Kate Wernimont throws a plate of whipped cream at teacher Scott Duhrkopf — who holds his own retaliatory plate — during Wednesday’s Blue Ribbon Celebration Day at Carroll High School.
Kate Wernimont throws a plate of whipped cream at teacher Scott Duhrkopf — who holds his own retaliatory plate — during Wednesday’s Blue Ribbon Celebration Day at Carroll High School.
April 25, 2013

Fun and games replaced the monotony of class at Carroll High School Wednesday as students celebrated being named a Blue Ribbon School.

Carroll High School is one of 264 public schools named a Blue Ribbon School out of 133,000 public schools nationwide.

School Principal Steve Haluska said he and Vice Principal Tammie McKenzie spent more than 60 hours filling out the application for Carroll High School.

The application included information on enrollment, attendance records, percent of students in activities, ACT scores, course offerings at the school, the school's connection with Des Moines Area Community College and what students were doing post-graduation.

"Why was Carroll High School chosen?" Haluska asked. "Carroll is as fine a community as you will find anywhere. There is commitment to our schools in many areas. The community values education."

McKenzie said the staff at Carroll High School has to be committed to what they do to provide such a quality education.

She listed goals to which the administration has pledged:

- allow students to become lifelong learners through showing skills and setting goals

- demonstrate reading skills

- demonstrate effective communication through listening, speaking and writing

- demonstrate the ability to work cooperatively and citizenship skills

- demonstrate a knowledge and appreciation of the arts

She also explained some of the data found in the Blue Ribbon application.

McKenzie said 80 percent of the ninth-graders showed one-year growth on Iowa Assessments, 58 percent made at least 200 percent of one year's growth, 39 percent made 300 percent of one year's growth, 93 percent of students attend class daily, 80 percent of students are in activities and the 91 students who took the ACT had an average score of 22.4. The Iowa average is 22.1 and nationwide average 21.1.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa even joined in the festivities through a prerecorded video.

"It's a very high honor indeed to be just one of two high schools in Iowa to be recognized by the United States Department of Education with the Blue Ribbon Award," Harkin said. "We both know very well this award isn't just about outstanding test scores. It's about effective teaching and learning. It's about a school spirit that values excellence and achievements."

He congratulated students and faculty on their commitment to incorporate technology to become 21st century learners.

"And by all means, go, Tigers!" Harkin added.

Special guest speaker for the day was Carroll High School graduate Scott Siepker, who is also known as the "Iowa Nice Guy." Siepker, a founding member of the Iowa Filmmakers, was star of "Iowa Nice" videos, which were released during the Iowa presidential caucus campaign in January 2012.

His videos had more than 1 million hits on the social-networking site YouTube. Siepker is now also host of the Emmy-nominated "Iowa Outdoors," a contributor to several radio stations in Des Moines and is involved in the release of a new Web series called "Animal Justice League."

"Mostly I want to impress my old high school teachers by telling them how much I still know," Siepker said about being back in his old high school. "So I thought I'd start 13.8 billion years ago and just work all the way through. ... I think that speech would still be shorter than Mr. Haluska's."

Siepker said he spent a lot of time in the high school gym.

"Mostly sitting right here with the basketball team on the bench. Thanks, Coach Stribe," he said, referring to former boys basketball coach and current athletic director Keith Stribe. "I was really good. I just sat there rotting away the best years of my life. I know most of you feel that way when you're sitting in Mr. (David) Faris' (English) class."

Although he can poke fun at the school now, Siepker said, the foundation for everything he's accomplished came from Carroll High School.

He said he had a bit of a rough time in high school. He transferred from Kuemper and didn't have many friends at the public school.

"Luckily I had people like Mr. Faris, who introduced me to Shakespeare," Siepker said.

He said he worked hard to fit in and eventually found his way by teaching one of the popular girls how to pass geometry.

"Some days are really crappy," Siepker said. "But eventually you find a way if you work hard."

Carroll Community School District superintendent Rob Cordes gave a short speech, which was opened on his new Google Chrome laptop, to prove he was a 21st century learner.

"About 4.6 schools per state per year receive this award," Cordes calculated. "Ladies and gentlemen, you are in very elite company. ... You're kind of a big deal."

Cordes said he's extremely proud of the school's accomplishment.

"This is really how I feel today," Cordes said, before he played the Beach Boys' song "Be True to Your School" from his Chrome book.