South Milwaukee Welcomes New Pupil Services Director
When she was the principal of a school in West Allis-West Milwaukee, Carrie Stollenwerk had a problem with graffiti in the bathrooms of a school.
Stollenwerk, the newly-appointed Director of Pupil Services in South Milwaukee, didn’t fix the problem with a schoolwide assembly to address the issue or investigations by security and tightening of bathroom pass privileges. No, the problem was solved with student-made artwork in the stalls.
While that out-of-the-box thinking is remarkable, what’s really remarkable is it wasn’t custodians who raised the alarm in the first place. It was a student-led School Climate Team.
The fix? That came from students, too.
That School Climate Team – a group of students elected by their peers to lead efforts in the school conducted a survey of the student body to identify areas to improve in the building, and to Stollenwerk’s surprise, the graffiti shot to the top of the list.
“It really bothered the kids,” Stollenwerk said. “What our School Climate Team did is they held contests in every grade level in design and painted the stalls in the bathrooms.” That team then worked with two teachers and a school social worker to get the stalls painted.
Stollenwerk said that anecdote is an example of a system she put in place that allowed students to be part of the discussion in running their school – to become advocates.
“I love to be an advocate and to teach people to advocate,” Stollenwerk said. “[and] I love systems work. I love to build systems and refine systems. That is work I’m super passionate about.”
Stollenwerk has 20 years of experience in education under her belt, including years as a special education teacher, a behaviorist, an academic dean of Special Education, and as a principal; and comes to South Milwaukee with a master's degree in Education (focus on educational leadership), and a bachelors degree in sociology and Special Education..
It’s no coincidence that her last position was in West Allis-West Milwaukee – just like South Milwaukee’s new Superintendent Diedre Roemer.
“We have a strong history of doing this kind of work together,” Stollenwerk said, but that’s not the only reason she chose to come to South Milwaukee – she sees potential in the District to create the successful program she led in her previous district.
That program weaves together all of the aspects of Pupil Services and builds a comprehensive plan – built around the mission and vision that Roemer’s strategic planning initiative will begin building in the coming months.
For parents of students with special needs, Stollenwerk wants to be collaborative.
“Parents are advocating for their child from places of love and concern,” she said. “We’re not going to try and just manage things” because parents are the experts on their child. “Parents should feel like their equal and valued members of the team.”
Stollenwerk is also simply looking forward to learning about South Milwaukee.
“I’m really excited to come in and learn about the community. I don’t come in knowing what a community needs,” she said. “What are the concerns of the staff, students, and families?”
In the end, her goal is to build a system that has a cohesive approach to serving students.
“That’s a big thing - especially for staff,” she said. I am super clear and direct, and I also try and make sure (what I say) is kind. I want them to know the first thing I want to do is get to know people and build some trust.”
- District News