Former football coach found his niche tending school district buildings
Roger Sinnen’s connection with the Northern Ozaukee School District is about to travel full circle.
Sinnen will step down as the district’s director of buildings and grounds at the end of summer, capping a career that spanned 35 years.
He came to the district in 1982, spending his first four years as the Ozaukee High School football coach.
Sinnen then took a job with the district’s buildings and grounds department, under the tutelage of then-director Larry Fechter, who held the position until 2000.
Sinnen succeeded Fechter, although he didn’t have any formal training in maintaining public buildings.
However, he grew up on a farm, which he said gave him familiarity with most tools and a knack for problem solving.
When Sinnen arrived on the scene, the district had widely scattered elementary school buildings in Waubeka, the Town of Saukville and the Village of Fredonia.
“A lot of time was spent running lunches and supplies from building to building,” he said.
The logistical nightmare was resolved when voters approved a central campus that combined the high school, middle school and elementary school in 1986.
“That saved a lot of time and money, thanks to the support of the parents in the community,” Sinnen recalled.
At one point, the school district employed as many as 12 people to maintain its separate buildings.
Thanks to the shared campus and a School Board decision to contract with a private company to handle routine maintenance, the department now has just three employees — as well as a small cadre of seasonal help.
“Any time you try something new there is always concern, but bringing in an outside contractor has worked out really well … and saved money,” Sinnen said.
However, there were some maintenance duties he refused to surrender, specifically the care of the district’s athletic fields.
“That is something we take real pride in. A lot of districts have had to re-do their fields, but we have been able to maintain ours over the years by continually top-dressing them,” Sinnen said.
However, he said such a watchful eye won’t solve all of the district’s issues.
Work is being done by heating specialists this summer on replacing the boilers that keep the connected buildings comfortable in the cold months.
Beyond that, Sinnen said a referendum will likely be needed to come up with money to replace the troubled roofs and electrical systems that date back to the original construction.
“Right now, we cannot supply enough power to keep our heating and electrical systems running at full capacity,” he said.
By improving the infrastructure of the district buildings, Sinnen said they could become emergency shelters should a natural disaster ever hit the community.
If that means voters have to back a referendum, Sinnen said he was confident they would make the right decision.
“Homeowners understand you have to pay for things like maintaining a roof. You have to take care of your buildings,” Sinnen said.
He said parent organizations like the Parent Teacher Resource group have done a great job of helping keep facilities in shape — paying for such things as new playgrounds and gym floors.
Although admitting the project was not universally embraced, Sinnen said he is also pleased with the way the high school’s fitness center came together.
“It has been great. This is a facility that every student, whether they are an athlete or in phy. ed class, gets to use,” Sinnen said, noting the center draws as many as 120 students a day during the school year.
“It stresses the idea that fitness is something anyone can pursue, and it can have an impact on your quality of life.”
For the first time in three decades, Sinnen is not looking at the summer as simply the time between school years.
He won’t be returning in fall.
“You would get excited when summer came because you got to work on all of your summer projects, but then it was always exciting to see the kids come back in fall,” Sinnen said.
After wrapping up his school duties, he will take a position with the maintenance department at Cedar Valley Cheese.
He will, however, keep working with young athletes.
Sinnen, who lives in Random Lake, will remain the strength and conditioning coach for the cooperative cross country team which has runners from Ozaukee and Random Lake.
Image Information: ROGER SINNEN TAKES special pride in the fitness center created at Ozaukee High School. Sinnen, who started at the Northern Ozaukee School District three decades ago as the football coach, is retiring this summer as the district’s superintendent of buildings and grounds. Photo by Mark Jaeger