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Chef Clarke The New Food Service Director For Gilbert CSD

The Gilbert Community School District is thrilled to welcome Tace Clarke to our team as the new Director of Food Service.

Chef Clarke got right to work at each of the four buildings last week. She replaces Deb Purcell, who served in the role for more than five years before her retirement last week.

Previously the Food Service Director at Baxter Schools, Chef Clarke comes to Gilbert with more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant and food service industry. She says she has a friend to thank for pointing her in Gilbert’s direction.

“I actually had a close friend who worked here as a long-term (substitute teacher) and I asked her what she thought of Gilbert. She said the processes and routines and families were incredible, and she really sold it for me,” Chef Clarke said. “The opportunity to have multiple buildings and be able to grow a program in a growing community at a school like Gilbert that has a reputation for excellence, it’s just fantastic.”

Chef Clarke grew up just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and began her culinary career in Little Italy, Baltimore where she learned under well-respected chefs on the east coast.

She moved to Iowa a decade ago to serve as the Regional Operational Lead at Life Time Athletic in Des Moines. She eventually took over as the Associate Director of Food Service at Grinnell College and then moved into a leading role at Baxter Schools, where she was in her third year before accepting the position at Gilbert.

Chef Clarke says the move to Iowa has been all she and her family had hoped for when they made the decision.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “My parents moved out from Maryland about two yeas ago … we love it here.”

Chef Clarke is excited to get to work with her new Gilbert CSD staff and put her plan in place.

“I love being able to teach the cooking to my team,” she said. “I love homemade cooking from scratch and I’d like to move in that direction instead of processed ingredients. That’s not a tomorrow thing, but the goal is to start that one day a week and go from there.”

Dr. Christine Trujillo, the Superintendent of Gilbert Schools, sees the passion and enthusiasm Chef Clarke brings to her department, and is excited to see her become a leader in the district.

“Chef Clarke brings a new and exciting energy to the nutrition department,” Dr. Trujillo said. “I look forward to watching her creativity come alive in the kitchen for our children.”

Chef Clarke and her husband, William, have two young children: Liam, 8, and McKenna, 5. William is also a former chef and currently serves as an EMT and firefighter. Liam, a second grader, and McKenna, who is in kindergarten, attend school in the West Marshall Community School District.

An avid equestrian, Chef Clarke and her family live on a farm where they all spend quality time riding.

“Before getting into the culinary world, I actually rode for many years,” Chef Clarke said. “Now I just do it for fun. We all ride and just have fun with it.”

Dr. Trujillo also wanted to thank Ms. Purcell for her commitment to Gilbert CSD during her years as the Food Service Director.

“I’m so grateful to Deb for her hard work and dedication in the area of nutrition for Gilbert students,” Dr. Trujillo said. “We wish her nothing but the best in retirement.”

Thomas Named Iowa Coach Of The Year By National Organization

U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association honor Gilbert XC leader for second time

Gilbert head boys’ cross country coach Aaron Thomas earned another prestigious award on Thursday when he was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association 2023 boys’ high school cross country coach of the year for the state of Iowa.

It is the second time Thomas has received the award from the national association. He was also named the Iowa coach of the year in 2018.

“This one is definitely a reflection of the program,” Thomas said. “It’s a reflection of what the guys did this fall … when you think of all the great coaches and programs year in and year out, being recognized is definitely an honor.”

Thomas guided the Tigers to their fourth Class 3A state championship over the past 10 seasons back in late October. Gilbert placed four runners in the top 15 individually en route to the team crown.

Thomas also led the Tigers to state titles in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

All-Time Hoops Great Ava Hawthorne To Be Honored Monday Night

Program’s leading scorer to be presented with Tigers’ jersey

For four seasons, Ava Hawthorne was a walking, talking highlight reel on the court for the Gilbert girls’ basketball team. On Monday, everyone who watched her shine will get the chance to applaud her career one more time inside the Gilbert High School gymnasium.

Hawthorne, a 2022 GHS graduate and current sophomore at Drake University in Des Moines, will be honored at halftime of the boys’ game against Nevada Monday evening. She’ll be presented with the white No. 10 jersey she wore while setting so many records over her four-year varsity career.

“I am so proud of her accomplishments and proud of her ability to play Division I basketball at Drake,” Gilbert head girls’ basketball coach Mike Frisk said of Hawthorne. “I am lucky to have had the opportunity to coach her … Ava will be successful in anything she chooses in life because of her competitive nature and her ability to work as a team.”

