More Decorah Middle School Writers Win Awards

Decorah Middle School 8th graders have organized a series of writing contests open to all students at the school. In April, students in grades 5-8 wrote and submitted original poems and short stories. Winners were recently announced at the school’s final monthly assembly and include Natalie Holthaus, Jordyn Roberg, Leah Garcia-Prats, Harper Novak, Veda Shimek, Sofia Hageman, Kelbi Schuman, Lailyn McGrath, Keaton Nalean-Carlson, Naomi Pedlar, Nora Lesmeister, Grace Stockman, Jillian Volz, Isabelle Alley, Charlotte LaBelle, and Mara Baumann.

To honor their spring writing, all winners received a gift certificate to Whippy Dip.

DMS April Writing Contest Winners
Front row (l-r): Natalie Holthaus, Jordyn Roberg, Leah Garcia-Prats, Harper Novak, Veda Shimek, Sofia Hageman, Kelbi Schuman, and Lailyn McGrath
Back row (l-r): Keaton Nalean-Carlson, Naomi Pedlar, Nora Lesmeister, Grace Stockman, Jillian Volz, Isabelle Alley, Charlotte LaBelle, and Mara Baumann.    

Decorah FFA Competes at District Contests

Submitted by: Morgan Moen, Decorah FFA Reporter

The Decorah FFA sent eleven members to Hawkeye Community College to compete in four district FFA contests. Around 400 FFA members from Northeast Iowa competed in events in agronomy, floriculture, food science, and nursery landscape contests. Decorah FFA members who participated include Brooke Anfinson, Annika Brynsaas, Brody Courtney, Braunwyn Darrington, Rashell Lippe, Morgan Moen, Creed Monroe, Chezny Ryant, Hannah Schnitzler, Addison Wemark, and Mara Wyatt.

The team of Brynsaas, Courtney, Monroe, and Wyatt competed in the FFA agronomy contest. The students evaluated various crop production aspects, including hay quality, silage samples, seed quality, corn and soybean marketing, and identification of seed, plant, and insects. The students also took a fifty-question multiple-choice exam covering agronomic practices. The Decorah FFA team placed 8th out of 30 teams.

The team of Anfinson and Darrington represented Decorah FFA in the nursery landscape contest. Students took a general knowledge exam, identified landscape plants, completed a landscape estimation problem, and discussed the proper safety and operation of a zero-turn lawn mower and chainsaw. Anfinson placed 8th individually in this contest. A total of 18 teams competed in this contest.

Forty-three teams competed in this year’s district floriculture contests. The team of Ryant, Schnitzler, and Wemark represented the Decorah FFA chapter in this contest. Team members made a corsage, identified plants and flowers, answered production and management questions, completed problem solving questions, and took a general knowledge exam.

The team of Lippe and Moen competed in the food science contest. Members in this contest completed two sensory evaluations that include identifying various aromas and completing a triangle test to see the differences in products. Members also completed a general knowledge exam and took part in three practicums involving problem solving, food safety and quality, and customer inquiry. Twenty-four teams competed in this year’s district food science contest.

5.18.22 District Nursery Landscape Brooke Anfinson 10th place individual
Brooke Anfinson placed 10th overall in the 2022 Northeast District FFA nursery landscape contest held at Hawkeye Community College.
5.18.22 Decorah FFA Agronomy Team 8th at Districts Monroe Brynsaas Wyatt Courtney
The team of (left to right) Creed Monroe, Annika Brynsass, Mara Wyatt, and Brody Courtney placed 8th overall at the district FFA agronomy contest held at Hawkeye Community College.

5.18.22 Decorah FFA Participants at District Agron Floriculture Food Science Nursery Landscape
Front row (l-r): Annika Brynsaas, Brooke Anfinson, Chezny Ryant, Morgan Moen, and Rashell Lippe
Back row (l-r): Creed Monroe, Brody Courtney, Mara Wyatt, Braunwyn Darrington, Hannah Schnitzler, and Addison Wemark 

DHS Students Donate Prom Proceeds to HSNEI

Prom Donation HSNEI
Students present an $800 check to the Humane Society of Northeast Iowa.  Photo ID (l-r): Jake Magner, Mara Holland, Sarah King (Humane Society of Northeast Iowa Director), Erik Hjelle, and Easton Luzum

Admission to the Grand March of Decorah High School’s prom totaled $800. The students attending voted between three local charities as the beneficiary of the admissions money, and the winner was the Humane Society of Northeast Iowa.

