Thursday, December 9, 2021

Tarik Ayasun Retires as Middle School Board President

Photos by Scott H. Shook
| Board of Director’s President Tarik Ayasun says goodbye after 21 years of involvement with Marco Island Charter Middle School.


When Tarik Ayasun reflects back over his 18 years of service to the Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS) Board of Directors, he is flooded with fond memories.

Ayasun has been there from the beginning. Most of his 18 years were spent as president of the board. He was also vice-president. He also sat out a couple of years. Interestingly, he got involved through his wife, Janice.

Tarik Ayasun passes the leadership of the board of directors to David Lupo.

“When the school first opened,” Ayasun recalls, “they put my wife Janice on the board. She only lasted one meeting because she thought there was fighting, and it was kind of difficult. So, she asked me to go on the board. So that’s how it started. And I’ve been there all along. It just been a great, great adventure. I think it was an excellent 18 years I spent there. I cannot be prouder of Marco Island Charter Middle School. The only problem I have is the larger community still thinks we’re a private school because of all of the achievements we have made. We are a public charter school. The only difference is we have our own charter, and we act accordingly. We still report to the district, but we’re independent on a lot of things we do. We are closer to the parents than a regular public school. So, in my opinion that’s what makes our yearly grade A in Collier County. It’s difficult. You can only be an A – where do you go from there? You can’t be an A-plus. It’s great teachers, good principals, assistant principals.”

One accomplishment stands out above the others for Ayasun.

“The building of the school building,” Ayasun stated proudly. “We were in trailers as you know. We’ve had some great board members who worked very hard to do that. My dear friend who passed away about a month ago, Don York, was the president of the district school board. He was instrumental in giving us the building. We actually paid for the gym ourselves – that was part of the deal. That’s how the school came about. We made it very modern, very beautiful.”

Though he has been extremely involved every step of the way with the middle school, he makes no bone about it – his involvement in running the school ended the day of his resignation.

“My last words were ‘I will not interfere,’” Ayasun said, “either directly or indirectly, from this point on. It’s your baby now. Take it to a higher place in Collier County and the nation. And I mean that. I’m corporate. I know how these things work. The CEO leaves and that’s the last day. He shouldn’t come back to harass the people and tell them, ‘this is how we used to do it.’ That’s over now. For me, I’ve done my time and I’ll just enjoy reading about them and enjoying their successes.”

That doesn’t mean that he is done giving back to the school he loves.

“One of the projects that I have,” Ayasun said, “and I’m going to be laser focused on it, is to bring a brand-new field to the middle school for football and soccer. We are working on the permits and everything, then drawings, then funding. And hopefully in the next two years I want to see a new field, artificial turf, with stands on the side, where we can put advertising and sell seats. When I was president, I was limited as to what I could do. But now I’m not associated – I’m outside as a friend of the school. I have access to funding, and we want to do this. I’m the head of the MICMS foundation. I do have funding, and I will be looking for donations and contributions. I want to make this a reality. That’s my big project. I love soccer. I think it’s one of the best sports. People love it. Soccer is loved in this area.”

Besides his unbinding love of MICMS, Ayasun has a lifelong love of soccer. It was soccer, after all, that brought him to the United States in 1969.

“I played soccer at the University of Maryland,” Ayasun said. “I came from Turkey on a scholarship. I played four years. We had one national championship and four Atlantic Coast Championships. I was a goalie. I coached the girls’ team at MICMS a number of times.”

There are several names that stand out for Ayasun as he reflects on the impressive history of the middle school. At the top of the list has to be George Abounader, the school’s longtime principal.

Attorney David Lupo takes over as president of the board for the Marco Island Charter Middle School.

“For many years George Abounader was the principal,” Ayasun said. “I appointed him. I was on that first board who hired him. We had two others, but they didn’t last long. So, what we can say is he was the longest-serving principal. He retired last year. He was a very good community representative for us. He was a good principal. We were very lucky to have him. And of course, Maureen Marcoux. A first-class lady. She was instrumental in the day-to-day operations. Making sure the school ran smoothly without any issues. Between the two of them they ran a very tight ship. Really, the school reached unbelievable heights. Every year being the best school in the county and 14th in the state. We really did well. I don’t want to take any credit. I really think it’s a credit to the really good board members we’ve had over the years. And excellent teachers and administrators – it’s all a credit to them.”

Ayasun feels the school is in good hands with principal Michele Wheeler.

“Michele Wheeler, I have to send her home by force on Sundays when she is there,” Ayasun said. “These people are paid well, but they are dedicated. They like that this is a charter that they can contribute to. My heartfelt feeling is that I love this school. It’s been the best thing for Marco Island. I wish we could have done more. I wish we could take all the kids. But we’re limited by our class size. Many people contribute. If you go to the school today, there are parent volunteers painting the classrooms. That’s part of their volunteer hours. Every parent has to contribute 40 volunteer hours to the school. This is what a community school should be like.”

Another important person at the school is Maria Hayden. Hayden is the Swiss Army Knife of MICMS. Her main title is comptroller. But she’s also the registrar, data entry person, office manager and volunteer coordinator. Ayasun was so impressed with Hayden that he hired her to work at his business, Taray International. She worked with him at Taray for 10 years.

“She makes such savings for the school,” Ayasun said of Hayden. “It’s beyond belief. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank her. She was working there when I first met her. I was so impressed with her I asked if she would work with me at Taray. She is unbelievable when it comes to being a financial director. She knows everything. I would trust her with my life, I’ll tell you that much. Getting grants, getting funding. She reduced our money that we pay to the district for our busses, she gets free meals at lunch.”

Hayden is going to miss Ayasun.

“He was the president when we started the new school building,” Hayden said. “He helped to get this building put together. I would say that was his major accomplishment. And just trying to keep us afloat financially. He’s always contributed to help the school. Tarik’s legacy is getting this building built.”



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