Category Archives: Schools

Partnering with Local Schools to Celebrate Arbor Day


The City of South Milwaukee is proud to once again be partnering with the South Milwaukee School District on a 2016 Arbor Day Celebration. 

The Street Department will be planting one tree at each one of the South Milwaukee elementary schools to commemorate our second-annual Arbor Day event.

Trees go in the ground starting April 22.

I want to thank Assistant Street Superintendent Dan Ratajski for his leadership on this event — another symbol of our city’s commitment to enhancing our urban forest. 

Much more to come in this area this spring, summer and beyond. 

Communities must invest in trees. And South Milwaukee is.



Filed under Schools, South Milwaukee

Taking a Virtual Tour of the World, and Beyond


Our students got to visit the moon, the jungle, and the Mayan ruins all in one class period.  It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

That’s the report from Brian Gannon, student learning and technology coordinator for the South Milwaukee School District.

He was speaking of the Google Expeditions Pioneer program, in which select schools across the country are getting the chance to use virtual reality headsets to explore sites from around the world — universe, even.

Last week, kids at Lakeview Elementary School took part in the pilot, and TMJ4 was there to do a story. Check it out here. Rawson students are also getting an opportunity. Mr. Gannon called it an “awesome experience” and thanked technology integration coach Tammy Lind for helping bring it to South Milwaukee …

The Google Expeditions program is an expansion of the Google Cardboard apps that have become more and more popular. Google envisioned ways to use this technology in schools by allowing teachers to choose a destination and bring all the students there with the press of a button. Google began touring around the country with these last year and has visited about 20 major cities in the U.S. On April 4, Google began its first stop in Wisconsin by choosing a small number of schools, based on people who signed up for the Expeditions explorer program. Tammy Lind was one of those people. Google contacted Tammy about visiting two schools in South Milwaukee – Lakeview, and Rawson. As of now, Expeditions is just in pilot mode.  In order to make it a reality for our schools in the near future, we would need to find/purchase a classroom set of old smartphones.  We could then purchase the viewers (Google Cardboard) and install the expeditions app for teacher use. 

Learn more about the Google Expeditions Pioneer program here.

Cool stuff.

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Improving Local Parks

Good riddance dilapidated, vandalism magnate, safety hazard of a building at Rawson Park.

Rawson shelter 1

Hello, new roof at Brown Pavilion at Grant Park (in plenty of time for summer activities like the traveling beer garden and July 4 festivities, following wind damage last month).


Thanks to the Milwaukee County Parks (and South Milwaukee School District in the case of the Rawson building) for performing this much-needed work.

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Something for Everyone: Rec Department Summer Guide Available


We’re big users of the South Milwaukee Recreation Department and other programming through the school district.

Basketball, football, South Milwaukee Youth Theater, the fitness center — that’s just a few of the offerings we’ve taken advantage of over the years, and continue to.

In other words, we watch closely for the arrival of the Rec Department’s seasonal guides. And the latest just came in the mail.

Check out the online version of the summer rec guide here … and join us in signing up for one of these great activities.

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Good Luck, Rocket Robotics!


I had a chance to meet Rocket Robotics, FIRST Team 3596, last week, and I left feeling so impressed with our next generation of engineers and the work they’re doing — as well as with the community and business partnership it takes to make their work possible.

The robotics team, in its sixth year at South Milwaukee High School, is 15-20 students strong and is led by Brian Niggemann, a Caterpillar engineer who volunteers countless hours of his time to mentor the team and prepare them for their annual competition. He is joined by three other Caterpillar employee volunteers who bring their engineering expertise and guidance to the kids you see pictured above.

Caterpillar is also a significant funder of the program, paying the team’s entry fee and also donating funds and equipment used in building the robots. In addition to Caterpillar, The Rotary Club of Mitchell Field stepped up with significant funding this year, as well as smaller contributions from Vito Clean, Alliance Manufacturing Group, and Styled Aesthetic.

But it really comes down to the kids and the passion they bring to this, which was clearly evident when I visited with them.

