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Archive for 2013

Board Highlights from Dec. 9

BOARD APPROVES MATH PATHWAYS
The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education approved a proposal to implement three pathways of math program offerings for students beginning with the graduating class of 2018. Each of the three pathways provides instruction on the standards identified in the Iowa Core Mathematics and meets Iowa Core requirements. The three pathways are Accelerated, Traditional and Developmental.

All students in the graduating class of 2018 and beyond will be required to complete an Algebra II course. Each pathway includes an Algebra II course. As in the past, students will be required to accumulate six math credits to graduate.

More information about the pathways and the required courses will be provided to parents prior to course registration.

VHS SCHOLARS DESIGNATION REVIEWED
The WDMCS School Board has asked district administrators to work with Valley towards submission of a Program of Studies proposal for the Valley Scholars Designation.

To receive this designation at graduation, students must complete a specific number of credits and courses within a subject area and complete a capstone project. Currently, students must earn a 4.0 grade point average in the scholar area and an overall GPA of 3.5.

Valley staff have proposed changing the requirement to letter grades, so students would have to earn all A’s in their scholar area to qualify for the recognition. This is considered a higher standard because grades in Advanced Placement courses are weighted. Currently, a student can earn a B in an AP course and have a 4.0 in a course.

Administration may return with a revised proposal later this year.

Topics: School Board News

Stress and Anxiety

Mother Helping Daughter With Homework In Kitchen

Submitted by Elementary School Counselors

Stress is impossible to avoid. Given the pressures of daily life, chronic stress itself has become a life-threatening situation to many, causing a host of health problems, including

  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased body weight
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease

While we can’t eliminate stress from our lives, we can relieve the fight-or-flight response that sends our bodies into danger mode, and teach ourselves relaxation responses that, over time, will reduce our physiological stress reaction. Here are some tips that can help to reduce stress:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Learn relaxation techniques
  • Maintain healthy eating habits
  • Manage your time effectively
  • Get enough rest and sleep
  • Learn assertive reactions
  • Make time for hobbies and interests
  • Seek out social supports
  • Say no to requests that will create stress in your life.

Acute and chronic stress is not a diagnosable mental illness, but anxiety disorders are. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America, affecting around 18 percent of the U.S. population in any given year, and almost 30 percent of American adults. Anxiety disorders include:

  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Phobias
  • Generalized anxiety disorder

Anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone has from time to time, but for some people, anxiety is a persistent problem that interferes with daily activities such as work, school, or sleep. This type of anxiety can disrupt relationships and enjoyment of life, and over time it can lead to serious health concerns and other problems. Anxiety disorders can occur in children as well as in adults, and must be addressed, since anxiety in children can affect intellectual, emotional and social development, as well as physical health.
In general, anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or both. Medication will not cure anxiety disorders, but it can keep them under control while psychotherapy is underway. Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional, to discover what caused the anxiety disorder, and how to deal with its symptoms.

If you think you have an anxiety disorder, the first person you should see is your family doctor. A physician can determine whether the symptoms that alarm you are due to an anxiety disorder, another medical condition, or both.

Further Resources

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/anxiety self help.htm

The Worried Child: Recognizing Anxiety in Children and Helping Them Heal by Paul Foxman

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases and Coping by Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D.

National Geographic Documentary explaining Stress and Anxiety, by Dr. Sapolsky

Topics: Counseling

Teacher Leader: Answers to a Few of Your Questions

Teacher Leader Update

 

 

 

As the Teacher Leadership Committee continues to research various teacher leadership models, several questions have come in from our “Submit a Question” form on the website.

All questions are being forwarded to the committee for review and consideration.

While the committee has not yet determined a model and does not yet have details, it can start addressing some of your questions.

Here are a few:

1. How many Teacher Leaders will be selected?

It’s too early in the process to know, but the state has provided guidance on this stating, “the district must demonstrate a good-faith effort of selecting at least 25 percent of the teacher workforce to serve in leadership roles.”

