Following up on the overwhelming success of the bus-on-demand service Key West Rides, the City of Key West is moving ahead with more modifications of its local transit system.
On Monday, June 5, the Key West Department of Transportation will launch a new service called the Work Force Express that will replace the current North and South bus transportation lines.
“The City of Key West and Key West Transit (KWT) is launching a new express route and implementing service adjustments to help improve service reliability, schedules, and performance,” said Director Rod Delistrinos.
The route will run directly from Stock Island to Bahama Village at set times allowing workers to have reliable, affordable transportation into the heart of the Island City. The service will also alleviate congestion at The Triangle, the intersection at the entrance of the Island where U.S. 1 meets North and South Roosevelt boulevards.
The Workforce Express bus will travel on Truman Avenue (North Roosevelt) and Duck Avenue during peak hours, only stopping at designated bus stops. The new service will run seven days a week, and Delistrinos hopes it will provide a more efficient, low-stress alternative to driving while improving mobility and convenience.
The service will begin each day at Cross Street and U.S. 1 on Stock Island from 6 a.m. to 10:10 a.m., with multiple stops. It will then resume at 3:40 p.m. along the same route, running until 8:27 p.m.
The move is directed to provide workers with affordable, reliable transportation during peak times. If riders don’t live near one of the stops, they can use the Key West Rides service to get them closer.
For example, somebody living in the Salt Ponds area can take Key West rides to a stop along Duck Avenue (the closest point of service) and then catch the Work Force Express at a time-certain stop.
In the offing, the Transit Authority hopes to unveil a booking feature on its Key West Rides app, allowing riders to schedule rides ahead of time. The city is also looking at adding additional resources to the Key West Rides service with the suspension of the North and South Lines.
For a complete list of Key West Workforce Express times and stops, visit http://www.kwtransit.com.
Monroe County School District Superintendent Theresa Axford has named three new principals for the 2023-2024 school year, with Trevor Tyler taking the helm of Sugarloaf School, Melissa Alsobrooks leading Gerald Adams Elementary in Key West and Linda Diaz serving as principal of Stanley Switlik Elementary in Marathon.
All three have extensive experience with the district and are looking forward to their new positions, according to Axford.
Axford said Tyler’s calm demeanor and gentlemanly ways will be a true asset at Sugarloaf School.
“I am so proud to name him principal of a school where I spent so many happy years myself as principal,” Axford said. “He is a true believer that every child can be successful and an advocate for teachers and staff. I know he will be successful in this new role because he has a history of great success in all past assignments.”
Tyler is currently an assistant principal at Marathon High School and will take over for retiring Principal Brett Unke at Sugarloaf School for the upcoming school year. Tyler earned his bachelor of science in biology from Erskine College in South Carolina and his master’s degree in education leadership from the online school the American College of Education. He began his educational career as a science teacher in North Florida and quickly moved into a Columbia County District Instructional Leadership role before becoming a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Training Specialist for the Northeast Florida Educational Consortium.
Upon moving to the Florida Keys, he began working with the district’s adult education program and served as the director of the program for three years before taking the assistant principal position at Marathon High School. While at the high school, Tyler has been instrumental in helping to reduce discipline, build relationships and is known for being willing to do whatever it takes to make the students and school succeed. He will take that enthusiasm to Sugarloaf where he hopes to continue to build on the Sharks successes, Axford said..
“I am truly honored to join the Sugarloaf School community as the new principal,” Tyler said. “I look forward to collaborating with the students, parents, staff and the community to create an environment that continues to promote academic excellence, and one that empowers others for a love of learning.”
Alsobrooks brings an extensive educational background to her role as principal of Gerald Adams Elementary, Axford said. She is the current Director of Accountability and Assessment and will move into the new position upon the retirement of Fran Herrin.
Alsobrooks began working with the school district in 2007 as an exceptional student education job coach, then moved into a science teaching position at Horace O’Bryant School where she quickly assumed leadership roles as a team leader, multitiered system of supports coordinator and facilitator of the STEM program. She became the science, health and wellness coordinator at the district level where she led professional development, provided instructional leadership and conducted data analysis for school improvement district wide. Before serving in her current role, she spent time as the assistant principal of Key West High School.