I wish them good luck at the FIRST Robotics Regional Competition, scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, March 25-26, at the Milwaukee Panther Arena downtown. Learn more about the competition here. It’s open to the public and free. Stop by and see these students in action, and I’m certain you’ll come away as impressed as I was.

Their robot is wrapped in plastic below. They didn’t want to risk me breaking it 🙂

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Filed under Local Business, Schools, South Milwaukee

School District Plans Prescribed Prairie Burn

The South Milwaukee School District is planning a prescribed burn for the prairie grass around its high school and middle school campuses later this month.

Applied Ecological Services will do the burn, weather permitting, March 28-April 1.

Check out the school district letter here.

And here is more information on the schools’ prairie, and images from the previous burn (including a few shown in this post). This is a story about the benefits of prescribed burns.


Filed under Fire, Schools, South Milwaukee

On Crossing Guards

You may have seen that the South Milwaukee City Council voted last week to enter into a contract with a firm to handle school crossing guard duties.

I agree with that decision.

In working with Twin City Security Inc., we are joining communities like Cudahy, West Allis, Wauwatosa, Waukesha and Shorewood who have decided that the best way to deliver this service is by partnering with a third-party firm to do it.

For South Milwaukee, it was a difficult choice, but the right one as we continue to look for more efficient ways to deliver our services.

There are seven school crossing guards in all, and, until the new contract, all were hired and managed by the South Milwaukee Police Department. The city funds four of them. The school pays the city back for the services of the other three. Going forward, Twin City will supply the guards, removing the burden of managing the program from the police department.

The SMPD has long managed to do more with less. The numbers don’t lie — on a per-resident basis, we have the smallest department in the area. And we must manage those resources closely, ensuring the department is delivering on its core responsibilities in every way possible. Managing the crossing guard program took away from that.

Day-to-day oversight of the program — from hiring to firing to payroll to dealing with absences and the like — has proven more and more time-consuming. The program literally has taken patrol officers of the street; at times, officers have had to man crossing guard stations to fill in for guards away from work. That is not acceptable to me.

No one is saying crossing guards are unimportant. However, when balanced with the other duties our police department performs, we feel this is the right move, especially with contracted program costs being similar to our internal costs.

I want to thank all of our guards for their service.

I know some have become local institutions, and we are honoring one of them — Helga Allen, stationed near E.W. Luther for many years — during our police awards ceremony at our May 17 council meeting.

All have also been offered a chance to apply at Twin City, and I hope they do.


Filed under City Council, City Services, Police, Schools, South Milwaukee

Spring Market Set For Palm Sunday

The second indoor farmers’ market is almost here, and note the new date and time: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Palm Sunday. See you there!

2016 Spring Market flyer

Stay on top of all market news on their Facebook page.


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Rocket Sports Update

From the South Milwaukee School District …

Good luck to all the student-athletes in action!


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Caitlin Schwanke, South Milwaukee. The 5-foot-9 senior who plays in the post and on the perimeter has helped the Rockets win four of their last five games to climb into third place in the Woodland East.

Last Friday she finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds in a 70-63 victory over Greenfield. In two of the team’s previous three victories, Schwanke ranked second on the team in scoring while tying for the team lead in rebounds and assists.

GIRLS BASKETBALL – The Rockets host DSHA for the freshman at 4:15pm on Friday and Ronald Reagan HS at 5:45pm for the JV and 7:30pm for the Varsity. Good luck Rockets!

Coach Jim Grassl’s Rocket Varsity Girls’ Basketball Team will open up WIAA Playoffs next Tuesday at 7:00pm at Greendale High School. All tickets are $4. Hopefully we can get a good crowd out at Greendale to help cheer them on to victory!

