Spirit of Excellence: Pulaski High School recognized with state honor

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Michelle McGrath, right, executive director for the Wisconsin Association of School Councils, hands the Spirit of Excellence Award trophy to Jack Walker, center, Pulaski High School student council president, and Macy Agen, PHS student council vice president, at the end of Monday’s awards ceremony at the school’s field house. Besides the trophy and a pair of banners, the school will be recognized at halftime at the April 7 Milwaukee Bucks game and other venues throughout the year. (Times Herald photo by Lee Pulaski)

The Pulaski High School marching band gets the crowd fired up Monday morning as the ceremony for the Spirit of Excellence Award begins. This is the first year that the school has applied for the award, which started 13 years ago. (Times Herald photo by Lee Pulaski)

Officer Adam Winkler with the Pulaski Police Department loads up a T-shirt gun to shoot shirts into the crowd Monday morning at the end of an awards ceremony for the Spirit of Excellence at Pulaski High School. (Times Herald photo by Lee Pulaski)

Pulaski High School has another reason to celebrate beyond the week-long community festival in the village of Pulaski.

The school received the coveted Spirit of Excellence Award on Monday, an award sponsored by the Wisconsin Association of School Councils, Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association, Milwaukee Bucks and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association.

Although Monday was the school’s celebration, the Red Raiders will be recognized throughout the year. Another awards ceremony is scheduled for halftime at the April 7 Bucks game, recognition at a WASC conference April 28, continuous recognition on Fox Sports Network and a promotional spot airing during the WIAA State Boys and Girls Basketball Tournaments.

The award is not one geared toward strictly athletics or one specific aspect of a school. PHS received the award for excellence in multiple categories — including leadership development, school spirit, sportsmanship and service to school and community.

“Through demonstrations in leadership, academics, sportsmanship, athletics and other dimensions, the Pulaski Community School District embodies the ideals of this award in that it was founded on tradition and pride and is truly focused on excellence,” said Jack Walker, PHS student council president, during a speech at Monday’s awards ceremony.

The student council put in many hours creating a portfolio that highlighted the best of the school, according to Sara Diehlmann, one of the student council’s advisers.

“I think we were all surprised,” Diehlmann said following the ceremony. “It’s a big undertaking, but they all came together and did a really good job. We were super excited when the principal came and told us that we won.”

This is the first year that Pulaski has submitted its name for consideration, which makes it all the more exciting for the community.

“I truly can’t think of another school that is more deserving than Pulaski High School to receive this award,” said Michelle Grath, executive director for WASC, to the crowd. “The leadership of your high school, as well as the leadership you’ve demonstrated athletically, academically, in the arts and all else truly sets the bar for the state of Wisconsin.”

The award was created more than 13 years ago to recognize excellence in schools, according to Todd Clark, WIAA director of communications and advanced media.

“This award was created to recognize the good and positive things happening in our schools throughout the year,” Clark said.

PHS has more than 1,100 students within its halls, and 90 percent of them participate in at least one co-curricular activity, according to school principal Jeremy Pach. There are 46 clubs in addition to the athletic and artistic venues available to the district, Pach said.

The high school also has a community service day where students go out and help to improve the lives of their friends and neighbors. The school is also open late into the night for community organizations that utilize the building, according to Pach.

“This is the hub of our community,” Pach said.

Walker said the award shows an accurate representation of what goes on in the Pulaski community.

“I think the culture at Pulaski High School is very welcoming in that there are different things for our students to participate in,” Walker said. “Whether it’s academics or athletics, there’s something for everyone to get involved in and develop a passion.”