See the full Iowa Department of Education Guidance

 

2. Will there be an interview process in addition to an application?

An interview process is likely. The state has said that a district must have a rigorous selection process that includes:

  • “A selection committee that includes teachers and administrators to accept and review applications for assignment or reassignment to a teacher leadership role and to make recommendations regarding the applications to the superintendent.”
  • “Teachers assigned to a leadership role must have at least three years of teaching experience and at least one year of experience in the school district.”

 

3. With 6 million dollar cuts coming over the next 2 years, how can we justify spending additional money on this teacher leadership program?

The funding for the teacher leaders would not come from the general fund, which is the fund that covers the majority of the district’s operational costs and is currently being reviewed for budget cuts.

Learn more about district funds

Separate funding will be provided by the state specifically for implementing the teacher leadership model.

First, the district would apply to receive the Teacher Leadership and Compensation grant. If approved, the district would receive approximately $2.8 million.

After the first year, the $2.8 million funding would continue to be provided from the state as supplemental state aid. These state funds could only be used for the teacher leadership model.

 

I have a question!

Please submit any questions, concerns or comments to our “Submit A Question” form. All submissions will be given to the Teacher Leadership Committee. Answers will be provided here and on the Teacher Leadership Committee Webpage.

Submit a Question

Teacher Leadership Committee Page

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Teacher Leadership Committee Update 11/18/13

Teacher Leader Update

 

 

 

What is the research?

The WDMCS Teacher Leadership Committee is studying the research behind teacher leadership and compensation systems. This not only includes reading studies, but also listening to experts in the area of teacher leadership and possibly visiting school districts that have implemented different models.

You can read along with us! The Iowa Department of Education has provided a variety of research materials online. Please see the link below to learn more.

Research/Resources

 

FAQ: Will teacher leaders be on an administrative contract or a teacher contract?

Those selected for a teacher leader position will be under the negotiated master contract for teachers. They will receive additional compensation for the extra time and duties they provide under the teacher leader model.

What does that look like? The committee—which includes members of the West Des Moines Education Association—will work to propose the roles and compensation amounts. Any element that relates to the contracted agreement will go through the negotiations process.

 

I have a question!

Please submit any questions, concerns or comments to our “Submit A Question” form. All submissions will be given to the Teacher Leadership Committee. Answers will be provided here and on the Teacher Leadership Committee Webpage.

Submit a Question

Teacher Leadership Committee Page

 

Teacher Leadership Committee

FAQs

Updates

Meetings

Committee Members

 

 

 

 

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Nov. 11 Board Highlights: District Plans to Reduce Expenses

The West Des Moines Community Schools plans to reduce approximately $3 million each year for the next two years based on preliminary budget estimates.

Early projections show that the district will be closing in on the state-mandated limit on how much it can spend to educate students and operate the district in 2014 and beyond.

In Iowa, the state not only provides money to schools to operate, it also tells school districts how much money they are allowed to spend. The concept is called “spending authority.” It is unique to Iowa in the area of school finance and helps ensure equity in public education spending across the state.

It is against the law for a school district to spend more money than it is allowed to by the state. In fact, a school district can be shut down if it over spends its authorized limit.

This is why nearly every school district in the state – including West Des Moines Community Schools – budgets to spend slightly less than it is allowed. Since 1989, we have had a Board policy that states we can spend no more than 92 percent what the state says we can spend.

However, early projections show that the district will far exceed this in the coming years if spending is not reduced.

This is due, in part, to increases in costs outpacing increases in revenue. We have had a significant reduction in revenue over the past few years with the elimination of federal grants to our district, limited growth in state funding and a recent decrease in enrollment by 48 students. The state provides funds based on enrollment, with each student generating approximately $6,300.

At its Nov. 11 meeting, the School Board reviewed the projections as well as the process the district will use to reduce costs, which will involve input from parents, teachers, principals support staff and more. More information on the budget will be provided in upcoming issues of the Informaline and is available at www.wdmcs.org/departments/facilities-and-finance/budget/.

Meeting agendas and full minutes are available on the district website:

www.wdmcs.org/district/our-school-board/meetings. Follow informal board highlights on Twitter @WDMCS.