The 5-foot-9 guard holds 13 career, single-season, and single-game 5-player school records, including the most prestigious of them all — career points. She poured in 1,409 points in 86 career games, an average of 16.4 per outing. She surpassed the previous record of 1,379 points, set by Tina Zitterich in 1997, with a 30-point effort in a 78-27 rout of Storm Lake on Feb. 6, 2022.

Hawthorne’s other program records include:

•Career steals (278).
•Career assists (333).
•Career 3-point field goals (168).
•Single-season steals (93 in 2021-22).
•Single-season free throw percentage (84.5 in 2020-21).
•Single-season 3-point field goals (60 in 2018-19).
•Single-season free throw attempts (158 in 2021-22).
•Single-season free throws made (131 in 2021-22).
•Single-game steals (9 in 2021-22).
•Single-game assists (10 in 2021-22).
•Single-game field goal percentage (94.7 — 16 of 17 from the field — 2021-22).
•Single-game free throws made (16 in 2021-22).

And, oh by the way, she also ranks fifth on the program’s all-time rebounds leaderboard (485). Not bad for a guard.

As a sophomore during the 2019-20 season, Hawthorne led the Tigers to the Class 4A state tournament and put on a show-stopping performance in an 89-75 Class 4A quarterfinal-round loss to Glenwood. She erupted for a game-high and still 4A single-game state tournament record 31 points to go along with six rebounds, six steals, and five assists. Hawthorne’s one-game performance landed her a spot on the all-tournament team.

Gilbert won better than 71 percent of its games and averaged 16 wins per season with Hawthorne in uniform.

Now a guard with the Drake women’s basketball team, Hawthorne has seen action in all 16 of the Bulldogs’ games so far this season.


Drake University photo by Luke Lu
Gilbert photos by Debbie Gray and Troy Banning

One Stop Shop Available To All Gilbert Students, Families, And Staff

Gilbert families, let’s play a game of Did You Know …

Did you know the Gilbert Community School District has its very own One Stop Shop? Located inside Gilbert Intermediate and run by our Student and Family Advocate Mel Woodin, One Stop Shop is available to all Gilbert students, families, and staff members who are looking for clothing and various other items. There is no cost for these items.

What are some of the items in the shop? It’s stuffed full of things like coats, shorts, pants, T-shirts, sweatshirts, shoes, boots, and socks. There are stocking caps and gloves too.

A new addition this year is sports apparel, such as jerseys, uniforms, shoes, and cleats, and there’s even some equipment, such as baseball and softball bats.

In addition to students and families, Mrs. Woodin says coaches are encouraged to contact her if they have athletes who are in need of items. If she has it, she’ll pass the items on to the appropriate school.

“This is open to everybody in every one of our buildings,” Mrs. Woodin said. “If someone is looking for a size and we don’t have it, we have generous donors and we can usually find what students and families need. If there’s a player who doesn’t want to buy new shoes, they can reach out to me, and even if there are families who are having trouble finding the means to register their kids for sports, I can help out with that as well.”

Mrs. Woodin says she’s always willing to take donations of new or gently-used items. She’s more than happy to accept Gilbert gear that isn’t specific to a year. Currently, she’s most in need of pants for younger children, such as sweatpants and leggings. And there’s always a need for adult-sized clothes that would be suitable and fashionable for high school students.

“We’re always looking for nice stuff of high school kids, things they would wear,” she said.

This past August, Mrs. Woodin ran a PE shoes exchange during Back To School Night, and many families took part. Because PE shoes aren’t worn every day, and because many of the kids quickly grow out of the shoes, she simply set up a large section of PE shoes and families could exchange what they had for a different pair.

“It’s less waste,” she said.

Mrs. Woodin says that if you would like to receive items from the One Stop Shop, you can reach out to her directly by email at, or you can reach out to one of our building counselors. All inquiries are strictly confidential.

If you would like to donate items to the One Stop Shop, please email Mrs. Woodin.

Intermediate Winter Service Learning Project To Benefit One Stop Shop

The Gilbert Intermediate Lighthouse Leadership Team is currently overseeing its building’s Winter Service Learning Project, which is focused on winter warmth.

Students are collecting donations of new or gently-used winter clothing — coats, hats, gloves, scarves, snow boots, and snow pants — to donate to One Stop Shop. Once the Gilbert shop has the items it needs, the remainder of the items will be donated to the Clothing Closet at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Ames.

The Gilbert Intermediate drive is currently up and running and it will end on Friday, Dec. 15. If you would like to donate items, please bring them to the Gilbert Intermediate office.

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Gilbert Community School District

Gilbert Community School District

103 Mathews Drive, Gilbert, Iowa 50105  |  (515) 232-3740