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Elmbrook School District celebrates its first 50 years

Aug. 25, 2014

Sherry Power vividly recalls her early years as an educator at the long-defunct Cottage School on Brookfield's south side.

It was 1970, and she was threading film projectors, watching children on playground equipment that would be considered unsafe by today's standards, and working alongside professionals who adhered to a far stricter dress code.

"In many ways, it is different today," said Power, who was one of several people who offered reflections Saturday as the Elmbrook School District capped off its 50th anniversary celebration festivities. She was named one of four outstanding educators during the program.

But Power, who retired in 2012, said there has been one constant throughout Elmbrook's history: "I had incredible support from parents who just literally never quit."

A referendum

The Elmbrook School District came to be in 1964 in the aftermath of a referendum. A narrow margin of Brookfield and Elm Grove voters agreed that consolidating a mix of small kindergarten through eighth grade districts, along with a separately governed high school, would enhance educational opportunities and save taxpayers money.

Jill Siegfried vividly recalls the steps toward consolidation. Siegfried, who was one of three persons named to an outstanding alumni list, was 9 years old in 1963. Her father was among the residents who touted the benefits of consolidating the assorted districts in Brookfield and Elm Grove.

"He believed more money could be spent on education," Siegfried said. "There were some unhappy people because change is difficult. A lot of people loved their little schools."

Siegfried, a 1970 graduate of Brookfield Central High School, said about 5,000 votes were cast during that pivotal moment. Three thousand of those voters favored consolidating the districts into what today is known as Elmbrook.

Waxing and waning

Power mentioned the rise and reduction in the number of schools in recent decades — a reflection of declining enrollment. In the 1960s, families were larger than most are today, and there was a greater need for more schools. Over time, however, student numbers have dwindled.

Throughout its history, Elmbrook's name has been behind 19 schools — many inherited after the consolidation took hold. Ten of the schools exist today.

"We may have fewer students, but we've never given up on the excellence," said Superintendent Mark Hansen, the sixth top administrator in the district's history. "We think, as an organization, about going from great to greater. Elmbrook is a great district, but we're not done yet."

Mayor Steve Ponto, who attended the celebration, spoke briefly and lauded school officials for their strong collaboration with municipal leaders. Ponto pointed to the Wilson Center for the Performing Arts — the venue that hosted the golden anniversary — as an example of the bond.

"The city of Brookfield has a lot going for it … and one of the single most important things going for it is the Elmbrook School District," Ponto said. "Our futures are inextricably intertwined."

Eleven win awards

Eleven people were named 2014 spotlight award winners as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. The recipients was named after a nomination process.

In addition to Siegfried, outstanding alumni included Tom Grisa and Ted Kanavas, who graduated from Brookfield East High School in 1980 and 1979, respectively.

Honored in the "outstanding educators" category, in addition to Power, were Rick Domach, a facilities and district grounds manager from 1991 to the present; Amy Jacobson, an elementary art teacher from 1998 to the present; and Don Siegfried, who retired as Elmbrook's business manager in 1990 after 35 years of service.

Additionally, four businesses and organizations were named outstanding partners for offering programs and services benefiting the district and its services. Honorees included technology and packing company KHS, Stir Crazy, Trace-a-Matic and Wheaton Franciscan.

ELMBROOK SCHOOLS

OVER THE YEARS

· Brookfield Central High School, 1955-Present

· Brookfield East High School, 1961-Present

· Brookfield Elementary School, 1931-Present

· Brookside Elementary School, 1954-1984

· Burleigh Elementary School, 1965-Present

· Cottage Elementary and Middle School, 1846-1973

· Dixon Elementary School, 1950-Present

· Fairview North Elementary School, 1866-1984

· Fairview South School, 1961-Present

· Hillside Elementary School, 1969-2012

· Leland Elementary School, 1930-1983

· Linfield Elementary School, 1951-1999

· Oakhill Elementary and Middle School, 1950-1978

· Pilgrim Park Middle School, 1958-Present

· Shady Nook Elementary and Middle School, 1855-1962

· Swanson Elementary School, 1960-Present

· Tonawanda Elementary School, 1969-Present

· Wisconsin Hills Middle School, 1969-Present

-· Woodside Elementary School, 1846-1973

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