DHS Art Students Share Art with Wellington Residents

Decorah High School art students put on a pop-up art show at Wellington Place Assisted Living Facility on March 10th. Works included pencil drawings, digital paintings, watercolor paintings, sculptures, mixed media and fiber art. Students had the opportunity to display the artwork for about an hour while interacting with residents. Overall, students really enjoyed the opportunity to enrich their community by sharing their artwork. 

Photo ID (l-r):  Janae Bolson, Nev Harper, Riley Wilson, Robin Suhr, Adam Jones, Eily Hegdahl, Maia Foster, Alexandra Stammeyer, and Miranda Miller

Decorah FEC Announces Spell-a-Thon 2022 Results

Volunteers of the Decorah Family, Educator, and Community Organization (FEC) as well as early childhood and elementary teachers and students participated in Spell-a-Thon 2022 in an effort to raise money for the Decorah Early Childhood and Elementary Schools.

Thanks to generous donations from Donlon Pharmacy & Toy Jungle, Dragonfly Books, Cardboard Robot, and The Sugar Bowl, students who participated were entered into drawings. The classrooms in each grade that collected the most pledges were awarded an ice cream party. In addition, the students who raised the most pledges and the most money at each school received a brand new $100 bill or a $25 cash prize with help from Decorah Bank and Trust.  

In 2021 this event garnered approximately $38,900, and this year students and staff surpassed that amount, raising over $40,000. Some of the programs supported in the past two years with these funds include supplementing pre-kindergarten and elementary library collections and supplemental intervention texts, author visits, theater performances, college scholarships, and sponsorship of the Reading Games. The FEC funded over $6000 in teacher requests and plans to continue to support teachers and enhance learning materials for students this coming year.

Community members who would like to support Decorah schools by making a donation to the FEC Spell-a-Thon or by volunteering should contact Shanna Putnam-Dibble via John Cline Elementary School or follow the FEC on Facebook for additional information.

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John Cline and Carrie Lee Spellathon drawing winners with prizes from Sugar Bowl, Dragonfly Books, Cardboard Robot, and Donlon Pharmacy & Toy Jungle
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Henry Moeller earned $100 for top funds raised and most pledges.
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Lillian Timp earned $100 for top funds raised and most pledges.
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Mrs. Lutkenhaus’s 4th grade students celebrate with ice cream for being the top fundraisers in the 4th grade.

DHS Envirothon Teams Perform Well at State

Recently, Decorah set a new mark for the highest number of participants at the Envirothon state contest held this year at Jester Park Nature Center located in Granger, Iowa. Twenty-five Decorah students in grades 9-12 filled out five teams eager to test their knowledge of aquatics, forestry, soils, wildlife and waste disposal at the state competition. Decorah’s five teams earned their participation in the state contest by each scoring as one of the top fifteen teams during regional competition.

Skabush team members Peter Essa, Nathaniel Myers, Henry Weis, Nathan Swarbrick, and Justin Berlage finished as the third best team in the competition by the narrowest of margins: less than one point to a team from Marshalltown. They also finished in a tie for first in the soil category with a FFA team from Muscatine.

Skabush also finished in a tie for first with Decorah’s Cook’s Critters–Grace Neal, Nadia Johnson, Thea Schissel, Alex McGohan, and Kera Walter–in the wildlife category. DNR (Decorah Nerd Republic) finished as the top point-getter in the forestry category. Members of the DNR team are Anders Lovstuen, Simon Kutz, Conner Evelsizer, Libby Phillips, and Gabriel Hiner.

Coach Berland remarked, “I would like to thank the school administration for their support of the Envirothon program. In addition, I could not have transported the students to the regional or state competitions without the help of Dale Wilharm and Ross Evelsizer. Ross, a past Envirothon participant who was a member of two state championship teams, also assisted in getting the students ready for the competition.”

Algona FFA finished as the top team at this year’s competition. They will represent Iowa in the International Envirothon competition to be held at Miami University located in Oxford, Ohio, July 24-30.

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The Skabush team: (l-r):  Nathaniel Myers, Justin Berlage, Henry Weis, Peter Essa, and Nathan Swarbrick. 

DHS Musicians Participate in State Large Group Music Festival

The Decorah High School Music Department participated in the annual State Large Group Music Festival on Friday, May 6 at Waverly-Shell Rock High School. This is an adjudicated festival in which bands and choirs perform for a panel of three judges and receive one of five divisional ratings for their performance: Division I “Superior” rating, Division II “Excellent” rating, Division III “Good” rating, Division IV “Fair” rating, Division V “Poor” rating. The ratings are based on a point scale. Symphonic Band received a division I rating, Wind Ensemble a division II rating, Ninth Grade Choir a division I rating, Viking Chorus a division II rating, and Concert Choir a division I rating with two perfect scores.