SWIM & DIVE – Coach Kasia Brzezicka’s Rockets finished up a very successful season by taking 6th out of 11 teams at Carthage College at WIAA Sectionals. A number of swimmers had great times competing against some of the best swimmers in the area. Dennis Lazaj took 5th in the 100 butterfly, the 200 medley relay of 1) Colin Sodemann JR 2) Ryan Hagen JR 3) Denis Lazaj SR 4) Nicholas Calkins SR took 5th, and Adam Brzezicki took 4th and Spencer Czarnecki took 5th in the 500 free.

WRESTLING – Coach Joel Shilling’s Rockets hosted the WIAA Regionals last Saturday at the Teff Gymansium and took second place out of the 8 teams competing which was a really good showing. Junior Ted Swanson qualified for Sectionals with his Regional Championship at 145 lbs! Also qualifying for WIAA Sectionals on Saturday at Racine Case were Eli Heller (2nd – 106 lbs), Isaiah Jasso (4th – 113 lbs), Ben Wesela (2nd – 120 lbs). Conrad Shilling (2nd – 126 lbs), Jacob Johnson (3rd – 160 lbs), Dakota Scott (3rd – 170 lbs), Adam Jones (2nd – 182 lbs), Jordan Phillips (4th – 195 lbs), & Raul Benavides (2nd – 285 lbs).

Good luck on Saturday at Racine Case. Wrestling starts at 10:00am and the cost is $8 for the whole day, $6 if you get there for the 2nd round and $5 if you are there just for the finals.

BOYS BASKETBALL – Coach John Riggins’ Rockets travel to Pius XI HS on Friday and then host Whitnall next WEDNESDAY to close out their regular season. Regional brackets will be determined on Sunday morning.

POMS – Coach Lara Sokolowski’s Rockettes finished their competition season narrowly missing out on advancing to State but had a really solid performance at WACPC Regionals a few weeks ago. 

CHEER – Coach Michele Sodemann’s Rockets took 2nd at last week’s competition at Kettle Moraine Lutheran HS and compete this Saturday at Wilmot HS for WACPC Regionals and look to try and advance to State Competition in Madison the following weekend! Good luck Rockets!


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A Special Valentine’s Day Wish

Look what Divine Mercy students dropped off at the South Milwaukee Fire Department on Friday … happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

Thanks, kids.

Valentines cards

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Filed under Fire, Schools, South Milwaukee

Taking The Time To Be A Friend


I received this email over the weekend, and I have permission to share this story on my blog. You’ll be glad you read it.

From a South Milwaukee junior varsity girls’ basketball parent …

Hello basketball families. I witnessed something Friday night that I think you all need to know … 

Our JV and varsity girls were playing at Shorewood high school. During the JV game,  Shorewood had a young gentlemen with Down’s syndrome announcing the game. (That in itself, melted my heart).

After our JV game, our girls went to the locker room, then got food, talked with parents, or whatever. Towards the end of varsity warm ups,  this young gentlemen came and found each of our girls in the stands,  and directed them to come down to the court. Our girls did. Then this young man directed them to the back line of the court and had them stand in a line. Again,  our girls did, without hesitation. He also told them where to stand,  handed one girl his cell phone, held hands with 2 of our girls, and there they stood, as a team, (plus one) for the national anthem, picture attached (pasted in this blog post). 

After this, our girls came back into the stands, and sat as a team by the video camera to film the varsity game. Again,  the young man joined our girls. He talked with them,  shared snapchat and kik info with some, asked all their names, and even held many of their hands.  (Yes, their hands. My husband had cringed, since of course his daughter might hold a boy’s hand, and we tell our 3 girls and their friends all the time, “boys are icky”). This boy also asked the girls (I think individually each girl) to the prom, in which they kindly declined since we live to far away.

These girls felt, I’m sure,  weird and embarrassed, but they did it. They held his hand and talked with him, and had FUN! … 

I’m proud to know that these girls opened their heart to a child with special needs and took time to make him smile. In today’s world, with all the meanness and bullying, I’m proud to say that our JV South Milwaukee girls were nothing but kind, thoughtful and polite. I can only hope, for the sake of humanity, that this boy is always treated this way.  He was truly raised to be brave and have lots of courage, and our girls were raised to be kind and respectful.  Thanks JV parents for raising remarkable girls and thank you girls for being so REMARKABLE!!! I believe we made a nice impression on this young man,  named Sam. Way to make SM proud!

