SOUTH SIOUX CITY | South Sioux City Middle School teacher Jon Pickinpaugh thought he was going to an assembly Thursday morning to hear school officials laud students' rising test scores.
Instead, in a surprise, Pickinpaugh received a $25,000 Milken Educator Award in front of an enthusiastic crowd of students, administrators and fellow teachers. The presentation was completely unexpected, he said at the conclusion of the ceremony, after lots of hugs and handshakes and a wave of applause and students standing and yelling.
"Normally, I don't like to be surprised, but it was a great surprise," Pickinpaugh said.
Pickinpaugh, 34, is one of just 44 Milken Educator Award winners for the 2017-18 academic year and the only honoree from Siouxland or the state of Nebraska. The annual awards are widely known as the "Oscars of Teaching."
"We don't accept nominations. You don't find us, we find you," Milken Family Foundation Senior Program Administrator Greg Gallagher said.
Gallagher, who was present for Thursday's ceremony, called Pickinpaugh's exceptional teaching a model for the state and nation.
Pickinpaugh has taught for eight years at South Sioux City, where he is currently an eighth grade science teacher and coach. The students filled the east bleachers and sat in five more rows on the gym floor. They were highly enthused to hear which teacher would win the award, as Gallagher explained the details.
Gallagher invited students to hold cards with individual numbers equal to the award amount. He tricked them into first thinking the award would be $250. When a zero was added and the supposed amount was $2,500, the students grew more impressed.
When the third zero was added, bumping the total to $25,000, the audience roared.
Pickinpaugh was praised by Gallagher and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, who named the teacher as the surprise winner. Pickinpaugh is the 40th Nebraska student to garner the award since its inception three decades ago.
South Sioux City Middle School Principal Tom McGuire said it wasn't easy to keep the secret that a district teacher was winning such a substantial award. McGuire said he had known for three weeks, since right before Christmas.
"(Pickinpaugh) is just an outstanding leader in our building...He builds relationships with kids," McGuire said.
Pickinpaugh also is aiming to be a school administrator like McGuire. He will complete his studies at Wayne State College in May to be a school administrator.
Much of Pickinpaugh's life has been in northeast Nebraska. A native of Wayne, he is nearing completion of his third degree from Wayne State College. He achieved the first, an undergraduate degree in business administration, in 2005.
After a few years, Pickinpaugh found he wanted to make more of an impact in the lives of young people, so he veered to have a second career that matched that of his mother, who is a longtime teacher.
Pickinpaugh received a teaching degree from Wayne State in 2010, and has taught since then in the South Sioux City district. His sister, Leah Gomez, is also an educator in the district.
"What makes me a good teacher is making relationships with kids," Pickinpaugh said.
The Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987, recognizes teaching excellence publicly not only to inspire educators, but students and entire communities about the importance of joining the teaching profession.
Last week, this year's only South Dakota honoree, Carla Diede, a middle school teacher in the Harrisburg district, also was surprised with a $25,000 award.
PIERSON, Iowa | Karl Bahrke peered through a small weather window on Wednesday morning. And blasted away with his 7-iron.
Bahrke, a retired teacher who resides in Alton, Iowa, beat the winter storm by driving 40 miles south to play 9 holes of golf at the site of his 80-month links streak, the Pierson Golf Association's 9-hole golf course in Pierson, where Bahrke was raised.
The course, which features rare sand greens and, thus, a wintertime player in Barhke (you can't hurt sand greens this time of year) has been a recreational institution in this Woodbury County community since 1953 when veterinarian Dr. J.P. Woodbridge donated land at the city's southeast corner for a golf course. The land donation was matched with a parcel the city had used for years as a dump.
Bahrke, 61, remembered paying an annual $5 membership fee as a lad and teeing it up here throughout the summers of the 1960s and 1970s. Back in those days, he'd often play golf or baseball throughout the summer with pals such as Lloyd Jenness, Greg Mahnke, Paul Johns, Kevin Law, Bob Spooner, Tom Spooner and others.
"Growing up in Pierson, you could play baseball, play golf and go swimming," he said. "Those were our choices."
His baseball days long gone, Bahrke still enjoys golf, though not on a daily basis during warm weather. He's a bogey golfer whose local claim to fame involves playing at least once per month, no matter what time of year. He's done so since June 2011. That's 80 straight months with at least one round of golf at the Pierson Golf Association, or "PGA" as locals call it.
