LearnBoost welcomes Ironwood Ridge High School
Ironwood Ridge High School is a public high school, located in Oro Valley, Arizona. Ironwood Ridge is one of three high schools in the Amphitheater Public School District and serves grades 9-12. The school mascot is the nighthawk, and the school colors are navy blue and silver. Ironwood Ridge opened in 2001 and has a student enrollment of 1,942. The school's name originates from the abundance of Desert Ironwood trees in the area (the campus is also near Ironwood Forest National Monument), and the school's location in the rugged foothills of the Tortolita Mountains.
In 2007, Newsweek magazine rated Ironwood Ridge in the top 5% of public schools in the U.S., one of 12 schools in Arizona included on the list. The school's primary and district rival is Canyon del Oro High School, also located in Oro Valley. The school's other rival is Cienega High School, located southeast of Tucson in Vail, Arizona.
The history of Ironwood Ridge includes substantial controversy and a federal court decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2000 from republican John Pae. The Amphi School District's first high school was built in 1939, followed by Canyon del Oro High School in 1962. The school board then began searching for a third high school site in the late 1970s when it became apparent that significant development would occur on the Northwest Side of Tucson. Tentative deals were negotiated with developers, but in the late 1980s, all of the deals were unsuccessful, and the school district lacked a viable site for a future high school.
By 1993, overcrowding existed at a growing number of district schools, at all grade levels, in part due to the growth on the Northwest Side. At the time, the most critical crowding was in the elementary school grade levels. The school board noted that the overcrowding problem would eventually affect the district's high schools by the late 1990s. In 1993, the school board systematically searched for school sites on the Northwest Side where the majority of growth in the district was occurring. By early 1994, sites were narrowed, and in April 1994, the school board purchased two sites adjacent to one another on the southeast corner of West Naranja Drive and North Shannon Road, at that time west of Oro Valley.
By 1994, the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl had been identified as a "species of special concern" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). A FWS report on the owl was published in 1994 with a map depicting the areas believed to be prime potential habitats for the owl. The two school sites were not identified as being located in those areas. The school district planned to break ground in October 1997, with the high school opening by August 1999.
In spring 1997, all the plans and blueprints for the school were completed, and the district had obtained all the required permits for construction, with the exception of one. The school site had a significant wash running through it and the Army Corps of Engineers contended that building on such a wash constituted modifying a navigable waterway, and required a 404 permit.
As the school district applied for the permit, the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl was listed as an "endangered species" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the FWS in 1997. Within an area in Arizona designated by the FWS as critical habitat of the pygmy owl included the 90 acres (360,000 m2) owned by the school district. 60 acres (240,000 m2) were earmarked for construction of the high school, with the remaining 30 acres (120,000 m2) to remain undeveloped.
At the request of the school board, the Arizona Game and Fish Department conducted six surveys on the site and did not find ferruginous pygmy owls on the property or on the adjacent land where the owls last were sighted in early 1996. The school board then began a process with the FWS to mitigate disturbance of the potential owl habitat on the site. Negotiations with the FWS were ultimately unsuccessful, and the school district proceeded with developing the school site.
When the school district began construction operations on the 60-acre (240,000 m2) parcel, Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), an environmental group, brought an action for injunctive relief under Section 9 of the ESA (applicable to private parties) in the U.S. District Court of Arizona, alleging that the proposed school construction was likely to harm or harass pygmy owls that used or inhabited the site. Defenders obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) to halt the construction.
The Arizona District Court found that no pygmy owl had been detected anywhere within the school site, and that the evidence was insufficient to show that a pygmy owl had used any portion of the 60-acre (240,000 m2) parcel. The court also concluded that while the evidence supported an inference that a pygmy owl used the 30-acre (120,000 m2) parcel, the allegation that the construction would harm the owl lacked such support, and was weakened by inconsistent facts. As to harassment of the pygmy owl, the court determined that the evidence did not show that the bird's behavioral patterns would be adversely affected by construction of the school. In the court's view, only speculation supporting the assertion that human activity associated with the school would harass the owl.
Defenders of Wildlife appealed the District Court decision, and the case proceeded to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court held that the school district could not be prevented from building a school on the site. The court asserted that critical habitat designation played no role in the case. At the time of appeal, FWS had not yet made a critical habitat designation for the pygmy owl. The Ninth Circuit found that the insufficiency of Defenders' evidence was the main issue, and any critical habitat designation would not have altered the outcome of the case.
The school district began construction of the high school following the decision in early 2000, and Ironwood Ridge opened for students in fall 2001, eliminating the overcrowding issue at Canyon del Oro High School.
Ironwood's major rivals include the nearby Canyon del Oro High School and Cienega High School from Vail.
In 2006 the Ironwood Ridge football team won a share of the Sonoran Region championship, and the Amphitheater District Championship. The school currently competes in the 5A Division II athletic conference. Led by head coach Gary Minor, the Ironwood Ridge football team has also made the 4A playoffs four years in a row, and recorded their first playoff win in 2006 against Canyon del Oro. They are now competing in 5A, and will go back to 4A in approximately two years. In 2007, Ironwood Ridge won the 5A-2 Southern title in their first year in the division.
