O'Gorman High School - 50 Years

 

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dear friends families and alumni fifty years ago bishop hoch had a vision where it was possible for all students to attend a centralized catholic high school many questioned the bishop s judgment but the catholic community supported his vision we now celebrate our 50th anniversary and recognize and give tribute to those who have gone before us the dedicated men and women who blazed the trail with their leadership and vision have allowed our success to continue each generation at o gorman high school has helped to ensure with vision and commitment that this school continues to build on its academic excellence and faith community we are thrilled to be able to begin our year-long celebration while at the same time officially opening our brand new o gorman performing arts center we are grateful to all of our supporters who have traveled with us on this journey to totally renovate and revitalize o gorman high school the goals we have achieved are beyond our wildest dreams and we now have a beautiful facility that will serve our students for the next 50 years our theology teacher joe rutten said recently to those that continue to help your reward will be found in a renewal of the faith life in our young people and a strengthening of the catholic community in the future we know that what has been accomplished here is only the beginning of great things to come kyle l groos principal o gorman high school 2

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let not your days at o gorman be spent without deriving a greater appreciation of your faith and without being able to say day after day and week after week and year after year that you are a better catholic because of what you have learned and what you have understood and what you have lived at o gorman excerpt from sermon delivered by his excellency the most reverend lambert a hoch d.d at the first mass in o gorman high school auditorium january 31 1962 3

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o gorman high school opens its doors in the late 1950 s the only catholic high school in sioux falls st joseph cathedral was bursting at the seams most families from parishes other than the cathedral could not enroll their high school students there because there wasn t room bishop lambert hoch wanting to make it possible for all students to attend a catholic high school launched a campaign to build a new centralized high school on a 40 acre site in the middle of an alfalfa field in the southwestern edge of the city many questioned the bishop s judgement some calling it hoch s folly but the catholic community supported the $1.5 million project and on september 7th 1961 o gorman high school opened its doors to about 550 students in addition to tuition fees collected from students each of the city s five parishes at the time supported the school in an attempt to keep the centralized high school more affordable when o gorman opened tuition was just $90 per student 5

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the school named after bishop thomas o gorman noted educator and second bishop of sioux falls had many design features not seen before in the midwest because of the bishop s desire to keep boys and girls segregated during classes the design featured boys and girls separate wings ­ the b wing and the g wing which later would be changed to o and g wings when classes were no longer segregated o gorman s first principal fr howard carroll explained that in addition to the moral implications of segregating the sexes the separation eliminated scholastic competition and also aided in discipline because girls mature faster than boys the distance from one end of the b wing to the end of the g wing was an estimated three block walk which provided many challenges when segregation ended and students took classes in both wings the segregation of boys and girls continued through the 1960 s one of the unique features of o gorman s design was the 560 skylights placed throughout the school to provide `even well-diffused light throughout the school and save on electricity costs while eliminating the need for many windows as decades of students and staff members would witness the skylights which helped light the school also leaked water every time it rained or when snow on the roof melted in the 1980 s after decades of patching the leaks and constant water buckets lining the hallways to catch the drips more than a hundred thousand dollars was spent to raise the skylights in hopes that would take care of the problem when it didn t work the skylights were eventually taken out in the 1990 s and additional lighting had to be added to light the classrooms and hallways 6

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o gorman s original staff consisted of five priests 18 nuns and six lay teachers boys in the 1960 s were primarily taught by priests and laymen while the girls were mostly taught by nuns uniforms consisted of dark brown sweaters white blouses and brown plaid skirts for the ladies and boys wore brown corduroy sport coats white shirts and ties with slacks girls uniform skirts were measured by the `kneel down method while kneeling down their skirts had to be long enough to touch the floor some learned that after they passed `the test they could roll the waist of the skirt up so the skirt would be a little shorter during that first year there were no kitchen facilities so the faculty ate in the home economics room and students brought sack lunches to eat in their homerooms when the school opened the gym cafeteria and auditorium were not quite finished and the o wing was not yet complete in terms of extra-curricular activities o gorman worked with other private schools in the state to gain admission to the south dakota high school activities association sdhsaa their bid was originally rejected by the public school superintendents but the courts ruled against the sdhsaa private schools were then allowed to compete in state tournaments they were previously only allowed to play other catholic high schools in the state one group started in the mid-1960 s to cheer on o gorman teams was the pages a precision drill team coordinated for most of its years by sr suzanne cotter many remember how pages raised money for uniforms by selling candy and treats in the foyer every day after school pages continued into the 1990 s a minor seminary was opened on the o gorman campus in 1964 to help prepare young men for vocations to the priesthood minor seminarians attended classes at o gorman and had additional instruction at the seminary due to decreasing enrollment the seminary was closed in the late 1970 s 7

