Board picks officers, excites industry leaders

CG-Belgium’s charter school focusing on technical education will be a big hit, company leaders say
Ozaukee Press staff

The Rocket Academy achieved two goals on Tuesday with a big one left to fulfill.

The Cedar Grove-Belgium School District’s charter school appointed officers for its Governance Board and presented its plan for a regional technical education and training center to more than 30 people from area companies, including Harley-Davidson.

Those tasks were the easy ones. The Governance Board had been meeting since last September, and business leaders are thrilled with the prospect of a nearby employee pipeline where they can also send employees for continuing education.

Students graduating from the academy would have a Lakeshore Technical College certificate, apprenticeship experience and a work ethic proficiency certificate. Some would even earn technical diplomas.

Rocket Academy Director David Friend said he has visited similar technical high schools across the state for ideas to bring back to Cedar Grove. He said the academy is unique.

“There’s not a school in the state that does this,” he said. “It’s a new model. It’s a leap. We feel it’s a worthwhile leap.”

Where the Rocket Academy will deliver its technical education is the question. The school doesn’t have money for a building.

It received an $800,000 noncompetitive federal grant allowing it to hire a director, but that money may not be used for a facility.

The academy was not awarded a competitive Workforce Innovation Grant for about $2 million that would have paid for a building.

As a result, plans to lease a Krier Foods building in Belgium that was set up perfectly for the school’s needs fell through.

Since its August meeting, academy leaders received ideas from two people.

John Cook, who plans to develop a business park in Cedar Grove, offered to construct a building and rent it to the school, but it wouldn’t be ready until 2024. The school is slated to open in fall 2023.

John Rassel, the former CEO of Krier Foods, said he bought land next to that company building in Belgium where the school hoped to go, and he could put a new structure next to it for the school, with plans to eventually use the one next door as well, creating a campus.

That, too, however won’t be ready by next fall, and the lease was too expensive for the school. A 10,000 square-foot building today costs $1 million.

“One hundred dollars per square foot is what it’s looking like, and that’s just a shell of a building,” Friend said.

The academy offered $50,000 per year for a lease, which Rassel said wouldn’t likely work, Friend said.

The fallback remains operating the school within Cedar Grove-Belgium High School’s technical education department for a year before moving to another facility.

The Governance Board wants a plan in place by its October meeting since students will start to sign up for classes in February and will want to know where they’re going.

Demand won’t be an issue, area industry leaders said. About 30 people packed Belgium Village Hall with more attending online to hear Brakke and Friend present plans for the academy.

The hope is to open with 10 computer numerical-controlled machining students and 10 welding students next fall.

Someone asked what to do if 120 students want to sign up. A lottery system would be developed, officials said.

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and maintenance technician programs are slated to be added in the next couple of years.

The school plans to grow to 150 students by 2026.

The academy is seeking support from industry partners in a few ways. Advisory committees are being formed for marketing, curriculum development and fundraising, and equipment donations are welcome. Finding a location within the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District remains.

The district’s funding mechanism would largely be driven by open enrollment — attracting students from other districts, meaning state funding would follow the student to Cedar Grove-Belgium. Grants could also contribute.

Students would be able to attend all day or split time between their traditional school and the academy.

Most industry officials were thrilled, saying the concept is past due, that Milwaukee doesn’t have strong continuing education programs and that the academy may have many more than 20 students interested right off the bat.

Before the presentation to businesses, the academy’s Governance Board chose its officers.

Supt. Chad Brakke remains on the board as a nonvoting member but he is no longer the president. Mike Dietrich, vice president of ATS-LAB Midwest, which provides science and technical education materials, is the new board president.

The vice president is Jonathan Feld, vice president of enrollment management for Lakeland University.

Shelia Schetter, dean of advanced manufacturing, agriculture and engineering at Lakeshore Technical College, is the secretary and treasurer.

The board’s next meeting is at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Belgium Village Hall.



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login