With a nod to its past, present and future, a newly renovated Fennimore Middle/High School was dedicated during a ceremony held Saturday afternoon, Aug. 29.
The ceremony was held in the new and improved middle/high school gymnasium following steady rainfall the day before.
Fennimore Community Schools District Administrator Jamie Nutter summarized the events that lead to the renovation and ultimately Saturday’s dedication.
“In the spring of 2013 our Board of Education engaged in a strategic plan that would include community members, school employees and a few students. As a result of the planning, they established several goals in several areas,” he said. “Two of those goals included safety and space concerns. As more discussions ensued, the groups came to consensus that the solution should be an overall plan. As a part of that overall plan, the Board would gather input from a variety of interested community members and leaders.
“And the final vision of this plan would solve several issues.”
Nutter explained elementary school space concerns would be addressed by moving students to a newly formed Fennimore Middle School, allowing the middle school to transition from “a traditional junior high approach to a more developmentally appropriate middle school experience.”
“This middle school would be separate for the most part, while utilizing a schedule to share different parts,” Nutter said. “It also included a secure office, eight dedicated middle school classrooms, an additional gym that would allow for one big space or two smaller spaces for different functions, a library, a bigger lunch room that will serve as a community gathering point outside of school hours as well, and a new serving kitchen.”
HSR Associates was chosen as architect for the project and Kraemer Brothers as general contractor. Robert W. Baird and Company offered its financial expertise.
“The ideas of the members were converted to concepts, which were translated into dollars and a plan to fund the project was created,” Nutter said. “This overall plan was approved by the school board, who then asked the community to support this plan through a referendum, which you did, with an overwhelmingly 84 percent approval. Congratulations to you.
“After demolition work, asbestos removal, connecting new construction to existing structure, a new building was built and now we are here today to celebrate our community’s accomplishment. This is an exciting day. In addition to this building, we have planned an entire weekend to remind us all that relationships in this shared space are as important. A group of citizens felt it was so important that we take time to reminisce and fellowship that they have been planning an event-filled weekend for the past five-and-a-half months.”
Nutter acknowledged members of the All School Reunion committee, which included Cindy Arndt, Patty Cauffman, Connie Jackson, Sandy Knapp, Linda Stephenson, Margaret Sprague, Linda Parrish, Lori Barry, Sheila Ruchti, Ben Wood and Vince Lease. Nutter also thanked Ingeborg Froiland.
“In addition to this committee, our staff has been awesome. We had a theme last year called flexibility and patience, and we pushed the flexibility and patience to the limit,” Nutter said. “Everybody joined in and worked together, and it was really wonderful. This summer our maintenance crew has been really patient and we appreciate all of their efforts. And everybody who joined in with the Fennimore Community School District team, so thank you very much for your efforts.”
Alderperson Linda Stephenson, a 13-year veteran of the Fennimore Common Council, spoke on behalf of the City.
“I think the word for today should be ‘wow.’ I came up here at 8 o’clock this morning to help Ingeborg [Froiland] and didn’t leave until about 1:30 because I just couldn’t leave,” she said. “There were so many familiar faces coming in the door. A lot of them their hair color had changed, maybe their body had changed, but we recognized each other, or we did when we put on the name tags. That was the word that I heard everybody saying today and that word was ‘wow.’”
Stephenson told the audience what was once a dream of Nutter’s, the administration and the school board has become a reality.
“That dream became a reality through their hard work,” she said. “The reason the referendum passed with an 84 percent approval rate is because of the wonderful job that was done informing all of us where our tax money, how it was going to be spent.
“As you walked around today I can think you all see it has been well spent and it has been spent also. ‘Wow’ is the word.”
Stephenson’s dad was a champion boxer, her mother the valedictorian of the Class of 1938. An FHS graduate herself, Stephenson and her seven siblings walked across the stage she stood upon Saturday to receive their diplomas.
“Never, ever in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined when I graduated from Fennimore High School in 1959
I would be back here talking to people and praising the school, our City,” she said. “It is really awesome, how your life, all the different twists and turns it takes.
“ You little ones who are here, what you think might happen to you today, you are going to be in for a big surprise when you too walk across this stage and go out into the world into whatever endeavor that you choose.”
To Stephenson, Saturday was about memories.
“There are so many memories,” she said. “I saw you reminiscing out there with your classmates and other people that you know. That is why we had this today, because memories have been made in this school district and it is memories you will carry with you the rest of your life.”
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction was represented at the dedication by Dr. Scott Jones, Special Assistant to the Superintendent of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
“I am pleased to be here today for a number of reasons, but particularly because of the incredible energy in Fennimore this weekend,” Jones said. “Celebrating the construction efforts here at the middle and high school is a celebration of the investment in this community and an investment in your children. An investment that the people of Fennimore will benefit from for years to come. Clearly the people here take pride in their town and they take pride in their schools, and they want the best for their children.
“That desire is so important and it has a positive impact on how your students do in school. Investments like the one you have made here in Fennimore show your commitment to children and it shows you care about the future. The community of Fennimore should be proud of what you have accomplished.”
Jones explained the changes at the middle/high school have the right focus.
“They are focused on your children,” he said. “Your investments have visible results, which are impressive. There are new classrooms and remodeled classrooms, there is a new library, a new gym, there is a larger and more student-friendly common area and this building is a source of community pride and it shows.”
