By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Gov. Terry Branstad congratulated St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School on its Blue Ribbon School designation during a visit to the school Nov. 18.
St. Paul the Apostle is one of only seven schools out of 1,633 in Iowa and one of 304 schools out of 132,656 nationwide to achieve Blue Ribbon status this year. Less than 1 percent of schools nationwide were chosen for the award, announced in September.
During an all-school assembly at St. Paul the Apostle, the governor noted that two graduates of the school are on his staff. “They are back in Des Moines working so I could come here,” Gov. Branstad said. “I know the success of your work here.”
A supporter of Catholic education and a good education for all, the governor noted his children attended Catholic schools in Des Moines and his oldest granddaughter is currently a kindergartner at a Catholic school.
He told the assembly that being a Blue Ribbon School “does not happen by accident.” It’s due to the dedication of students and encouragement of parents and the parish as well. He said schools need to work toward a high standard as St. Paul the Apostle has done.
“The lieutenant governor and I have placed education as a priority,” the governor said. “Students are encouraged to be involved and that is happening here.” He said he believes people should have a choice in ensuring their children receive quality education, whether that’s through a public, private, Catholic or home school.
“You are blessed with your parish community, not only for their financial support, but for the volunteers.” Active involvement of teachers and administration working as a team “is why you earned the Blue Ribbon School designation.”
Gov. Branstad hopes other Iowa schools will be inspired by Blue Ribbon Schools and work toward moving Iowa back to number one in education in the United States.
Other guests at the Blue Ribbon celebration were Fathers Maynard Brothersen, William Meyer, Hai Dinh, Tim Regan, Michael Spiekermeier and Msgr. Robert Walter, all of whom have served at St. Paul the Apostle Parish; Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, Diocesan Superintendent of Schools Lee Morrison, Diocesan Faith Formation Director Mary Wieser who also is a former teacherat St. Paul’s and superintendent, former principal Bill Schneden, former teacher and principal Sue Manternach, and other former teachers and staff members.
Current Principal Julie Delaney said becoming a Blue Ribbon School does not happen overnight or over the span of a couple of years. “I’ve been here 21 years (she earlier served as a teacher at the school) and I know the standards are high.”
She thanked the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary who founded the school in 1926. Student representatives shared their thoughts about what makes St. Paul the Apostle a Blue Ribbon School: teachers, parents, the principal encouraging students, the community, themselves, school pride, Mass, their Catholic faith, and more.
Two videos were shown during the assembly: one about the school and another with a message of congratulations from Jason Glass, Iowa’s director of education. The governor took a tour of the school following the assembly and met with parishioners during a reception in Denning Hall.
Principal, teacher attend conference
As part of the Blue Ribbon School Award, Principal Julie Delaney and teacher Lynn Leming attended a conference in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15-16. Leming said the conference was student centered. “It was clear that kids come first.”
She noted that involvement solidifies what Blue Ribbon schools do. “It’s not about teachers. But behind every businessperson is a teacher who cared and worked to make the world a better place.”
Delaney appreciated that the Department of Education representatives asked for participants’ opinions. U.S. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan spoke to those in attendance and answered questions from administrators and teachers. “Our voice was important to him in school reform. I felt like the government was listening to me. I had a voice,” Delaney said.