Friday, August 27, 2010

Congratulations to WCSS on 20 Years of Service

from today's Waukesha Freeman --

By Joe Petrie Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA – Twenty years ago, Lisa Gehl saw her education world turned on its ear. The St. Mary’s Grade School eighth-grader was transferred to St. Joseph’s Grade School, which was now a middle school, and all of a sudden she had a bunch of new classmates. But at the same time, Gehl said she and her classmates started to feel good because they were in their own middle school and felt like “big kids.”

“It was absolutely nervewracking. Change is always nerve-wracking and it was scary,” she said. “But it didn’t even take me halfway through the year to get used to it. It was great.” Gehl now has two children of her own attending St. Mary’s and following in her steps. However, 20 years ago she was part of history as one of the first graduates from the Waukesha Catholic School System, which is celebrating its 20th year in existence.

Nancy Nadolny, advancement director for Waukesha Catholic, said leaders of St. Mary’s, St. Joseph’s and St. William began the process of merging into one school system about 22 years ago in order to take on issues rising in Catholic education. Some of the issues included rising costs and declining student populations because public schools were able to offer more programs due to larger student populations.

The leaders were faced with a variety of issues, she said, because none of the schools wanted to give up their own identity and parents were concerned what the changes would mean. Also, the Milwaukee Archdiocese told leaders they would lose about 18 percent of the student population if they merged because that is what happened to other schools that had taken a similar course.
Despite the concerns, the parents adapted, the schools kept their identities and Nadolny said the entire system only lost one student after the merger. “We did a lot of planning and a lot of people were skeptical at first,” she said. “But people soon realized it was a good product we were offering, and we were now able to offer a lot more services.”

Jim Piala had five sons go through Waukesha Catholic and was a member of the original task force that created the system. Looking back at the two decades of service offered by the system, he said it’s an idea that has succeeded. He said the idea has even become a model for other Catholic schools because it has been proven to preserve Catholic education.

“The system is up and going, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with St. James in Mukwonago, but they recently closed due to declining enrollment and an increase in costs,” he said. “The fact that the Waukesha Catholic School System is still growing is probably one of the things I’m most satisfied about.”


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