And this came as a follow up …

Our girls have developed a history with Sam, and his parents and the athletic director have made mention of this each year. We have great girls which is a tribute to our parents and coaches. Sometimes these great things get lost in the wins and losses, but at the end of the day we know we have done our jobs.

Amen to that.


Filed under Schools, South Milwaukee, Sports

Austin Power: Stueck Stars At MSOE

We love our college basketball in the Brooks family … and we had a chance to check out one of the area’s top players on Saturday.

And he’s from South Milwaukee.

Austin Stueck is a senior at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, where he has scored 1,792 points after his 27 in Saturday’s loss to Aurora.

The 6-foot-3 forward is third on the all-time scoring list at MSOE and second all-time in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference. This year, Austin is averaging more than 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game.

Just as importantly, the 2012 South Milwaukee graduate is majoring in architectural engineering and construction management, according to his bio.

(In that bio, check out video of his two buzzer-beaters in five days from 2014.)

Go Rockets!

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Local Politics: Contested School Board Race

The April 5 ballot will include one contested South Milwaukee race.

Two South Milwaukee School Board seats are up, and incumbents Terri Travia and Doug Perry are running against challenger Frank “Disco” Gratke. They are seeking three-year terms. South Milwaukee Municipal Judge Bill Fenger is running unopposed for an eighth term. The judge serves a three-year term.

More on these races as the election nears …

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Caterpillar Donates $40,000 To SMHS For New CNC Milling Machine

Cat milling machine

I just heard about this great example of local industry stepping up to support local kids.

From the South Milwaukee School District …

Through a generous $40,000 donation from Caterpillar, the Technology & Engineering department at South Milwaukee High School was able to purchase a new CNC milling machine.  The milling machine accepts computerized 3D modeled designs and machines them out of wood, plastic, or aluminum.  

The donation will also fund the future purchase of a 3D printer, design laptops, field trips, engineering kits, and professional development opportunities for teachers.  The equipment will be used to create a new rapid prototype lab for students to manufacture their design projects.

A big thank you goes out to Caterpillar and their support for our technology & engineering program.  Caterpillar sponsors and their engineers lead South Milwaukee High School’s FIRST Robotics Team.  Also, each year engineering students are invited to take a field trip to visit the plant and engineers then visit the school as guest speakers and engineering project judges.

Pictured is the Roland MDX-540 Bench Top CNC Milling Machine.

This is really cool. Thanks, Caterpillar. And good luck to our next generation of engineers and skilled workers.

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Regatta In The School Pool? Why Not?


From South Milwaukee technology and engineering teacher Erik Wolbach …

The 2nd Annual Cardboard Boat Regatta on December 17th at South Milwaukee High School was a big success.  Thank you to everyone who came out to cheer on our young engineers of the Technology & Engineering Academy. The competition highlights and interviews will be televised on Fox 6 News on December 27th at 10:30PM.  The following are champions and award recipients:

  • 1st place: Jon Yang, Tim Bralick, Doug Montoya
  • 2nd place: Hannah Dziedzic, Mark O’Connor, Jake Hochschild
  • 3rd place: Kari Olson, Eddie Behren
  • Best Design Award: Jon Yan, Tim Bralick, Doug Montoya
  • Toilet Bowl Award: Colton Woyskochil, Herald Oemig, Sean Povlich
  • Submarine Award: Matt Major, Cody Ross, James Konkel
  • Titanic Award: Zach Georgakakis, Danny Rolefson, Isaiah Johnson
  • Team Spirit Award: Hannah Dziedzic, Mark O’Connor, Jake Hoschild

Pictured:  Jon Yang and Tim Bralick preparing to row their championship boat.

Congratulations to everyone who took part in this latest example of innovation in South Milwaukee schools. Go Rockets!



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