Budget and Finance

Budget Reduction Process – Tregoe

 

Topics: School Board News

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Conferences

Submitted by Elementary School Counselors

Parent-teacher conferences can be stressful for teachers and the parents.  As a parent, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. You and your child’s school have something in common: You both want your child to learn and do well. When parents and teachers talk to each other, each person can share important information about your child’s talents and needs. Each person can also learn something new about how to help your child. Parent–teacher conferences are a great way to start talking to your child’s teachers.  Below are suggestions that can help make the most of parent-teacher conferences.

  • A two-way conversation. Like all good conversations, parent–teacher conferences are best when both people talk and listen. The conference is a time for you to learn about your child’s progress in school.
  • Emphasis on learning. Good parent–teacher conferences should focus on how well the child is doing in school. They also talk about how the child can do even better. To get ready for this conversation, look at your child’s homework and tests before the conference. Be sure to bring a list of questions that you would like to ask the teacher.
  • Opportunities and challenges. Just like you, teachers want your child to succeed. You will probably hear positive feedback about your child’s progress and areas for improvement.
  • Progress. Find out how your child is doing by asking questions like: Is my child performing at grade level? How he or she is doing compared to the rest of the class? What do you see as his or her strengths? How could he or she improve?
  • Support learning at home. Ask what you can do at home to help your child.
  • Make a plan. Determine the teacher’s expectations and work together with the teacher to develop a plan that you both think will work. It is a good idea to focus on one problem at a time so that the child will not be overwhelmed and will have a better chance of success. It is also important to determine if the child has control over what he is doing.  Write down the things that you and the teacher will each do to support your child. You can do this during the conference or after. Make plans to check in with the teacher in the coming weeks and months.
  • Talk to your child. The parent–teacher conference is all about your child, so don’t forget to include him or her. Share with your child what you learned. Show him or her how you will help with learning at home. Ask for his or her ideas.
  • Do not stay beyond your allotted time. If you find more time is needed, plan a follow-up meeting with the teacher.

Conferencing is a wonderful tool to open communication for both parents and teachers.  Enjoy the time together and know you are both working toward supporting and teaching your child.

Some information gathered from Parent –Teacher conferences: Working as a Team and Making the Most Out of Your Parent Teacher Conferences.

Topics: Counseling

Teacher Leadership Committee Hard at Work

Teacher Leader Update

Hard at Work

Members of the Teacher Leadership Committee met on Friday, Nov. 1 and on Tuesday, Nov. 5 to continue to:

  • review research about the different models of teacher leadership;
  • identify districts with teacher leadership models to visit in the state and the nation;
  • work in subgroups to begin preliminary development of the different parts of the implementation grant application.

The next committee meeting will be held on Nov. 15.

 

FAQ: How is this committee’s work being funded?

General Fund dollars are not used to fund this work. Instead, the district received funding through the state’s Teacher Leadership & Compensation Planning Grant. The purpose of this grant is to provide the resources necessary to facilitate a local planning process.

In 2013, the Iowa Legislature appropriated $3.5 million for planning grants that each school district can use to support efforts to develop a local teacher leadership and compensation plan. Each district requesting a planning grant will receive $5,000 plus $3.71 per student. The WDMCS received approximately $38,000.

 

Teacher Leadership Committee

FAQs

Submit A Question

Updates

Meetings

Committee Members

 

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Teacher Leadership Committee Vision, Funding with Board

Teacher Leader Update

 

 

 

On Oct. 28, members of the district’s Teacher Leadership Committee presented an update to the School Board on the committee’s work to research ways to offer our teachers formal leadership roles in the area of instruction and receive compensation for the increased responsibilities.

The committee of 19 members representing teachers, the West Des Moines Education Association, administrators, parents and School Board members is developing a plan for a teacher leadership and compensation system. It will submit its plan by January 30, 2014 to the state to apply for a $2.8 million implementation grant.

The Vision

During the presentation, committee member and Crossroads Park teacher Brandon Hargens shared the committee’s vision with the Board:

“West Des Moines Community Schools will cultivate student growth by selecting excellent teachers to grow and share their expertise through enhanced career opportunities, using a clear and transparent system which fosters and compensates multiple teacher leadership roles. We will continue to recruit, mentor, and promote excellence for all staff and provide ongoing support for collective collaboration and professional learning.”