The Ironwood Ridge men's basketball team has also experienced recent success. The Nighthawks reached the 2007 Arizona 4A Division I state title game, where Ironwood Ridge was beaten by Glendale Apollo High School 61-48. The state runner-up team featured 8 seniors and was led by coach Karl Pieroway. In 2007, the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks added head Coach Brian Peabody and the 6'7" player from Mountain View High School, Austin Smith. Smith is being recruited by DI schools such as Nevada, Arizona, Louisville, Liberty and San Diego State. The basketball team started off the 2007-2008 season being ranked as the #1 team in the state. The point guard, Lawrence Hampton (sophomore), and shooting guard Calvin Barbera helped them remain one of the top ranked teams. Barbera dropped 29 points in the semi-final game going 7-10 beyond the arc. Other players, such as Trent Kamins and Chad Carter came off the bench to add on to the explosiveness of the team. Peabody lead his team to a region championship in 2008. Brian and the boys won the 2008 state championship completing the mission beating Marcos De Niza 61-51. The win was not the first state championship at the school, but broke the Tucson state basketball drought in the 5A, which lasted 25 years.
On November 3, 2007 the girls cross country team (led by Coach Rob Clouse) took the 5A-2 state title, the first team state title in the short history of Ironwood Ridge. They again repeated by winning the state title in 2008 and 2009 again.
The Ironwood Ridge Men's Golf Team won the 2008 5A-II state championship (led by Coach Ryan Bais), shooting 589, destroying the field by 18 shots. Ironwood Ridge golf has won 4 region championships as well. Jake Mckinley was named the player of the year in 2005 by the Arizona Daily Star. Ben Esparza was named the player of the year in 2008 by the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Citizen. Coach Bais was named the coach of the year in 2007 by the Arizona Daily Star and was named coach of the year in 2008 by the Tucson Citizen.
The Ironwood Ridge Men's Tennis Team has also experienced much success by being the 4A-1 State Runner Up in 2007. The tennis program also won the 5A-II State Championship in 2008 and defended their title by winning again in 2009. They again reached the finals in 2010, but came up short being named the 5A-II State Runners-Up. The tennis team is led by Coach Ryan Bais. The tennis program has won 6 straight region championships as well. John Nanosky won the state 4A-I singles titles in 2006 and repeated in 2007. Timothy Holten and Dillon Kennedy won the state 5A-II doubles titles in 2008 and repeated in 2009. John Nanosky was named the player of the year in 2006 and 2007 by the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Citizen. Timothy Holten and Dillon Kennedy were named the co-players of the year in 2009 by they Arizona Daily Star. Coach Bais was named coach of the year by the Arizona Daily Star in 2007 and again in 2009.
Ironwood Ridge has a premier Model United Nations program, led by faculty advisor Erik Wolf. It has participated in numerous conferences across the nation, performing well and receiving numerous awards at each. In 2008 IRHS MUN was awarded Runner-up for Best School at the Johns Hopkins University Model United Nations Conference in Baltimore, MD finishing behind one of the country's top programs. Other major conferences attended include those hosted by the University of Chicago and Carnegie Mellon University. IRHS MUN has also been awarded Best School or been in the hunt for the award nearly every year it has participated in University of Arizona's conference, which has been held annually since 1963. Its biggest rival in this format is the prestigious University High School (Tucson). After these successes, IRHS MUN conceived the idea of hosting its own conference. Originally slated for October 2008, it has been postponed until the 2009-10 school year.
Ironwood Ridge is home to one of the most outstanding choral programs in the country. With two classically based choirs ("The Night Hawk Singers," and "Touch of Class Concert Choir"), two enthusiastic show choirs ("Glitz! All Girls Show Choir" and "Encore! Show Choir"), and a new faculty choir added only last year, vocal talent at the Ridge is practically unprecedented. Every year, students participate and excel in regional, state, and national competitions.
The Nighthawk Vanguard is the official marching band of Ironwood Ridge High School. Under the direction of Mark L. Hodge, the director of bands and orchestras at Ironwood Ridge High School, the band performs at all home varsity football games and various away football games, as well as participating in various regional invitationals and the Arizona State Marching Festival, hosted by ABODA. The Nighthawk Vanguard has participated in various national events, including the Blue Diamond Walnut Bowl in San Francisco, CA, and the Holiday Bowl parade, both nationally televised on ESPN. The Nighthawk Vanguard also hosts a festival known as March the Ridge. They have received a Superior with Distinction at State marching band competitions in 2005 and 2006.
At the end of the 2007 season, the Nighthawk Vanguard attended the 2008 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. They received second place in the field show and third place in the parade. They then traveled to Orlando, Florida and Walt Disney World.
The Vanguard maintains a website at www.irhsvanguard.com
March the Ridge is a competitive Marching Band event hosted by the Nighthawk Vanguard.
The 2008 March the Ridge event will be held on October 25, 2008 at IRHS. There are 16 bands registered as of September 29, 2008.
The IRHS Fight Song was re-written at the end of the 2006-2007 school year by students in the IRHS Marching Band. It follows the tune as the Michigan State University fight song. The lyrics are:
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