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the cafeteria an observer at the time noted seeing the cafeteria full of students when it was not lunch time students often roamed the halls many students liked the pass or fail grading option because they no longer felt the pressure to compete with other students for grades and they were allowed to self-evaluate at the end of their high school career for their final transcripts the idea was to challenge students to work independently to make wise choices for their education but instead in the early 1970 s the food in the cafeteria many chose to use the opportunity to spend changed with the introduction of type a time in the cafeteria playing cards and take a food line hot lunches made with government minimum number of classes unfortunately commodities price was 40 per meal said principal fr.victor raemaker at the time we found that many students needed the motivation a short-lived educational experiment in the of being faced with letter grades to improve their early 1970 s introduced the concept of modular classwork or to work up to their ability ­ or block scheduling ­ and was called the new directions program administrators said it would allow for `individualized learning experiences and along with it came pass or fail grading students were given the option of attending classes or going to a study hall or by 1970 tuition had risen to just over $200 per student but work study options were available as the number of priests and sisters decreased the need to hire more lay teachers increased raising the cost to attend o gorman in the 1970-71 school year there were 43 full time faculty members half of whom were lay teachers in the spring of 1971 fr howard carroll announced his resignation and fr.victor ramaeker was assigned to take his place several activities popular with students during the 1970 s and early 1980 s were acceptable given the culture of the time · mock funerals for the opposing team s mascot were an annual tradition at o gorman before the district basketball games students would dress up as mourners the grieving widow etc and `mourn the predicted demise of `willie the warrior or `peter the patriot an actual casket was brought in procession to the school up the big stairs and into the foyer where a mock funeral was held 9

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· an experimental program called interim was held one week each year to provide the students with an opportunity to explore their personal areas of interest students could choose from over 100 different courses ranging from roller skating to tumbling archery and making sand terrariums by the mid 1980 s it was determined that interim was taking valuable time away from the classroom and was a lot of work for teachers and administrators · in the 1970 s a hammer squad was formed by students to help cheer on the sports teams it was ultimately disbanded when its focus became more on partying than cheering for the team · smoking in the bathrooms was finally snuffed out around 1980 something students were happy to see go by the wayside was a unique form of discipline called ecological opportunity which meant spending saturday mornings scrubbing bathrooms or picking up pieces of broken pop bottles from the parking lot these opportunities were eventually eliminated in favor of early morning detentions uniforms changed a bit in the early 1970 s boys could choose to wear the brown corduroy jackets or brown cardigan sweaters girls could wear colored shirts or blouses with their brown plaid skirts and also wore brown sweaters they took great care in those days to match their blouses with their socks bob burns photo courtesy of the sd sports hall of fame 10

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co-curricular activities saw great success in the 1970 s in several areas the first musical at o gorman directed by miss nancy wheeler was guys and dolls presented in 1973 the football program was turned around with the hiring of the legendary coach bob burns one of his first ideas was to host a bi-centennial bowl in 1976 at howard wood field complete with hot air balloons skydivers and a big bowl type atmosphere it was a huge success but you can t host a bi-centennial bowl every year so two years later in 1978 burns launched the first ever dakota bowl with o gorman taking on north dakota s #1 team fargo-shanley the dakota bowl was extremely successful and paved the way for high school bowl games throughout the state although none has ever come close to its popularity and fund raising ability to date the dakota bowl has raised more than $2.5 million for the sioux falls catholic schools o gorman had a rapid turnover of faculty students and educational processes throughout the 1970 s in 1976 fr ramaeker resigned as principal and fr joseph wagner was named his successor after serving just three years as principal of o gorman fr wagner resigned as principal and tom lorang a vice-principal at the time was chosen as the school s first ever lay principal the late 1970 s also brought a new fundraising project to the school ­ magazine sales now three decades of students have sold and benefitted from the sales which brings in about $70,000 each year which is split between the sioux falls catholic schools and the school organizations named by the students 11

