History of the District
Our Heritage - Our Schools
For over a century that began in the late 1840s, the schools that comprised the west central district of Waukesha County provided education through the eighth grade. Students who chose to continue their schooling had their tuition paid by their local districts to attend high school in Waukesha or Oconomowoc.
In the early 1960s, the surrounding high school districts indicated that "the welcome mat was no longer out" for students from the west central elementary schools. At about the same time state legislation was passed requiring every school to be in a high school district. In August of 1962, the county school committee ordered the creation of the west central high school district, although the proposal had been twice defeated in referenda. Immediately, some of the affected elementary districts petitioned for dissolution, with some Magee district citizens pursuing their appeal to the state supreme court where it was denied. A five-man high school board was elected and meetings began to discuss building the new high school. The first annual meeting approved the purchase of 80 acres of the Wonoski farm in Dousman. That set in motion petitions to reconsider the site, culminating in a vote in the St. John's Academy gym, with 1,500 people attending the meeting. The present site was approved by a vote of 693-468. Once the Bron Derw farm of early settler Thomas Jones, it had been purchased by Herbert Schuster in 1931, who sold it to the new district.
With the high school plans settled, discussion began to consolidate the elementary districts into a K-12 system with the new union high school. The referendum passed in August 1967. As the population grew through the '70s, a middle school was built on the Wonoski site, many of the heritage schools were put back into service, and space was leased from parochial schools. By 1976 the high school resorted to split shifts. A citizen's committee organized and was successful in getting a $5.63 million referendum passed to build new elementary schools for Wales and Dousman and a large addition to the high school. By the fall of 1991, Cushing School had been enlarged to a three-section school, and Magee to two sections. Another citizen backed referendum in the summer of 1994 secured approval for additional high school classrooms and a new auditorium. Most of the heritage schools have been sold to private interests. Brandybrook has been retained as a community education center, and Moriah is leased to a private pre-school. Zion, closed in 1991, was sold in 1995 to the Prairie Waldorf School. In 2001, the community passed an $18 million building referendum to add 100,000 square feet to the high school with a state of the art science wing and a new gymnasium. In addition 60,000 square feet of existing classroom space was renovated. The project was completed in August of 2003.
In 35 years KM District enrollment has nearly tripled, from 1,650 to 4,357, while equalized valuation of the district has soared from $52 million to over $1 billion. The high school that was born amid so much controversy has 1,460 students and over 8,600 alumni. In May 2002, the U.S. Department of Education recognized Kettle Moraine High School as a 2001-2002 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. This designation completes the eight-year effort to attain national Blue Ribbon status for all six schools in the district. Kettle Moraine is the only K-12 district in Wisconsin with this significant honor.
The new century will present challenges undreamed of by the pioneers who built our heritage schools. We have moved into a technology age that is changing our jobs, our world, and our future. The Kettle Moraine Schools have an awesome task ahead.
Origin of Names and Logos
After the state ordered the creation of the West Central High School District, an essay contest was held among the seventh and eighth graders from the West Central elementary schools. While several students suggested the name Kettle Moraine, the winning essay was written by a Cushing Elementary student.
The class of 1968, sophomores with remarkable foresight, came up with the name "Lasers", and two thirds of the student body (then consisting only of freshmen and sophomores) chose it over "Mustangs" or "Cougars."
A committee headed by John Wyssling, student senate president, designed the school crest which features a laser beam linking the earth and the moon. It symbolizes a spirit of the unconquerable, an age of progress, and the future of teen-agers. John wrote in the school paper in 1966 that while Bell Laboratory scientists were developing the laser as a communications tool, KMHS students would be "developing our own unique school." He explained that "the laser is a concentrated beam of coherent light which can overcome anything in its pathway. This shows that our school is striving to attain infinite goals".
In 1989 the KM district logo was introduced. After considering dozens of possibilities, the one chosen cleanly and clearly says "KM" beneath a symbol that allows one's imagination to suggest the trees, hills, or sails of the Kettle Moraine … or perhaps even a crown for our growing championship tradition.
In 1992, art teacher Bill Barder designed the now familiar Laser graphic that he first painted on the east wall of the west gymnasium.
History and other information compiled by Germaine H. Hillmer