4th Graders Excel at the Noetic Learning Math Contest

On April 20th, ten 4th grade students from Carrie Lee Elementary Extended Learning Program led by Mrs. Kari O’Hara competed in the Noetic Learning Math Contest.

Noetic Learning Math Contest is a national mathematics contest for elementary and middle school students. The goal of the competition is to encourage students’ interest in math, to develop their problem-solving skills, and to inspire them to excel in math. More than 31,739 students representing 700 school teams across the country took part in this spring’s contest. 

Brent Burkey was the team winner and won the National Honor Roll title.

The following students received National Honorable Mention, awarded to approximately the top 50% of participating Mathletes:  Logan Kuennen, Cohen Berland, James Zook, Conner Robinson, Cannon Hartl, Iris Wadsworth, and Carter Todd.  All other students received a participation certificate for their great effort.

O’Hara commented, “Congratulations to all the winners! The contest results demonstrate the students’ excellent problem-solving skills and math talents. They also show that the students can rise to the occasion and can meet the challenge.” More detailed information about the Noetic Learning Math Contest can be found at

All Noetic Participants
All Noetic Participants and Honorable Mention Recipients:
Front row (l-r): Cohen Berland, Carter Todd, Brent Burkey, Logan Kuennen, Cannon Hartl
Back row (l-r):  Harrison Wedeking, Conner Robinson, James Zook, Elsa Propson, Iris Wadsworth
Brent Burkey Team Winner
Team Winner and National Honor Roll Recipient Brent Burkey

DHS Earns Top Honors for ‘Tarzan, The Stage Musical’

Decorah High School’s Fall 2021 production of “Tarzan, The Stage Musical” received Outstanding Musical Production and Outstanding Ensemble honors from the Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards (IHSMTA). A group of cast members will perform an excerpt from the show at the 2022 IHSMTA Showcase on Saturday, June 18 at the Des Moines Civic Center. The Awards Showcase will be live streamed at

“Being selected among the top high school musicals in the state is a tremendous honor for our cast, crew, orchestra, and director team, and we are extremely proud,” said Karen Trewin, producer/choreographer/co-director.

Cast members Dylan Muhlbauer (Tarzan), Sally Laybourn (Kala), and Libby Phillips (Terk) were each recognized for Outstanding Performance in a Principal Role. This qualifies them for the IHSMTA’s “Triple Threat” Award, which recognizes outstanding work in singing, acting, and dancing. During the showcase they will receive individual coaching on a solo, work with a New York City-based choreographer and music director, and collaborate with other high achieving students from other schools. They will also audition to represent Iowa at the National High School Musical Theater Awards in June in New York City and audition to receive a full-tuition scholarship to attend a weeklong summer Broadway Intensive Camp in Des Moines in July.

Also receiving honors was Jensen Korsness (Leopard) for Outstanding Featured Dancer. Ella Grouws (Young Tarzan) received Special Recognition for Performance in a Principal Role.

“Our cast, crew, and musicians worked hard and came together as a company to offer what we felt was a great experience for our audiences,” remarked Jason Rausch, music director/conductor. “We attended the showcase four years ago and were really impressed with the IHSMTA. We’re looking forward to working together again and seeing our students’ efforts recognized in Des Moines.”

The production staff for “Tarzan” also includes Chris Hadley, technical director; Anya Lovstuen, stage manager; Mark Potvin, set designer/fly captain; and Kristen Underwood, co-director/costume designer. Sponsoring the fly system installed for the show were Decorah Bank & Trust, Decorah Music Boosters, The Depot Outlet, and Hacker Nelson & Co.

Decorah High School has participated in the annual adjudicated program since 2017 and was recognized for its productions of “Shrek” in 2017-18 and “Tuck Everlasting” in 2019-20. The showcase was canceled in 2020. 

Decorah High School produces fall musicals every two years with a student variety show offered during alternate years.

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Ada Lovelace (Jane) and Dylan Muhlbauer (Tarzan). (Photo by Parker Deen)
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Libby Phillips (Terk) (Photo by Parker Deen)
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Sally Laybourn (Kala) (Photo by Parker Deen)
Tarzan Full Cast
DHS full cast and crew of “Tarzan, The Stage Musical.” (Photo by Parker Deen)
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