Where Are They Now? Meet 2001 Prairie Grad Dr. Philip Chen

What year did you graduate Prairie High School?

What activities were you involved in at Prairie?
Band, jazz band, tennis, National Honor Society, quality council

What is your current position?
Clinical Assistant Professor
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation physician

Where is your place of employment?
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation

What are your job responsibilities?
A physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, or physiatrist, specializes in various neurological or musculoskeletal conditions, often resulting in some type of disability. We are doctors of “function.”  My special area of interest is spinal cord injury, but I see many different conditions. I see patients admitted to the hospital and in clinics, and also teach medical students and participate in some research.  I work closely with other health care providers, like therapists, surgeons, psychologists, and social workers, to help people with complex diseases/injuries live life as independently and meaningfully as possible.

Describe your career/educational path since.
After high school, I went to Washington University in St. Louis for a BA in biology. After college I did a one year program in Americorps NCCC, traveling the southeast US doing service projects with a team.  Then I completed medical school at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.  I headed to the University of Michigan for residency training in PM&R.  After working for one year at the University of Iowa, I went back to the University of Michigan to do a spinal cord injury fellowship. Finally done with training and moving, I headed back to Iowa in 2017 to settle down and begin a career at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

What advice would you give to today’s high school graduates? 
Don’t be afraid to take a “non-traditional” route in your education.  Doing AmeriCorps for one year was probably the best decision I made, and maybe the most influential time of my life.  It helped me build skills you don’t learn in school, helped me gain a wider perspective on the world, and gave me a group of lifelong friends.  It doesn’t have to be AmeriCorps, but sometimes throwing a wrinkle in your “life plan” can be good.  

And don’t be afraid to fail.  You have to fail to gain experience, and experience is what makes you an expert.  At the same time, don’t expect someone to hold your hand or lift you out of those challenges.  You won’t always get what you deserve, and nothing will replace your own perseverance, resilience and hard work.  I believe success comes from the right combination of hard work and adaptability.

Anything else you would like to add?
I’m so glad to be back in Iowa and Hawkeye land with my wife and 2 young kids.  It’s a great place to raise a family and I’m grateful our little ones get to see their extended family so often.  Prairie will always have a special place in our family’s heart, particularly for the wide influence and connections that my mom had during her long career there.  Go Hawks!

Last Day of School June 7, 2019

Fellow Prairie Hawks,

I am pleased to inform families that the final plan for school make up related to the extraordinary number of weather cancellations this year was approved by the Board.

I have been trying to keep families informed to the greatest extent possible through this process, knowing that in the moment there was much winter weather ahead.

As I noted in previous communications, since this is such an unusual winter, I intended to take advantage of state flexibility for meeting student contact hours since we meet those requirements through hours NOT days.  However, I was waiting to gage the feasibility of this until we were through the bulk of the winter.  On an interesting note, if this flexibility had not been passed just over 5 years ago, we would be going to school until June 19.

I am pleased to inform families that the last day of school for students will be Friday, June 7.  This day will be a 4 hour early release.  With the multiple strategies employed, including use of end of year planned make up days, extended school day and using professional learning days as student contact days, we were able to make up over 8 of the 11 full days missed.  Additionally, this allows us to meet state requirements for hours while not burdening our families by extending school into the week of the 10th.  Originally, I noted to plan for the last day of school to be June 11, which was a worst case scenario we were able to avoid.

This plan has been approved by the Board and is only subject to change if we get more than 1 more weather cancellation.

Again, the last day of school will be Friday, June 7 with a 4 hour early release.  Thank you for your patience through this arduous winter.

In Service,

Doug Wheeler, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Leadership for Five Seasons 2019 Class Visits the Prairie Campus

Approximately 35 professionals from the 2019 Leadership for Five Seasons 2019 class spent an entire day on the Prairie campus today to learn about education. Leadership for Five Seasons (LFS) is a premier community leadership program that focuses on developing top talent through a formal leadership curriculum. LFS provides participants with community knowledge, connections and inspiration to make a positive impact on the community. Participants are selected from area businesses, public and private agencies, civic and other organizations.

Click here to learn more about Leadership for Five Seasons.


#RESPECT is new this year.  It replaces Spread the Word to End the Word.  #RESPECT focuses on respecting EVERYONE-people with disabilities, people without disabilities, people with different skin colors, religions, etc.

This year Prairie junior Brandon McMann decided to theme his demo car around #RESPECT, Best Buddies, and Special Olympics to spread awareness.  Every year on the first Wednesday of March Best Buddies and Special Olympics Iowa has a Pledge Signing Day where people can sign the pledge to respect all.  To date we have given out over 400 stickers and 100 pencils to people signing the pledge!  Many students embraced the new #RESPECT and seemed excited about the movement..

District Initiates Safety Task Force Committee

Superintendent of School Dr. Doug Wheeler held a Safety Task Force Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 5 in the District Board room. The Safety Task Force Committee involves members from the Cedar Rapids Police and Fire Departments, Linn County Emergency Management, teachers, principals, nurses, counselors and district administrators. 

The Safety Task Force Committee will be charged with prioritizing school emergencies, reviewing and updating our district crisis plan, and identifying district and staff needs to support and enhance school safety initiatives.

School Enrollment and Demographic Report

On Tuesday. March 5th, the Board, Facilities Advisory Committee and local mayors met to review the recent enrollment study conducted by RSP and Associates. RSP presented information on district enrollment, area developments, demographic changes, and other changes that could impact enrollment. College Community is projected for continued steady growth at 6.1% over the next five years with an annual range of plus +60-90 students per year. 

Click School Enrollment and Demographic Report to review the information that was presented.

Jeri Moritz Named Executive Director of Human Resources and Equity

The College Community School District has named Jeri Moritz as Executive Director of Human Resources and Equity and will begin her duties on July 1, 2019 pending Board approval.

Moritz, a native of Omaha Nebraska, comes to the College Community School District with a variety of leadership experiences during her 16 years in public education. She has served as the Dean of Students for the Omaha Public School System, was a School Improvement Leader and Director of Teacher Development for Des Moines Public Schools, and is currently the Director of Instructional Services for the Keokuk Community School District.    

“I am excited to welcome Jeri to our team,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Doug Wheeler. “Jeri has extensive administrative experience in large urban and small schools in and beyond Iowa and a proven record of developing systems to enhance student learning and staff engagement. I am confident Jeri will help enhance our systems of attracting and retaining the highest quality staff to serve our students.”   

Moritz has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, a Master’s Degree from the University of Nebraska Omaha and is currently working on her Superintendent Certification at the University of Northern Iowa.

“It is such an honor to serve the students, staff, and community as the Executive Director of Human Resources and Equity,” said Moritz. “The active recruitment of top candidates, hiring, ongoing support, and engagement of our staff is crucial to our student’s success. I am truly looking forward to being a part of the College Community School District as we work together to ensure Success for All.”

The College Community School District serves approximately 6,000 students from Linn, Benton and Johnson counties and employs over 850 staff members.

The latest news from College Community Schools.