Jones took time to applaud the efforts of principal Carmen Burkum and Fennimore Elementary School, a National Blue Ribbon School, and Nutter, the 2015 Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators Superintendent of the Year.
“It is clear the educators and parents and community in Fennimore are focused on the right goals, and engaged in efforts to ensure all students are successful,” Jones said. “On behalf of State Superintendent Tony Evers, thank you for supporting your children, your public schools and your community.
“Congratulations again on this incredible facility, and I wish you all the best in the upcoming school year.”
Kraemer Brothers Vice President of Client Relations Greg Callin told those in attendance that from the moment Kraemer Brothers was welcomed in late 2013, they knew the project would be special.
“Today we celebrate past, present and future. Kraemer Brothers has been honored to be a part of the Fennimore community in the past, dating back to 1958, when we completed the Fennimore Butter and Cheese plant, and including projects like the fire stations and past school projects,” he said. “Today we celebrate the completion of new and innovative classrooms, this fantastic gymnasium that we are sitting in, a commons/cafeteria area for all to enjoy, a new IMC, business and computer labs, new administrative offices and an upgraded kitchen.
“And some new restrooms, by the way. Everybody is always interested in those. I hope you have a chance to check everything out today or in the near future because it is all some really great stuff.”
Callin said the project was a “fantastic combination” of things: innovative design, great craftsmanship by Kraemer Brothers and its subcontractors, and cost effectiveness.
“And you should feel really good about that as a community,” he said. “Great projects are a product of great teamwork and we had a great team on this project, no question.”
First and foremost on the team was the Fennimore community, Callin said.
“You had an overwhelming amount of support for the referendum, which shows us your interest and importance in education in this community. Your trust and confidence in us has been evident from the start,” he said. “Many of you have visited the site during times that we were under construction, asking questions, talking to ourselves and our subcontractors. It has been really neat to see how the community is so interested in such an important project. Last but not least, your hospitality while we have been here in town for both ourselves and our subcontractors.”
Secondly was the administrative team: Nutter, middle/high school principal Dan Bredeson and Director of Maintenance Jay Millin.
“The fact that Jamie Nutter is running the school district and involved in a building project like this at the same time is really pretty amazing,” Callin said. “You guys all know Jamie a lot better than I do, but he has got a tremendous amount of passion for this community and the kids and the families of this community.
“You would find Dan during construction in the trailer in progress meetings with our team and our subcontractors, asking a lot of great questions and getting involved to make sure everything is right for the kids of this community.
“I can’t say enough about Jay. What is amazing to me is that Jay got the school ready for the upcoming school year while we were doing all this construction. The amount of things that guy gets done, I mean, I was here one day and Jay went from, I think he was unloading some of the tables that are in the cafeteria and commons, and two minutes later I saw him on the tractor mowing the grass over by the school buses. Jay has been a great teammate.”
Callin thanked middle/high school staff for their patience during the project. He also acknowledged the school board.
“Your trust and confidence in Kramer Brothers has been outstanding, so thank you very much for that,” he said. “Your questions, your challenges to us, have been excellent and I thank you for that. And the community thanks you for your goals and your vision and your passion for making this a great educational community.”
Bredeson told the crowd it was hard to believe that the project was done.
“The time really did go fast. I am surprised that it did, but it did,” he said. “Fennimore Community Schools have been striving to become a collaborative culture since Mr. Jamie Nutter came on board as superintendent. We know we will do a lot better job for our students if we work together, because all of us working together are better than one of us working in isolation. I think this project has been the ultimate example of collaboration.
“It is just unbelievable all the people that came together to make this happen. It has been amazing just to see what everybody had to do just to make sure that we were ready to start the school year this year. But please don’t forget that you, each and every one of you, were part of the collaborative effort as well. Without the support of you, the community, this would not have been possible. Please know that the staff at Fennimore Community Schools appreciate your support and feel extremely lucky to work in such a caring, supportive and forward-thinking community.”
Bredeson in recent weeks was often asked if the project would be done in time for the 2015-2016 school year to begin.
“ A few people [asked], maybe about 2,000 or so,” he said. “Especially if they came up around here and saw all the things still happening about a week ago. The answer is, ‘look around.’ Not only is it ready, but I think we are all extremely excited to get started. I think this is going to be one of the most exciting starts to the school year I have ever been a part of.”
Nutter concluded the dedication reading a proclamation declaring the building open:
“We are here today to proclaim this building open to the students being served by the Fennimore Community School District. Whereas, the Fennimore Community School District will continue to build upon the foundation provided by the generations before, and the sacrifices made for the support of education in the Fennimore area for well over 100 years.
“Whereas, the Fennimore Community School District taxpayers supported a new building with undeniable and overwhelming support so that students are able to learn a healthy and safe environment in a beautiful facility.
“Whereas, today has become a part of history that we are witnessing today.
“Now, therefore, be it resolved, that on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, on behalf of the Board of Education of the Fennimore Community School District, this building is officially proclaimed as recognized property by those represented in this local education agency. At this time, we dedicated this building to people who reside in the Fennimore Community School District, and to those students who have been served, are being served, or will be served in the future with support from those people residing in the Fennimore Community School District.