The independent governmental body known as the Kenosha Unified School District was created in 1967, but was built on a foundation of educational excellence established by area schools as early as 1835, a full 13 years before Wisconsin even became a state.
The first schoolhouse was built in 1837 as the second structure on Main Street (now 56th Street and 6th Avenue in Kenosha). In 1838, William Bullen built a frame structure located on the site of the former Weiskopf School (50th Street and Sheridan Road) that became the first regular academy in 1839.
That same year, the community designated land for use as a “common school,” forerunner of the public schools. A wooden structure was built on the site and was used until 1845. In 1849, a new building was completed and opened its doors to 400 students on July 31.
Also in 1845, Col. Michael Frank moved to Southport (as Kenosha was known) and became editor of its newspaper. As early as 1840, Frank advocated “free schools,” another forerunner of the public school system. In 1843, he introduced the first bill in the Wisconsin territorial legislature to establish schools. While it didn’t pass at the territorial level, a law authorizing the establishment of free schools within the limits of Southport did pass in 1845, paving the way for the establishment of public schools in what would soon be called Kenosha.
In 1890, the foundation was laid for a secondary school where the present Reuther Central High School stands.
“It is impossible to measure the influence of Kenosha in shaping the educational policy of other cities and villages as they opened their secondary schools,” one historian has said.
Another educator having a profound effect on the development of the Kenosha public school system, and public schools throughout the nation, was Mary D. Bradford who served the Kenosha schools as a teacher then superintendent from 1878 through 1894, and again from 1910 through 1921, in the interim helping Wisconsin establish its outstanding higher education public school system.
The Kenosha Unified School District, after being operated as a part of city government, became a fiscally independent governmental unit in 1967 and continues to serve residents of the City of Kenosha, Village of Pleasant Prairie, and Town and Village of Somers in southeastern Wisconsin, specifically eastern Kenosha County. It is bound by the Illinois border to the south, the Racine County line to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, and Interstate Highway 94 to the west. This includes approximately 122,333 residents (2000 U.S. Census figures). The 4K through Grade 12 public school system serves over 22,000 students annually. The Kenosha Unified School District consists of three high schools (grades 9-12), five middle schools (grades 6-8), 23 elementary schools (4K-5), four charter schools, three choice schools, 1 specialty school, 1 head start facility and 1 district office.
Harold R. Maurer served as Superintendent of Schools from 1949 through 1967 when the school district became independent of city government and instead was a unified school district serving three municipalities. Donald W. Smitley served as Superintendent of Schools from 1967 through 1969. Otto F. Huettner served as Superintendent of Schools from 1970 through 1979. Dr. John J. Hosmanek served as Superintendent of Schools from 1979 through 1989. Dr. Anthony F. Bisciglia served as Superintendent of Schools from 1989 through 1995. Dr. Joseph T. Mangi served as Interim Superintendent of Schools from 1995 through 1996. Dr. Michael L. Johnson served as Superintendent of Schools from 1996 through 2001. Dr. Joseph T. Hentges served as Interim Superintendent of Schools from August 2001 through May 2002. Daniel Tenuta then served as Interim Superintendent of Schools from June 2002 through April 2003. From April 2003 through August 2007, Dr. R. Scott Pierce served as Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Joseph T. Mangi served as Superintendent of Schools from September 2007 through June 2010. Dr. Michele Hancock served as Superintendent of Schools from June 2009 through December 2013. Dr. Joseph T. Mangi served as Interim Superintendent of Schools from January 2014 through July 2014. Dr. Sue Savaglio-Jarvis is currently serving as Superintendent of Schools.