History of BA



Despite the tremendous physical growth of the Academy, the core philosophy has not changed. In the pursuit of excellence, the Academy decided long ago not to try to please everyone, at the risk of thereby pleasing no one. With the guiding values of Intellect, Character, Truth, Individuality, and Heritage, a demanding program, small classes, and texts and materials chosen for their consistency with time-proven Judeo-Christian values, the Academy provides students and their parents with an unparalleled education, preparing students for college and for life.

The Founding Era

In the early 1960s, a few Milwaukee-area families were worried -- It seemed to them that the "progressive" education sweeping the country was adrift, hesitant to challenge the intellect, and increasingly afraid to enunciate traditional values. This determined group of like-minded parents gathered to discuss the intriguing possibility of starting their own school. This school would use traditional methods and texts; it would instill in students a reverence for character values and the search for truth; and it would hire teachers who both loved children and appreciated the freedoms of Western Civilization.

Those dreams gave birth to the Academy of Basic Education (A.B.E.). The founders purchased a quaint, brick, ranch-style home on a 12-acre hilltop site in Brookfield and set about converting the house into a school. They hired William Beye Smeeth as headmaster. Mr. Smeeth's passion was to encourage each child's intellect, which he often referred to as "a lamp, brilliantly lit." Smeeth hired six talented teachers and the new independent school was born. When the doors opened on September 10, 1962, 33 students in grades 1-8 eagerly set about the task of learning how to think.

The Growth Spurt

The second year, the Academy opened with 65 students, eight teachers, a new 9th grade class, and a waiting list. By 1964, three new classrooms were added onto the building to accommodate the growing enrollment. In 1967, a second classroom building, Freedom Hall, was built to house the Upper School program, called College Prep School. The Academy celebrated the graduation of its first senior class in 1971.

Dr. Nyle Kardatzke was named Head of School in September 1978. A witty and engaging leader, Kardatzke believed "the life of the school is the life of the mind." He nurtured the Academy's development for 15 years and instituted the name change to Brookfield Academy, reinforcing the concept that the Lower, Middle, and Upper School programs constituted "one school, three divisions."

Enrollment growth meant more new buildings:  Independence Hall (1976), additions to Freedom Hall (1986-87), the construction of Constitution Hall (1986-87) and, in 1992, the purchase of a bowling alley bordering the south edge of the campus. This bowling alley was converted into Liberty Hall.

When Dr. Kardatzke left the Academy in 1992, a long-range plan was in place and the school had established itself as one of the top college-prep institutions in the Midwest.

Building on a Firm Foundation

Long-time Brookfield Academy teacher and coach Robert Solsrud was named Head of School in 1993. In 1995, as enrollment crept up to nearly 600 students, a new opportunity surfaced:  the purchase of a 100-acre farm on the west side of Brookfield Road. Over the next 15 years, the land was developed into a premier athletic complex and crowned by Patriots Hall, a state-of-the-art home for the Upper School completed in 2010. Along the way, a 12-classroom addition was made to Constitution Hall (2001) and Independence Hall was remodeled into a Lower School fine arts center (2001).

In July of 2015, J. Spencer Taintor, Ph.D became our new Head of School.

In July of 2017, Brookfield Academy was proud to announce that Sharon Koenings had been appointed Head of School.  Mrs. Koenings previously served as Assistant Head of School, Director of Admissions and Director of College Counseling.  Doug Ricci, the Head of the Middle School, was chosen to also serve as Assistant Head of School, and Linda Pryor ’73 (Gentile), the Head of the Lower School, was given the added role of Director of Academics and Mission.

Mrs. Koenings, Mr. Ricci and Mrs. Pryor, all long-time Brookfield Academy teachers and administrators, worked with students, parents and staff throughout the previous 27 – 39 years. The cumulative experience and length of service among this trio speaks to their commitment, dedication and support for Brookfield Academy’s mission and vision for future generations of students at the school.

Today, 110 outstanding faculty members educate more than 870 students in six superb buildings on a picturesque 117-acre campus. Brookfield Academy annually graduates classes of more than 88 students who are accepted by the top colleges and universities in the world. Upper School students have the opportunity to choose from 28 Advanced Placement courses. Athletics are competitive in the conference and region. Opportunities to explore interests in performing arts, fine arts, music, writing, volunteer service, and a host of club activities abound in all three divisions.