Alsobrooks has a bachelor of science in physiology degree and a bachelor of arts degree in linguistics from Michigan State University. She earned a master’s degree in educational administration and leadership from the University of Texas. Her ability to collaborate with others and belief that building relationships is key to a positive school culture and student success will help her build on Dolphin Pride, Axford said.
“Melissa Alsobrooks continues to amaze me with her great level of skill and understanding of the educational process,” Axford said. “She will make an outstanding Principal at Gerald Adams School. Her love of students is what ignites the engine of her creativity and passion for education. I know that the teachers and staff at Gerald Adams Elementary School will enjoy her as a leader as she joins them in providing the best possible education there.”
Alsobrooks is excited to join the Gerald Adams family, she said.
“I’m looking forward to building new relationships and work collaboratively with teachers, staff and families next school year,” Alsobrooks said.
Diaz is filling the principal role at Stanley Switlik Elementary that has been vacated by Christine Paul, who will take over as principal at Marathon High School. Diaz moved to the Keys in 1988 and immediately connected with Monroe County School District as a substitute teacher while completing her bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Nova University.
During her 35-year career, she has held several key roles including teacher, program specialist for professional development, director of Title I and professional development, assistant principal and currently is an exceptional student education transition specialist, working with teachers, parents and students. Her skills in master scheduling, staff development training and implementing initiatives in schools are strengths she will bring to the new position. Diaz has earned a master’s degree in instructional technology and distance education from Nova University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Florida State University.
Upon moving to Marathon in early 2022, Diaz has become an active member of the Marathon Community including volunteering for the Marathon Community Theatre. She understands the connection between schools, families and community organizations which is a fabulous way to help the students succeed, Axford said. Diaz will bring a strong curriculum background to the role and is excited to collaborate with all Stanley Switlik Elementary stakeholders to continue its trend of academic success and being a standout community school that meets the needs of the students.
“Linda Diaz has extensive knowledge of our K-12 system so much so that I believe she will be a truly legendary principal at Stanley Switlik Elementary School,” Axford said. “I taught her in her undergraduate program many years ago and I recognized her as a person full of talent and potential. That impression has been proved correct consistently throughout her career. I know that in this leadership role, she will excel and she will have the opportunity to share her extensive knowledge and educational expertise with all the stakeholders at Stanley Switlik Elementary School.”
“As an active member of the Marathon community and a lifetime educator, I am thrilled to join the Stanley Switlik family,” Diaz added. “The talented teachers and staff are dedicated to students and families. As principal, I am excited to work together as a team to ensure that all students succeed and grow.”
If you haven’t booked your summer travel plans yet, AAA says you better do it soon. The group says it is seeing very strong bookings for cruises, tours, hotels and flights.
“Travel demand has come roaring back this summer and we’re already seeing large crowds at popular domestic and international travel destinations,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA. “The recent decision to lift all international travel restrictions will only add to demand.”
According to a new AAA travel survey, 83% of Floridians will travel this year. More than half (57%) will take a summer vacation. However, only a quarter (25%) of summer travelers have finalized their plans.
The most popular vacations they’re planning are:
• 40% – Beach destinations;
• 37% – Theme parks;
• 27% – City/major metro destination;
• 25% – Resort vacation (all-inclusive/multi-amenity hotels);
• 22% – National/state park.
Summer Travel Stats
• 87% plan to take a road trip. Leave early. Expect congestion near beaches and attractions, particularly on weekends and holidays. Traditionally, gas prices peak in the spring and fluctuate through the summer.
• 21% will not get a vehicle inspection before their road trip. AAA urges drivers to ensure their vehicle is road trip ready.
• 25% plan to take a commercial flight. To reduce the likelihood of flight delays or cancellations, book a non-stop flight that leaves early in the morning. Arrive at the airport at least two hours early. Download the airline’s mobile app to receive updates about your flight status. Consider travel insurance, which provides coverage options for flight cancellations and delays.
