Manatee County honors students with perfect school attendance

MANATEE COUNTY -- In most cases, it runs in the family.

A desire to learn and a competitive nature helped propel four Manatee County students toward perfect attendance awards. Margaret Hartley, Cameron Pearcey, Joshua Schmidt and Tim Monroe all completed 13 years without missing a day of school from the first day of kindergarten until the last day of senior year.

Five students were listed as having achieved perfect attendance at the Manatee County School Board meeting last week, including two from Manatee High School and three from Lakewood Ranch High School.

Lakewood Ranch High School student Wanley Desir did not attend the meeting, and could not be reached for comment. Desir has not yet graduated, said Mike Mullen, assistant principal, and is working with the online Smart Horizons program to finish his diploma.

Margaret Hartley

Hartley said she wanted to beat her dad.

Her father, Richard Hartley, missed two days of school while growing up in Georgia. In elementary school, Hartley hatched a plan to go every day.

"I said in first or second grade I was going to beat that," Hartley said. "I could have lost a limb and still gone to school."

Hartley grew up in Georgia and moved to Manatee County in the ninth grade where she enrolled at Lakewood Ranch High School.

Hartley said her mother knew she'd be able to do it. She rarely gets sick, and when she did, it was normally over the weekend and had cleared up by the time school resumed Monday.

Hartley will attend Florida Atlantic University in the fall. She's not sure yet what she'll study, but she'll try to attend all classes still.

"I like routine and everything. I'm very used to going to school, doing this, having summer break," Hartley said.

Hartley has two younger siblings. Alexander, 16, will be a junior at Lakewood Ranch in the fall and Katherine, 13, will start eighth grade at Haile Middle School. They've both missed at least one day of school, Hartley said.

Cameron Pearcey

At the end of sixth grade, where he received another yearly perfect attendance certificate, Cameron Pearcey realized he was on track for perfect attendance.

"It came to me that I'd been getting quite a few of them at the end of each year. It was just something I realized," he said.

Pearcey attended every day at Kinnan Elementary School, Braden River Middle School and Lakewood Ranch High School. He played four years on the Lakewood Ranch High School baseball team, which he said also helped keep him in school every day.

His older brother. Chris, a Lakewood Ranch High School Class of 2014 graduate, also compiled a perfect attendance record.

"I wasn't going to let him do it if I had the power to do it myself," Pearcey said. "I never really wanted to take a day off. I like going to school."

Pearcey will attend Coastal Carolina University this summer, play on the baseball team and plans to study sports management. He plans to attend all college classes as well.

"Education's very important," he said.

Joshua Schmidt

Most of Joshua Schmidt's friends thought he was pretty crazy for going to school every day.

"I thought it was pretty crazy, too, actually," he said.

Schmidt had a long family history to uphold, so he attended every day at Anna Maria Elementary School, King Middle School and Manatee High School.

His older sister, Courtney, graduated from Manatee High in 2013 with perfect attendance. His mom, Jennifer, and his uncle, Jeremy Gilmore, also won perfect attendance awards.

"My mom and my uncle did it. Then my sister did. And I was like why not? I'm on track for it," he said.

One family member who didn't make it to school every day: Schmidt's dad, Collin.

Schmidt was a four-year member of the Manatee High swim team, competing in the 50 freestyle, 100 free, 100 relay and 400 relay. Being on a sports team and rarely getting sick helped keep Schmidt in school.

Schmidt will attend State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota in the fall. He's not sure what he'll study yet, but after two years at SCF he'd like to transfer to a four-year school, maybe Florida State University.

Tim Monroe

At the end of fifth grade at Palma Sola Elementary School, Tim Monroe got a six-year attendance award, which inspired him to surpass that.

"It kind of made me keep going," said Monroe, who attended every day at King Middle School and Manatee High School. "I just woke up every day and went to school."

Once he entered high school, Monroe had another reason to attend every day: He wanted to graduate within the top 10 percent of students at Manatee High.

"I knew if I missed school or something like that I'd fall behind in class," he said. "I wanted that goal."

He made it.

Monroe lives with his parents, Shawn and Kim, and his younger sister, Amber, will be a sophomore at Manatee High next year. She missed a day of school because she was sick.

Monroe will attend Eckerd College in the fall to major in marine biology. He doesn't plan to miss class, but acknowledged it won't be quite as easy to keep up his perfect record.

"I'm going to go as much as I can," he said. "It's going to be a lot easier to miss. It's not as strict and set as high school."

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.