 Three Possible Models—We Choose No. 3

Hargens’ fellow committee member and Beginning Teacher and Mentor Coordinator Bill Bird explained that based on House File 215 approved in 2013 by the Iowa legislature, there are three possible models from which districts seeking the implementation grant can choose.

The committee chose to work on the Comparable Plan Model because it offers flexibility to school districts. The guidelines for this model are to have:

  • a minimum salary of $33,500;
  • for new teachers, additional coaching, mentoring and opportunities for observing instructional practice;
  • differentiated, multiple, meaningful teacher leadership roles;
  • rigorous selection process for leadership roles; and
  • aligned professional development.

Bird explained that the district already meets several of these requirements, with our starting salary, teacher mentor program, professional development and more.

Is it Sustainable?

Board members asked about the sustainability of state funding and the selection of teacher leaders.

WDMCS Associate Superintendent  Carol Seid said the district will receive $2.8 million if the state approves the district’s implementation grant application. The district would continue to receive this amount on an annual basis from the state as a “categorical fund.” A categorical fund is money from the state that is allocated for a specific purpose and must be used only for that purpose.

What if the state funding goes away? Interim Superintendent Dr. Lisa Remy said that while there is currently solid support for teacher leader systems, state funding is never a guarantee.

WDMEA representatives present indicated that they support pursuing a leadership system. WDMEA President Jas Overlin said that we as a district talk about being leaders; this work is one way to do that. Past WDMEA President Phil Peters said that it is in our best interest to come up with a plan that rewards teachers for taking on leadership roles.

Sustainability will be a consideration when developing the plan.

How will Teacher Leaders be Selected?

Seid said the state requires a rigorous selection process. Guidance documents say a selection committee must include, “teachers and administrators to accept and review applications for assignment or reassignment to a teacher leadership role and to make recommendations regarding the applications to the superintendent.”

Peters, who is a member of the committee, also noted that all elements of the teacher leadership system will have to go through the negotiations process.

Hitting the Road

Stilwell Junior High teacher Megan Thomsen said that in order to research various teacher leadership roles in the state and the nation, the committee will soon hit the road. Using funds from the state for research and planning, the committee is currently identifying places to visit to deepen and enrich its knowledge and understanding of various teacher leadership roles.

Teacher Leadership Committee

FAQs

Submit A Question

Updates

Meetings

Committee Members

 

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Board Reviews Process to Cut Costs

At the School Board meeting on Oct. 28, WDMCS Interim Superintendent Dr. Lisa Remy reviewed how the district will make decisions regarding budget cuts for the 2014-15 school year.

Last year, district budget projections indicated that expenses would be greater than income this year and in future years, unless costs are reduced.

Remy explained that the district will use a decision-making process that involves feedback from various groups to determine how to reduce spending. The process is called Tregoe.

Also known as Kepner-Tregoe, the method uses a step-by-step approach to set objectives, organize and prioritize information, evaluate options and understand the impact possible choices. It was developed by RAND Corp. researchers Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe in 1958 and is used by a variety of industry sectors, including education.

District-level administrators, the school board, principals, teachers, support personnel and parents will part of the process. In addition, teachers, staff, parents and community members will be provided an opportunity to offer feedback on the proposed final cost cutting package.

Work has started with district administration gathering information on factors that determine the district’s budget, and the Tregoe process will continue through March 2014.

For more information on the district’s budget and school finance, please visit:

Budget and Finance

Budget Reduction Process – Tregoe

Topics: School Board News

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District Recieves Teacher Leadership Planning Grant

The West Des Moines Community Schools has received $38,000 from the Iowa Department of Education to research ways to offer our teachers the opportunity to take on leadership roles in the area of instruction and receive compensation for the increased responsibilities.

In 2013, the Iowa Legislature appropriated a total of $3.5 million for planning grants that each school district in the state can use to support efforts to develop a local teacher leadership and compensation plan.The purpose of the grant is to provide the resources necessary to facilitate a local planning process. Accepting a planning grant does not commit a school district to adopting a teacher leadership system.

The funds will be used by the district Teacher Leadership and Compensation Committee to conduct the research. For more information on the committee, please click on the link below.

Teacher Leadership Study

 

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