Alumnus was key player in fight to save ‘little red schoolhouse’
Dr. Angie Servi is part of the Maple Grove Charter School legacy and played a key role in saving the K-5 institution from closing.
She grew up in the town of Hamburg on a dairy farm her grandfather, Martin Paul, started. A graduate of Maple Grove Charter School, she attended UW-Green Bay as an undergraduate on a Mable and Walter Fromm college scholarship promised to all graduates of the rural elementary school.
Returning with her husband to build a house in Hamburg township in 2009, the couple now has three children — a fifth grader, a second grader and a kindergartner — attending Maple Grove School as fourth generation students.
Servi’s family history is intertwined with the Fromm family. While working on the family dairy farm, her father, Gary Paul, helped feed foxes at the Fromm Brothers’ business. She remembers seeing the foxes herself in visits to the farm.
Servi had been happy that Merrill School District in 2018 passed a referendum that pledged to keep Maple Grove School open for an additional year, but, by November 2020, she was “on eggshells” fearing that the district, which suffered further budget problems, would make good on earlier threats to close the school.
Servi, having already served as secretary for the Maple Grove Charter School Governance Board, agreed in 2019 to be the board president and battle the Merrill Board of Education, first with a lawsuit settled in the governance board’s favor, and then with a petition drive to attach Maple Grove School and 18,000 acres of land to Athens School District.
She said the court battle decided by Judge Mike Moran was “critical” and opened the door to the petition effort. Servi said she and an aunt knocked on doors all over Hamburg township, collecting signatures.
Servi said she recalls the night the Merrill Board of Education agreed to detach Hamburg township and allow it to attach to Athens School District.
“It felt crazy,” she said. “There were a lot of tears of joy that evening.”
For Servi, the drive to keep Maple Grove School open proved the “power of community.”
She said that Hamburg had, for awhile, felt like a split community with some of its families in the Merrill School District, while others were part of Athens School District. The attachment, she thinks, will help build community in Hamburg, which is a positive thing.
Servi said it was heartening to be part of a state governed process where regular people could, if they followed procedure, adjust school district boundaries and preserve a precious institution, such as Maple Grove Charter School.
None of it would have happened, however, without the solid backing of the Hamburg community, the charter school president noted.
“There are not a lot of communities that would fight for their school,” she said. “We have something special here.”