• 21% plan to take a cruise. Summertime sailings are filling up fast. In many cases, travelers are now looking at 2024 departures to find the itinerary they want. Travel advisors can unlock additional savings on airfare when bundling with a cruise.
• 38% plan to rent a car. Rental car availability has improved, yet inventory is likely to be tight at airports due to strong demand. Rates are often more expensive the closer you get to your desired rental date, so book early for the best combination of availability and price.
International travel bookings are up more than 200% compared to 2022. Ensure your passport is up to date. Strong demand and pandemic-related backlogs have led to passport processing delays. Wait times have increased from eight to 11 weeks to 10-13 weeks.
The AAA Consumer Pulse Survey was conducted online among residents of Florida from April 20-27. A total of 400 residents completed the survey. Survey results have a maximum margin of error of ±4.9% points.
Starting Tuesday, June 6, you’ll receive your Keys Citizen, as usual, but the printed newspaper will be delivered in addition to the electronic edition.
We’re changing our print publication days to Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, from Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. We’ll still provide e-editions of The Citizen five days a week, from Tuesday through Saturday, and we’ll update our website, http://www.keysnews.com, whenever breaking news occurs.
Paradise, our entertainment section, will appear in Thursday’s paper, along with Stream Scene, and SCORE, our local Sports magazine, will publish on Saturday, along with our Keys Life, Business and Keys Homes sections.
So, while some things have changed, you’ll still get the same great news, feature, Sports and entertainment coverage you’ve come to expect from your Keys Citizen.
For subscriptions, visit http://www.keysnews.com or call 305-292-7777.
A sparsely attended Marathon Council workshop session on Tuesday, May 23, took roughly 30 minutes to lay the groundwork for the upcoming 2023-24 city budget.
This was the first open budget discussion before the public. Councilman Kenny Matlock and Vice Mayor Robyn Still were absent. Attendance at the first four 2023 workshops had been mostly well-attended. Budget Director Jennifer Johnson opened by describing the three phases of the budgeting process.
Department heads would submit their requests and projections first, followed by a council review and then council adoption. The entire process would ramp up in July, after which a determination will be made to confirm that Truth in Millage (TRIM) compliance aligns with local property taxes and is sufficient to support the city’s budget.
Councilman Jeff Smith asked Johnson to make sure the city’s human resources budget takes staffing and compensation into appropriate account. He suggested a compensation study to confirm the 9.2% salary increase, which Johnson intends to budget, is the city’s best route. Smith believes the city made a mistake last year with “blanket increases”, which he’s not in favor of for the coming fiscal year, he said. He cited increases for “performers verses under-performers” as a more appropriate way to assign staff increases, he said.
Staffing across Fire, Building, Code and IT departments was also discussed. The city has maintained for months it needs to attract more code compliance officers to manage the boat ramps and beach parking fees. Smith also suggested the city “get creative” in recruiting as Marathon is competing with Key West and the county for government staffers, he said.
The city’s capital infrastructure plan for 2021-2025 was also briefly discussed, as the council will be charged with determining plans for The Quay property, the 7 Mile Marina, Parks and Recreation and for wastewater projects and programs. While most of the wastewater funding comes from the federal government, the city does bear some funding responsibility, City Manager George Garrett said.
Other items mentioned included boat ramp and parking fees and how that will filter into the general fund, BPAS refunds and the city’s affordable housing fund. Smith also suggested that Transfer of Building Rights (TBR) fees should be examined and may need to increase.
Farmer Jeanne Sealander reports to News Director Joe Moore and Chuck Thomas on the animals and people at the Key West zoo, better known as the Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm.
Also on Morning Magazine,
• J.W. Cooke, Keys Citizen Managing Editor
• Judy Hull, Islamorada Chamber of Commerce President
• Joanne Backman, bartender at Rick’s Tree Bar in Key West
• Chris Seymour, Keys Citizen Executive Editor
• Cory Young, Florida Keys singer-songwriter
On Evening Edition, host Ron Saunders talks with Florida Department of Health-Monroe Administrator Dr. Carla Fry