WATERFORD — Over his more than 30 years with the district, 20 of them as superintendent, Keith Brandstetter’s passion for his work has made an obvious impact on Waterford High School.
By his own account, of the 132 people who work at WHS, Brandstetter was involved in hiring 128 of them.
Brandstetter, 65, announced his plan to retire after the end of this school year during a November School Board meeting. His last day is set to be June 30.
Although he’s been superintendent since 1999, it’s clear that Brandstetter is still passionate about the job.
“I’ll miss the students and staff,” Brandstetter said. “It’s about the relationships you establish over the years.”
Brandstetter said that when he looks back on the achievements the school has made in his time as superintendent, one area that stands out is Waterford’s focus on academics over the past decade.
“The kids get it, the staff gets it, I’m proud of that,” he said.
Waterford students, for at least the past several years, have consistently scored well above the state average on the ACT, taken each year by high school juniors. The school’s Advanced Placement students have also had some of the highest pass rates in the state for those classes.
During Brandstetter’s tenure, the district made improvements in many areas, including music, fine arts and technical education. He believes the district provides opportunities for all students, from those interested in agriculture to students with a passion for literature.
Kevin Malchine, who served on the School Board for 18 years of Brandstetter’s time as superintendent, praised Brandstetter’s fiscal responsibility and his prioritizing of students.
“I don’t think you could ask for a better superintendent,” Malchine said.
He added that Brandstetter has a passion for the job, is conscientious of teachers’ well-being and is honest and forthright.
“He cares about the kids, he cares about the teachers, he cares about the community,” Malchine said.
41 years in education
Brandstetter grew up in Milwaukee and moved to Waterford in 1978 to teach science at the high school. Six years later, Brandstetter met his wife, Lou Ann, a fellow teacher at Waterford. He then moved to teach science and serve as head boys basketball coach at Mukwonago High School for the next nine years. He returned to Waterford in 1993 as the assistant principal and has been with the district since then.
During his time at Waterford, Brandstetter coached cross country, boys basketball and softball.
In 1999, the School Board made the unusual decision to promote Brandstetter from assistant principal to superintendent, skipping over the role of principal.
“The board had faith in me,” Brandstetter said.
Brandstetter became emotional when he spoke about the relationships he formed at the school. He said it’s been a pleasure to work with the School Board and administrators and to become a part of the community.
“It’s been a rewarding experience,” Brandstetter said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”
WHS English teacher Nate Schreiber described a unique bond between himself and Brandstetter. Brandstetter was Schreiber’s science teacher in 1990 when he was a freshman at Mukwonago High School, and nine years later Brandstetter hired Scheiber to work at WHS.
Schreiber said he and Brandstetter have gone through both good and difficult times together, and although they didn’t always see eye-to-eye, Brandstetter’s door was always open to listen and the WHS teachers know he has the students’ best interests at heart.
“He loves his job,” Schreiber said. “The decision to retire was extremely difficult for him.”
In his retirement, Brandstetter plans to spend more time with family and do some traveling, things he hasn’t had much time for during his career.
“It’ll be a chance to relax,” he said.
A focus-group meeting for the public to give input on what they would like to see in their next superintendent is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the school’s large group instruction room. The board is to receive input from support staff, teachers and administrators.
The board plans to start taking applications in mid-February and to make a selection of a new superintendent by the end of March.
“Waterford High School is going to be different after he leaves,” Schreiber said. “After he leaves there’s going to be a void that will be tough to fill.”
“I don’t think you could ask for a better superintendent.” Kevin Malchine, former Waterford High School District board member speaking of Keith Brandstetter