Bahrke teed off No. 1 at 9 a.m. Wednesday. He shot a 48. He went back out and replayed No. 9 at 10 a.m. when I showed up for the interview.
"I heard Bob Jensen (a retired school principal from Moville, Iowa) once say that he'd played golf (locally) 12 months in a row," Bahrke said. "I thought that was neat and figured I could do it, too."
The winters of 2011-12 and 2012-13 were mild, allowing Bahrke to get at least one round recorded at Pierson in November, December, January and February, the months you might not think one would tee it up around here.
"The coldest I played in was a 15-degree day," he said, detailing how that particular round, completed at the end of a month, helped keep the streak going. "I lucked out because the sun was shining and it wasn't windy. I wore mittens that day, because it was so cold."
Bahrke often wears gloves, a stocking cap, a sweatshirt, coat and boots to keep his feet dry. He carries a hybrid club and a 7-iron, both of which are shelved once the weather warms. He bought the 7-iron for $3 in Wisconsin. "They're good clubs to use in the winter," he said.
He also uses yellow or orange balls to avoid the pitfalls of losing a golf ball in the snow.
"I try to take a picture each time I'm here to record my visit," said Bahrke, who enjoyed a 36-year teaching and coaching career with stops at Iowa schools in Cherokee (1 year), Lakota (2 years) and at Woodbury Central (33 years). He retired from Woodbury Central in 2015 and has spent the school years since serving as a substitute teacher. Bahrke also coaches the sprinters at his alma mater, Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, where son, Scott Bahrke serves as head track and cross country coach.
This avid winter golfer was asked at 6:12 a.m. Wednesday by Principal Rob Wiese if he could serve as a substitute teacher that day at Kingsley-Pierson, his high school alma mater. Bahrke returned the text, apologizing while telling Wiese he couldn't due to "an appointment."
An appointment, I asked?
"Yes, I had an appointment here at the golf course with you," Bahrke said with a smile.
The retiree lost out on a chance to earn $100 while educating young people at Kingsley-Pierson on Wednesday. And that's OK, as there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of other chances Karl Bahrke will get to teach.
What did he gain? The chance to play a round of golf on Jan. 10 at his home course, the "PGA" in Pierson; and the opportunity to beat a winter storm while extending one of Northwest Iowa's unique athletic streaks.
DES MOINES | Challenges at home and abroad are forcing the Iowa National Guard to "adapt and change" its mission to fight America's wars, secure the homeland and build lasting partnership around the world, according to Iowa Adjutant General Timothy Orr.
"As we look around the globe, the international situation today is the most complex and demanding that I have seen in my 39 years of service," Orr said in delivering his Condition of the Guard address to Gov. Kim Reynolds, top state officials and a joint session of the Iowa General Assembly on Thursday.
Orr said natural disasters in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, coupled with major cyber-attacks, and the smallest military since before World War II tested the ability of the Iowa guard and nation to fulfill global commitments "during an era of uncertainty and persistent conflict."
Currently, about 800 Iowa guard soldiers and airmen are mobilized for combat operations around the globe, he said. Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 19,000 Iowa National Guard members serving on active duty to support the nation, he noted.
"With the level of global uncertainty today, the velocity of instability, and potential for significant conflict around the world, we are now at a point where current and projected demands for our assets around the globe to support the warfare will remain at a high operations tempo," Orr said.
For the most part, he said, 2017 was a "relatively quiet year" for emergency response operations in Iowa, but the guard deployed helicopters, aircrews and security forces as part of emergency management assistance compacts when hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria inflicted damage in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, he said.
Another important response was in the area of counter-drug programs and training, especially to combat the nation's opioid epidemic, he said. Orr noted the guard trained 340 law enforcement officers across Iowa how to properly administer the antidote for opioid overdoses, and counter-drug specialists seized more than $43 million in drugs and $3 million in cash and assets from drug dealers in Iowa.
Orr also touted the guard's economic benefits for the state, noting that military, law enforcement and civilian visitors to the Camp Dodge training installation near Johnston pumped more than $100 million of discretionary spending into central Iowa last year.
As a volunteer organization, Orr said recruitment efforts remain a priority, with a growing concern that a large percentage of U.S. military members who come from the same families - "effectively creating a class in our society that is carrying the burden for the remainder of our citizens."
"With only three out of 10 17- to 24-year-olds eligible today for military service due to various reasons," he said, "there's significant concern among civilian and military leaders about the future of our military and the readiness of our force to defend this nation in years ahead."
