St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School has a new principal this year, following the retirement of Mike Pavik.
The “new” principal, however, is quite familiar with the territory. Duane Siepker previously served as St. Thomas principal from 1997 – 2003 and has returned, starting his duties July 1. Prior to his return, he served two years as principal at Seton Catholic School in Ottumwa, two years at Sacred Heart in Boone and five years at St. Cecilia’s in Ames.
“I’m a nomad,” he jokes. He is in his 47th year in education, having worked 25 years as a classroom teacher and 22 years as an administrator.
The Carroll native has family in central Iowa, one reason for his return to the area. Another reason, he says, is simply, “I love it here!” When the position became available last spring, he was eager to apply. “I’m delighted to be back,” he says.
Of the St. Thomas staff of 14, Siepker has worked with half of them who were there when he left in 1997.
“We have awesome young people and staff here,” he says.
Over the past few months, Siepker has been getting settled into his new office and overseeing school-prep projects such as classroom painting and carpet cleaning, the addition of more air conditioning units in classrooms and ordering supplies. This year, St. Thomas will have a new preschool teacher and will implement the new “Bridges” Pre-K/Kindergarten program. The BLAST after-school program will also be coming back.
Siepker wants to continue the school’s identity of a learning environment with Christian values and says while St. Thomas is a Catholic school, it is open to all faiths.
“We want children to know that they are created in God’s image, and have God-given talents and gifts,” he says.
A back-to-school night will be held Aug. 20 to allow students and parents to visit classrooms and drop off school supplies; a parent night will be held Aug. 21 so parents and teachers can discuss the coming year.
One of the new principal’s main goals is increasing numbers.
“We want to look at enrollment and find ways to let people know what a gem we have here,” he says.