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the 1980 s continued to bring change for students a strong focus was put on academics it became cool to work hard and get good grades students and faculty were challenged to strive for excellence and it started paying off in visible ways o gorman was honored by the u.s department of education in the 1984-1985 exemplary school recognition project later termed a blue ribbon school the program was developed to direct public attention to unusually effective schools across the country principal lorang noted at the time by striving to help our students do their best intellectually creatively developmentally and artistically and by placing equal emphasis on intellectual and moral growth o gorman clearly reflects the project s selection criteria a year later as the school celebrated its 25th anniversary principal lorang noted a renewed interest in academic achievement the job market global comparisons and a feeling for some of the traditional values led the policy makers of the late seventies to reinstitute a more traditional daily schedule a return to giving grades and to place greater demands on students with over eighty percent of the graduates going on to college it became imperative that the o gorman program be totally cognizant of the type and amount of preparation needed to help assure success he went on as we review the past 25 years and look forward to the next 25 we pledge that we will continue to be strong in providing a dynamic faith community academic excellence and extra-curricular opportunity there were a number of teachers in the late 1970 s and early 1980 s that really challenged 13

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the minds of their students in a way they had never been before sr jeanette silvis is often mentioned as one of those teachers her passion for science and love for her students opened their minds to the possibility of careers in the sciences and medicine more students in the early 1980 s were moving on to careers in medicine than ever before twenty years later o gorman became educational partners with avera mckennan as the hospital looked for ways to ensure they would have enough doctors nurses and other medical professionals to meet the increased future demand currently o gorman graduates typically account for about 10 of each freshman class at the usd medical school in 1981 the knights football team won the state s first high school football championship title it was one of the first very visible athletic successes in o gorman s history and set the tone for great traditions to come for o gorman s teams the success o gorman was experiencing on the field in high profile activities really helped demonstrate the true spirit of the o gorman community it was a special time for the school as faculty students parents and alumni rallied together to promote even greater expectations with the number of nuns and priests decreasing in the early 1980 s principal tom lorang and then-bishop paul dudley decided it would be best to have someone responsible full time for assuring the continuation and advancement of the faith development of the students and staff and the position of a chaplain was created fr chuck cimpl was assigned the chaplaincy fr chuck lived at the school for a number of years during the 1980 s and always made it a point to greet teams arriving late at night from road trips and the maintenance man early in the mornings he used to clean a different part of the building every night while he lived there from scrubbing floors to counseling students and staff members fr chuck did whatever needed to be done and did it with great love and enthusiasm 14

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an increasing focus on christian service came during the 1980 s o gorman students reached out to serve senior citizens the homeless kids with disabilities and students in many elementary schools throughout the city that focus on christian service continues today in 1985 the supreme court ruled that south dakota public schools could no longer loan textbooks to students attending private schools o gorman had to go several weeks without books and eventually had to bid on the textbooks at a public school auction later a constitutional amendment made it possible for students to borrow books from the public schools in terms of academics o gorman returned to a traditional schedule with eight periods per day it also increased graduation requirements by four credits from 18 to 22 years later the requirements were increased yet again to 25 also in the 1980 s many advanced and advanced placement courses were offered and comprehensive testing at the end of the semester was implemented after a hard look at the curriculum a number of less challenging courses were dropped in the late 1980 s the school began offering classes for college credit and those were dramatically increased in the 1990 s and 2000 s by 2010 there were a total of 55 college credits possible the number of nuns teaching at the school declined from 18 in 1961 to five in 1987 by 2011 there was one because there were fewer nuns and priests teaching at o gorman and because of the need to pay lay teachers salaries and benefits tuition increased over the years from $90 in 1961 to $315 per student by 1974 $750 in 1983 $1,175 in 1987 and is about $3,900 in 2011 15

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