One change that has helped in that regard, he said, was a Department of Defense revision in 2016 that opened all military positions - including more than 1,700 in the Iowa National Guard -- to women for the first time in U.S. history.
SIOUX CITY | The alleged involvement of a physicians group and four of its doctors with the development of a South Sioux City riverfront outpatient surgery center clearly violate non-compete agreements the doctors had with Pierce Street Same Day Surgery, a lawyer for the Sioux City center told an Iowa judge Thursday.
A lawyer for Tri-State Specialists and six doctors being sued by Pierce Street contends that the physicians have not invested in the South Sioux City project and do not plan to have ownership, management or employment roles in it.
Pierce Street's non-competition agreements also do not contain many of the provisions that Pierce Street accuses the doctors of violating, said Stan Thompson, a Des Moines attorney representing Tri-State Specialists, its CEO and the six doctors.
"We view Pierce Street as trying to block fair competition within the market. I think the defendants have complied with the letter of the agreement," Thompson said Thursday during a hearing on Pierce Street's request for an injunction to enforce non-compete agreements with Drs. Adam Smith, William Samuelson, Kevin Liudahl and Joseph Morris and preventing them from owning, operating, investing in, managing, promoting or being employed by the Riverview Surgical Center, which is under construction along the Missouri River in South Sioux City.
The injunction also seeks to prevent Drs. Terry Monk and Duane Nelson, both former Pierce Street members, as well as Tri-State Specialists and its CEO Lee Hilka, from cooperating with those four physicians in the development and promotion of Riverview.
Iowa District Judge Duane Hoffmeyer said he would rule on the injunction as soon as possible once lawyers submit all final documents and responses by Wednesday afternoon.
"I will get out a decision as soon as I can," Hoffmeyer said.
Since plans for the two-story, 50,000-square-foot Riverview Surgical Center became public last year, Tri-State has promoted its ownership of the center and its involvement in the development, said Bridget Penick, the Des Moines attorney representing Pierce Street.
Smith, Samuelson, Liudahl and Morris all are members and owners of Tri-State, Penick said, and contentions that they haven't been involved in planning or designing the center are false. Smith has personally recruited other doctors to invest in the project, Penick said.
"Tri-State owners and physicians have been intimately involved in this project since day one," Penick said. "It's represented without exception as a Tri-State project."
Pierce Street claims in its lawsuit, filed last month in Woodbury County District Court, that the doctors' non-compete provisions in individual operating agreements they signed with Pierce Street prohibit them from being involved with a competing hospital or surgery center within 30 miles of Pierce Street while they hold an interest in Pierce Street and for one year after leaving the company.
Located at 2730 Pierce St., across the street from UnityPoint Health -- St. Luke's, Pierce Street is less than four miles from the Riverview site.
Ground was broken for the $37 million Riverview Surgical Center next to the Delta Hotels by Marriot at 385 E. Fourth St. in November. The center, expected to open in 2019, will contain operating rooms, medical offices and patient suites. Patients and families will have the option of staying in the adjacent Delta Hotels by Marriott. The center will offer many of the same surgical services as Pierce Street.
Pierce Street's lawsuit includes claims for breach of contract, intentional interference with a contract and with prospective business advantage, breach of duty of loyalty and conspiracy. It's asking that an injunction be in place for the duration of the litigation.
Thompson said the non-compete agreements apply only toward involvement in existing surgery centers. It does not prevent the doctors from being involved in the creation of a new one. Even so, Smith, Morris, Liudahl and Samuelson all provided sworn affidavits in which they said they do not and will not have direct or indirect ownership in Riverview Surgical Center, nor do they have arrangements in place to consult with or be hired by Riverview once it opens.
Pierce Street terminated their memberships on Dec. 20, Thompson said in court filings.
Former members of Pierce Street, both Nelson and Monk's non-compete agreements have expired. Hilka, who served as the Pierce Street CEO from March 2008-April 2015, also has no further obligations to Pierce Street, Thompson said in court filings. All three are members of Riverview's board.
Pierce Street contends that plans for Riverview were being discussed as early as 2015 by the six physicians, Hilka and Tri-State, which is located at 2730 Pierce St. in the same building as Pierce Street Same Day Surgery. Those discussions would have taken place when all six physicians named in the lawsuit had signed operating agreements containing the non-compete provisions in place with Pierce Street.
In the lawsuit, Pierce Street said it could lose 60 percent of its patient volume referred to it by Tri-State physicians, many of whom could begin sending patients to the new Riverview facility.