Parents, staff create success at Highland Community School

The Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) get a lot of negative buzz — some of which is warranted, and some of which is not. In any case, it’s refreshing to hear about a local public school that’s truly doing its job.

Started in 1968, Highland Community School, 3030 W. Highland Blvd., is a parent-run, Montessori, charter school that’s a part of the MPS system. Highland has 175 students in grades K3 through 6th and a diverse student population. All of the classrooms are led by Montessori-certified teachers.

“Dr. (Maria) Montessori felt that the goal of early education should not be to inundate children with facts from a direct course of study. Instead, an objective of the education process is to cultivate the child’s own natural desire to learn,” says Kim Miller, Highland Community School’s community involvement coordinator. “This desire to learn is demonstrated every day in the classroom in the way children select work, conduct research and experiment with materials at hand.”

Many of Highland’s student test above MPS and state averages. According to one study, more than 97 percent of kids that graduate from Highland finish high school and 90 percent attend college.

“Our vision is to change the world by nurturing children and their families to be informed, compassionate, life-long learners who are a force for change in education, the community and society,” says Miller.

All of the parents with kids at Highland are required to volunteer 36 hours of their time per year. Many of the parents, however, choose to give many more hours. Highland’s parent involvement is almost 100 percent.

“Our parents are present for everything from gardening and grounds to fundraising and community outreach,” says Miller. “We believe that parent involvement has academic benefits for students, social benefits for families and financial benefits for the entire school community.”

Shawn and Pamela Sprewer have two sons attending Highland, Reyshawn, 8, and Treyden, 4. Next year, their daughter, Amaya, will join her brothers when she starts the K3 program.

“We like the diversity that exists at Highland in so many ways: culturally, economically, age of families, careers,” says Shawn. “But despite how different we may seem, we all have one common goal and that is to care for our children inside and outside of the classroom. There are not too many school environments you can walk into and feel the love as you enter the door.”

Highland parent Sharlen Bowen, who has twin boys, age 6, and a 3-year-old daughter, appreciates the diversity, too. She also appreciates the staff.

“The one thing that sets Highland apart from many other schools is that the staff knows each and every child at Highland by name,” says Bowen. “I’ve never felt that what I had to say wasn’t important and feedback of any kind is always welcomed. I can honestly say that they genuinely love the children as their own.”

Highland Community School is Milwaukee’s oldest charter school. A charter school fits in a niche between a public and private school. It is funded by public money and serve as an alternative to regular public schools. Highland is free to attend.

Michael Stodola is an blogger and both of his children attend Highland.

“While most people move out of Milwaukee because of the schools, we want to stay because of this one,” says Stodola.

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