Lately, I've been posting historical photos of Maryland Avenue Montessori School to the Old Eastsiders group page on Facebook and garnering lots of great feedback. Many of the group members attended the school for at least a year or two, some of them non-stop from kindergarten through eighth grade, and the photographs conjure memories of all kinds.
They are part of a long tradition of public schooling in the heart of the East Side. As I saw kids and families going into the school today -- the opening day of the 2014-15 academic year (on the traditional calendar) at Milwaukee Public Schools -- I thought about their carrying forward of this tradition.
Today, students and their parents walked through the school's portals, up its steps and into its classrooms for the 127th straight year. And on the same location, the tradition dates back further, to when the Common Council's Committee on Schools recommended the purchase of a frame building on the site for a school in 1865.
Six years later, a brick schoolhouse -- designed by architect Leonard Schmidtner, who also drew St. Stanislaus Church on the South Side -- was erected on the land. In 1887, the first phase of the current building opened, followed by major expansions in 1893 and 1951. It is that amalgamation that continues to serve Milwaukee children today.
It just might be the longest continuously operating school in the city, though there are a couple others that also compete for that title.
Public education is a tradition beyond the East Side, of course, and most of MPS' more than 150 schools all across the city swung open their doors today, welcoming kids of all colors, classes, religions and needs.
At the same time MPS is seeking volunteer tutors to help foster success in the schools. As the kids head back to school, please drive carefully when you see children present, please yield to crossing guards, please urge your elected officials to support public schools, please donate to a Milwaukee classroom and please lend a hand to a school that could use your help.
Whether or not the children are ours, we all benefit from an educated populace, so please be a part of building the future.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.