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Kiwanis Club honors two community heroes

By Staff | Nov 2, 2010

Kiwanians have so few heroes — other than Dick Muench, of course — so last week it was refreshing to hear from one Kiwanian’s hero, Donna Mutzenard, Executive Director of Island Coast Florida Education Association, the local teachers’ union.

Mutzenard was credited with a leadership role in maintaining labor harmony in the Lee County School District with the successes at Tropic Isles Elementary School, which has risen from arguably the lowest in the district to last year’s only educational winner of the Governor’s Sterling Award.

Tropic Isles also has become one of the few Glasser Quality Schools in the world, and has made AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) under the “No Child Left Behind Act” more times than any other school in the district. Mutzenard has been instrumental in encouraging and supporting these ideas spread to other schools.

She was happy to announce that over 90 percent of teachers have approved a labor agreement with the district that is awaiting approval of the board.

What leads to classroom success? Many things including the intelligent and extensive use of data, good teachers and engaged parents. What is the union’s take on proposal 8 – class size? It puts more kids in class but does not remove the problem of having to add a teacher and a classroom when the limit is exceeded by one. It takes the problem it is intended to fix and moves it up the line, but adds no flexibility.

Teacher tenure was a hot item: Basically Mutzenard favors removing underperforming teachers for cause, and there are recently instated procedures, including 90 days of remediation, for dealing with the situation. Several remediation are in work now. She favors merit pay, but has found no satisfactory means of discerning merit. Class and school composition are uncontrollable factors. A good education about education. No one left early.

This week we heard a truly remarkable story from Stella Farwell, a Captiva Resident who successfully battled ovarian cancer. She is now a “one person campaign” for ovarian cancer helping to educate people about the silent killer. Among her many accolades, Stella is from “N’awlins,” she has skydived, she has been a firefighter and she is also the past president (and first female president) of the Captiva Civic Association.

One in 58 women will have ovarian cancer, and there are no obvious symptoms. Women who experience bloating, abdominal pain or have a history of cancer in their families should get a physical exam to check for this type of cancer. There is no national organization publicizing the severity of this disease, and once one gets to stage three, there is only a 29 percent survival rate. Thank goodness Stella beat the odds and is personally making a difference in the world. Her goal is to help at least one person not make the same journey she had to make.

Farwell is also a wonderful artist, and she shared many of her projects in a DVD showing how art can be very therapeutic and rewarding while battling a disease.

Let’s not forget to acknowledge the birthdays of five Kiwanians: Armand Ball, Bruce Neill Peter Kendall, Lee Derleth, Don Matlock and John Howard.