Joe Chiesa has joked that he should start wearing shirts that are half one color, half another. He's also thrown around the idea of dividing his home into two parts with a piece of tape.
That's because, although his daughters, Emily and Abby, live in the same household, they attend two different high schools: Wauwatosa West and Wauwatosa East, respectively.
"It is kind of unique," Joe said. He added he's never heard of any other family in the same situation.
How it happened
The peculiar arrangement does have a backstory: the girls attend Wauwatosa schools through open enrollment, a process that allows students to attend public school in a district other than the one in which they reside. The family technically lives in Milwaukee; Joe's wife, Lisa, is a teacher for Milwaukee Public Schools and therefore was required to live in Milwaukee, he said. (The residency requirement for public employees, which means teachers, too, ended when Gov. Scott Walker signed the state budget in July 2013.)
The family decided to pursue open enrollment when the daughters were in fifth and second grades. Emily, the oldest, was placed at Eisenhower Elementary School and Abby was placed at Wilson Elementary School, on the other side of Wauwatosa.
Joe said he did ask to see if his second daughter could attend Eisenhower, too, but she was selected through the open enrollment's random drawing process to attend Wilson. Joe said his family rolled with the punches and decided two different schools was a neat opportunity for his daughters.
"I figured, let them blaze their own paths," Joe said.
Finding their own passions
Emily and Abby each completed grade school and funneled into the appropriate middle schools. This year, they'll attend rival high schools. Come September, Emily will attend Wauwatosa West as a senior drum major in the school's band, a member of the varsity tennis team and will continue her involvement in the theater department. Abby will join Wauwatosa East as a freshman, a band member and a player on the school's junior varsity volleyball team.
"In some ways, I like it, and in some ways, I don't," said Abby Chiesa, on attending a different high school than her older sister. "I don't have to be recognized like, 'Oh, you're Emily's little sister,' and I don't have the high expectations that she set for me. (Teachers) get to know me and not based on my sister."
But even at different schools, Abby can't escape the name recognition. Joe said that during a recent band booster meeting (Abby plays the flute) she was recognized by one of Wauwatosa East's drum majors by her last name.
"She hasn't even gone to her first day of classes and she's already being recognized as the sister of Emily Chiesa," Joe said, laughing.
Attending different high schools does have its downsides, Abby said. For example, Emily won't be able to pass on tidbits of knowledge — like which clubs to consider joining and which teachers are favored.
Emily, 17, did have this piece of general advice for her sister: "Make sure she gets involved," she said. "I've definitely tried a lot of things throughout high school and I tried to find my niche."
As for the rivalry, Emily said "it's pretty much all talk." Although, when her dad asked if he could put a Wauwatosa East-themed bumper sticker on the car she drives, he was met with a resounding "no." The thought of sporting a sticker from the rival school was simply too painful to contemplate.
"I said, 'Don't you dare! This is the car I drive!'" said Emily with a laugh. The senior hopes to pursue a college degree in business administration after high school.
Emily is involved with Wauwatosa West's theater program as a student and technical director. Abby is interested in trying out for her school's theater program, too.
"Sometimes we'll get into an argument, like East's theater is better or West's theater is better after we see a show, but it's not serious, it's mostly just joking around," Abby said.
All jokes aside, Joe has one motto: "Emily would say 'West is the best' and Abby would say 'East is the beast.'"