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Racine Unified investigating another incident at Mitchell

RACINE — The family of a sixth-grade student at Mitchell Middle School claims that he suffered three broken ribs and swelling of his internal organs after being attacked by other students at the school last week.

Parents speak out about challenges at Mitchell School

RACINE — Despite widespread criticism from the community and parents, the Racine Unified School District has remained relatively quiet regarding the grievance filed by 70-plus teachers at Mitchell K-8 School last month that alleges that violence has become a common occurrence at the understaffed building.

Racine Unified says it’s aware that some sort of incident took place on Mitchell school grounds May 1, but it is still investigating.

“The principal is working with the district to investigate to determine what took place and what needs to be done in response,” said Racine Unified spokeswoman Stacy Tapp.

Sgt. Adam Malacara, Racine Police Department public information officer, confirmed that police took a report of an assault at the school that day but said he could not provide any additional information.

“Once the district became aware of the incident, we began investigating immediately,” Tapp said.

According to the student’s mother, Jennifer Morales, the alleged assault took place on school property outside of the Mitchell building when her son was headed to his bus after school on May 1.

Morales, who is being represented by Milwaukee lawyer Christopher Stawski, said the incident began when another Mitchell student asked her son if he had previously attended Jerstad-Agerholm Middle School. The alleged victim answered that he had, and the other student indicated that the victim must be up to something because of where he was from.

Morales said one student then punched her son and another grabbed the hood of his coat and threw him to the ground. Then several students allegedly started punching and kicking him. Morales said her son was only able to get away when a large eighth-grade student stepped in to push the kids off of him. Morales said her son then ran away and got on his bus.

‘A lot of pain’

She then took him to the hospital where Morales said it was discovered that he had three broken ribs. She said doctors also suspected that his liver and kidney were swollen.

“He was having a lot of pain breathing in, and they said that’s from the broken ribs,” Morales said.

Although Morales said the district has not reached out to her regarding the incident, Tapp said Mitchell Principal Demetri Beekman has reached out to Morales.

The student has not been back to the school since the alleged incident, and Morales said she does not plan to send him back there. She’s in the process of considering other options, she said.

“He’s shaken up,” Morales said. “He’s afraid. He doesn’t want something like this to happen again. He doesn’t want to go back to school.”

Stawski also represented another student who was involved in an altercation at Mitchell in March. As of Wednesday evening, online court records did not show that a lawsuit has been filed in the Morales case.

This alleged incident comes after a grievance was filed with the district by 70 Mitchell teachers last fall claiming that the school was in a state of crisis, with staff members injured by students and hallways in chaos. Beekman and his team said late last year that they were working to turn things around at the school. Beekman had been the principal at Julian Thomas Elementary, where he had a reputation for making positive changes, until about a month-and-a-half into this school year when he was transferred to Mitchell to help address problems there.

The alleged victim just began attending Mitchell in January, Morales said, after the family moved.

MORRY GASH, Associated Press 

MVP Candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo drives past Boston Celtics' Aron Baynes during the Milwaukee Bucks' 116-91 win in Milwaukee at the Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night. The victory gave the Bucks a 4-1 series win over the Celtics, sending Milwaukee to the Eastern Conference Championship series for the first time since 2001. For the full story, turn to Sports, C1.

14-year-old Caledonia girl's 'legacy doesn't end' after death

GREEN BAY — Savannah Gardner, 14, of Caledonia was the light of her mother’s world. She was a happy, outgoing, friendly freshman at Case High School who loved to dance, hang out with friends and go shopping with her siblings.

Savannah died Tuesday, four days after she was hospitalized in Green Bay as a result of a severe asthma attack. She was in Green Bay supporting her 10-year-old sister, Taylor, in a dance competition when the attack struck.

“There was nothing we could do,” said Savannah’s mother, Ceileta Jackowski Gardner, a 38-year-old nurse.

Since Savannah’s untimely death, her family has received constant support from friends and family in the form of calls, texts and video chats.

“It’s very supporting to know that she was so loved, that they care so much about her,” Ceileta said.

One of Savannah’s friends, Sydney Buhler, started a GoFundMe campaign for the family. As of noon Wednesday, $2,654 had been raised of the $30,000 goal.

That support has been “unbelievable,” Ceileta said.

The family is also looking for any and all pictures or videos of Savannah that friends and other families may have, her mother said.

Submitted Photo 

Savannah Gardner, 14, and her mother, Ceileta Jackowski Gardner, 38. Savannah died Tuesday.

“We want them. I need them. It’s all I have,” Ceileta said.

Savannah leaves behind four siblings: Michael, 22; Meghan, 18; Daven, 12; and Taylor, 10.

Savannah was well-liked by Case staff, according to Case school counselor Jennifer Muffick. Muffick was also Meghan’s counselor, so she said she had known the family for several years.

“Savannah was a very positive member of Case’s freshman class,” Muffick said. “We will all miss her smile and positive attitude. She had a unique way of reaching out to others to make them feel included and important. She will be missed but will not be forgotten.”

For those who did not know Savannah, Ceileta said she wanted them to be aware of “how kind she was, how beautiful her soul was. She really just was that bright light that walked into the room.”

“She was a really cool kid,” Muffick said. “This is a hard day for our entire school.”

But Savannah’s light will continue to shine in Ceileta’s eyes. Savannah’s organs will be donated; she was being matched with potential recipients Wednesday.

“We talked about this over the years; she wanted to be an organ donor so she could help other people,” Ceileta said. “That’s just how she was. She just wanted to help anyone she could help.”

Through shared memories and organ donation, Savannah’s life will go on, and Ceileta found some comfort in that.

“It’s a terrible thing, but her story doesn’t end there,” Ceileta said. “She goes on to help so many more. Savannah’s legacy doesn’t end.”

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Draeger-Langendorf Funeral Home and Crematory, 4600 County Line Road. Family and friends are invited to meet there on Monday for a visitation from 4-7 p.m. The celebration of Savannah’s life will follow at 7 p.m.

Ad hoc Public Safety Committee to plan for village growth

CALEDONIA — After numerous conversations about police and fire staffing and locations, Caledonia’s Village Board has formed an ad hoc Public Safety Committee to develop long-term plans for those departments.

At a special village board meeting Wednesday, the board decided that the ad hoc committee members — trustees Dale Stillman, Kevin Wanggaard and Dave Prott — should reach out to Racine County Economic Development Corp., Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and other entities to learn about Caledonia’s growth projections and develop one- to five-year plans for staffing and facilities.

An ongoing issue

During discussions for the 2019 budget, both Police Chief Daniel Reilly and Fire Chief Richard Roeder requested funds to hire additional police officers and firefighters but were denied.

In March, Roeder requested approval to apply for a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant, which would have funded 70 percent of the wages/benefits for three new hires in the first two years and then 35 percent in the third year.

The costs to the village would have been $152,858 in the first year, $157,398 in the second year, $400,000 in the third year and more than $600,000 per year after that. Board members were reluctant to commit to those funds three years down the line.

The village has other competing needs to finance; at Wednesday’s meeting Public Works Director Tony Lazcano mentioned that the village only repaves about 6 miles each year of the approximately 160 miles it is responsible for repaving. That means roads are repaved on average every 32 to 34 years. For 2019, Lazcano said, the village is set to repave 4 to 5 miles of roadway.

“That doesn’t include the sewers under the roads,” said Trustee Tom Weatherston.

The board agreed to hold special quarterly board meetings, at which trustees can talk more informally about long-term projects.


Pete Wicklund /