offer.
“There are no kids there.” That’s what Stephanie Fischer first thought four years ago when she moved her family, including sons Noah and Miles, now 12 and 14, to Longboat Key. At the time, she noticed Anna Maria Island changing after living there for six years. “It was great, it was beautiful and we loved it,” Fischer said of Longboat’s northern neighbor. “But it was really starting to turn a little more commercial, and it wasn’t as many residents.” Fischer was drawn to Longboat after hearing what a close-knit community it had for young families. “There are definitely older people, but they’re just so welcoming to young families,” Fischer said. “I definitely feel like there are some younger families.” Young families? On Longboat Key? It’s not an oxymoron. The island’s median age was 70.4 at the time of the 2010 U.S. Census, but 199 of the Key’s 6,888 full-time residents were under age 18. In October, Sleepy Lagoon resident Craig Altizer highlighted issues that affect the youngest residents when he told the Longboat Key Town Commission about swelling class sizes in Anna Maria Elementary School and the increasing number of families with school-age kids that are moving to the north end of the Key. He named 11 children to the Longboat Observer in his neighborhood alone who are elementary and middle school ages. His wife, Marta Altizer, a Realtor for Michael Saunders & Co. who first told Fischer about the north end, said families are increasingly drawn to Longboat Key.
A group of approximately a dozen children trick-or-treated in the Longbeach Village on Halloween night. “Because we don’t have (short-term) rentals here, when you let your kids go outside, you know who your neighbors are,” Marta Altizer said. But, according to current School District of Manatee County records, just 13, or 4.92%, of Anna Maria Elementary School’s students have Longboat Key addresses. So, where are all the children? According to Marta Altizer, many students attend private schools such as St. Stephen’s Episcopal School or Bradenton Christian School on the mainland or are home-schooled. She believes some students at Anna Maria Elemen-
BY THE NUMBERS ANNA MARIA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Current students: 264 2012-13 school year: 257 2011-12 school year: 285
LONGBOAT KEY’S POPULATION
STUDENTS WITH A LBK ADDRESS Current school year 2012-13 school year 2011-12 school year
13 16 19
4.92% 6.17% 6.66%
Source: Manatee County Schools
Under 5: 39 5 to 9: 58 10 to 14: 62 15 to 19: 64 Total population: 6,888 Source: 2010 U.S. Census
tary who live on the Key might not have up-to-date addresses registered with the school. She also finds that some families bring their children to the Key part time, mostly for summers and weekends. “There’s like this little subgroup of kids who don’t get counted,” Marta Altizer said. Commissioner Pat Zunz, whose district includes the north end, recently met with Anna Maria Elementary PTA President Monica Simpson to discuss school-related issues. Zunz has noticed more kids on the Key in recent years; she points to the number of trick-or-treaters this year in the Longbeach Village. She plans to continue tracking issues in the school system. “We would like to be a force to facilitate some positive change in the system rather than to be critical,” Zunz said. Still, Emerald Harbor resident Helen Smith, whose children Zac, 12, and Sarah, 14, attend Bradenton Christian School, hasn’t noticed a major influx of kids on the Key since her family relocated from Clarkesville, Ga., three years ago — not that her kids seem to mind. She lists the activities they participate in, including sailing at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, fishing and tennis at Cedars Tennis Resort. “I think they’re in paradise,” Smith said. “I knew about Longboat Key for years, but I don’t remember a lot of kids ever being on the island. But my kids
Observer Group announces promotions Reflecting the company’s continued growth, the Observer Media Group Inc. announced several management changes this week. Lisa Walsh, co-owner with her husband, Matt, and longtime executive editor of the company’s community newspapers, is taking on the role of publisher of the company’s four SarasotaManatee community newspapers. Kat Hughes, currently managing editor of the Business Observer, has been Walsh promoted to executive editor of the Business Observer, Sarasota Observer, Longboat Observer, East County Observer and Pelican Press. In addition, the company has promoted Observer advertising executives Lori Ruth and Penny DiGregorio Hughes to sales managers. Over the past three years, the company has expanded to other regions of Florida. It publishes weekly Observer newspapers in Palm Coast and Ormond Beach on the east coast, and this summer the company entered a joint venture with the Tampa Bay Times to publish the Plant City Times & Observer. “With growth comes additional tugging and pulling for our attention,” said Matt Walsh, editor and CEO of Observer Media Group. “It’s part of the normal evolution that responsibilities shift. As a third-generation newspaper woman, Lisa knows everything about the business; she has been involved in our papers since we began here in 1995; and she, more than anyone in our company, knows the communities and people we cover. She’s a perfect fit for the publisher role — and I’m not saying that just to keep peace in the house. “Likewise, Kat has demonstrated great leadership since she joined our company in 2004 as a reporter,” Walsh said. “And at age 32, she represents a great bridge to the future. She and Emily Walsh, our chief digital officer, will continue to lead our transition to becoming a multimedia company.” Hughes is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In 2006, she was named managing editor of the Bradenton Observer, and in 2007 managing editor of the Longboat Observer. After moving with her husband to Missouri and Wyoming for four years, Hughes rejoined the company in 2011 as managing editor of the weekly Business Observer, formerly the Gulf Coast Business Review. She completed her M.B.A. at the University of Wyoming in 2012.
Longboat Observer 11.14.13