MILWAUKEE — St. Anthony High School opened the doors to parents and children at its new location on 4807 S. Second St., during an open house on Wednesday, Sept. 12. With a mariachi band playing as the guests entered the building, new principal, Julia D’Amato, students faculty and staff welcomed visitors.
Renovations on the building were completed in August 2012, said D’Amato explaining that the new site was needed to accommodate the increase in the number of students, from 81 when it opened in 2009 to 339 today.
The previous school building, 2156 S. Fourth St., Milwaukee, now houses the sixth through eighth grades for St. Anthony Elementary School.
The entire St. Anthony School, comprised of four campuses, has an enrollment of 1,668 students; 339 of whom attend St. Anthony High School.
According to St. Anthony school president Zeus Rodriguez, the high school building used to be Milwaukee Public School, Kilmer South Alternative High School. St. Anthony renovated the building, adding two classrooms and a large cafeteria.
“Facilities are not easy to come by,” Rodriguez said. He added this new property includes large athletic facilities, including basketball courts and an indoor soccer field, and a larger parking lot which can be expanded.
With the new building, St. Anthony administration created a principal position. Previously, Ramon Cruz oversaw the kindergarten through 11th grade school, but now Cruz is principal for kindergarten through eight and D’Amato was hired to oversee the high school.
Another venture at the school will be Advanced Placement classes.
D’Amato said she hopes to see improvement in ACT scores; students in each grade will take assessment tests and ACT interim tests until their junior year when they take the official test. Then in their senior year if the student decides to retake the test he or she will have time.
“We’re aligning the course work with what they need to know on these tests so they can achieve at a higher level,” D’Amato said. “The ACT is a big push from the state where they want the kids to score high levels.”
One of the administration’s main goals is to graduate all 60 seniors and get them into college.
“Most of these kids are the first generation graduates,” D’Amato said of the school whose students are primarily Hispanic and are enrollend through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. “They’re looking to seek opportunities in the post secondary life and they’re looking to better themselves through education.”
To help students get into college St. Anthony High School has hired a part-time guidance counselor to help with test taking skills, organization, keeping up with homework and helping write college essays.
“The counselor will guide them through difficult academic situations and will help look out for them in the next step of their academic life,” according to Melissa Doxtator, vice principal.
St. Anthony administration building and parish is five miles away from St. Anthony High School. D’Amato said private buses will bring students to and from the school, running twice in the morning and three times after school.
“There are some students who choose to drive and there are some students whose parents drop them off,” D’Amato said. “But the majority of the students get bused. ... We draw from 12 zip code areas; most of those areas are on the south side of Milwaukee.”
D’Amato, who spent 35 years in the Milwaukee Public School system, was principal at Wauwatosa Catholic School for the 2011-12 school year and was principal of Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School from 2003 to 2011.
During her time at Reagan, enrollment grew from approximately 400 students to 1,100, with a waiting list approaching 900 at the time of her departure.
D’Amato said she plans on staying at St. Anthony “until I retire.”
“I chose to leave Wauwatosa Catholic because my heart is in high schools,” D’Amato said. “I’ve been in high schools all of my life. So I did my stint in K-8 schools and my heart kept calling me back to the big kids.”