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Archive for 2013

Board Highlights from Oct. 14

Iowa Core & WDMCS

“What did you learn today?” is a common question parents ask their children after school. A good source for the answer is the Iowa Core. The Iowa Core outlines what students in our state should know, understand and be able to do in the areas of math, literacy, science and social studies. It also includes the 21st century skills of employability, financial, health, technology and civic literacy.

During a School Board workshop held Oct. 14, WDMCS Curriculum Directors Shane Scott and Steph Wilson provided an overview of the Iowa Core. They explained that the Iowa Core was signed into law in 2008 and must be fully implemented by school districts by 2014. For the past few years, teachers and the curriculum directors have been working to ensure our curriculum is aligned to the Iowa Core. Our curriculum already covered much of what is outlined in Iowa Core. However, one change that will need to be made is in the area of mathematics. Starting with7th graders, the district will teach statistics and probability to all students by the time they graduate. The district is currently developing a plan to include these concepts in Geometry and Algebra II courses. A proposal for this addition will be presented at the November 11 School Board workshop.

For more information on the Iowa Core, please visit the Iowa Department of Education’s website at

Meeting agendas and full minutes are available on the district website: Follow informal board highlights on Twitter @WDMCS.

Topics: Uncategorized

National Bullying Prevention Month

Submitted by Elementary Counselors

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying and harassment is against the policy of the State of Iowa, as well as of the West Des Moines Community School District. All schools throughout the WDMCS promote procedures and practices to reduce and eliminate bullying and harassment.

Some events happening across the district for National Bullying Prevention Month:

  • On Mon., Oct. 7, students and staff will be wearing blue in support of National Bullying Prevention Month.
  • Parents and guardians are invited to join members of our community for renowned author and bullying prevention speaker, Rosalind Wiseman, on Sunday, October 13 at the Valley Community Center (4444 Fuller Road, WDM).  Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the presentation will begin at 7 p.m., with a book signing beginning at 8:30 p.m. Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabes was the impetus for the movie Mean Girls.

Parents, guardians, school staff and other caring adults in your child’s life all have an important role to play in preventing bullying. Ways you can help your child include:

  • Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely.
  • Reinforce that any kind of bullying behavior (physical, verbal, emotional and/or cyber bullying) is unacceptable. Make sure your child knows how to get help and who they can go to as a trusted adult for help.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with your kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
  • Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
  • Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.

We also encourage you to check out the following bullying prevention websites for many wonderful tips and bullying prevention resources to use with your child.

Topics: Counseling

Brennan, Brown to Lead School Board

The WDMCS Board of Education elected Elizabeth Brennan as its president and David Brown as its vice president on Sept. 23.

Elizabeth BrennanBrennan was re-elected to a second term as board member during the Sept. 10 school board elections. This is also her second term as president. She is a preschool teacher at Montessori Children’s House in West Des Moines. She graduated from Valley High School and St. Olaf College. She earned her elementary teaching degree, with an English as a Second Language endorsement, from the University of Iowa and her International Diploma in Early Childhood Montessori teaching from the Montessori Centre International in London. Brennan and her husband, Scott, have two children: Lexi is a senior at Valley and Joe is a sophomore at Valley.

David BrownDavid is vice president of compliance at Principal Financial Group. He is a graduate of Valley High School. David holds a bachelor’s degree from Lawrence University and a law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law. He and his wife, Julie, have three children: Ross is a 2010 Valley graduate and a student at Dartmouth College; Keegan is a 2012 Valley graduate and a student at the University of Utah; and Chase is an eighth grader at Indian Hills. David has served on the board of directors of Youth Emergency Services & Shelter and on the board of directors of Hospice of Central Iowa. He is also a graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.

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

Follow informal board highlights on Twitter @WDMCS.

Topics: Uncategorized

Board Highlights from 9/9/13

Donation Helps Hungry WDMCS Students

A program that helps provide food to WDMCS students on the weekends received a $16,450 donation from the West Des Moines Community Celebration Committee during the Sept. 9 school board meeting.

Nearly one in three West Des Moines school district students are eligible for free or reduced meals at school.

The Booster Pak program is a non-profit organization that focuses on reducing childhood hunger in our school district by providing sacks of healthy, kid-friendly food to low-income children on weekends and school breaks, when they do not have access to the federal free and reduced price meal programs. There is no cost to the children or families that participate in the program.

The donation will allow the organization to reach more students in the junior high and high schools, where the program recently began providing food.  The organization partners with the Iowa Food Bank’s Backpack Buddies program to provide food to 550 students each week in our elementary schools. The Booster Pak program is the big brother to the Backpack Buddies and provides food to junior and senior high students. The Pak program serves more than 100 junior and senior students each week, and is expanding. A food and personal care pantry also serves these older students.

West Des Moines Community Celebration Committee is a non-profit committee of community members and City of West Des Moines personnel that sponsored A-MAY-Zing Days. The committee raised funds to promote and support community-wide events during the month of May and to support a West Des Moines community-based nonprofit.

To learn more about the Booster Pak program, please visit

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

Follow informal board highlights on Twitter @WDMCS.

Topics: Uncategorized

Walnut Creek Campus Boat Regatta Makes a Splash

Some may think ending up neck deep in water wearing a Scooby Doo costume would make for a bad day. Not Walnut Creek Campus Senior Crystal Howard of Urbandale.

Standing in her drenched costume on the shore of the West Des Moines City Campus pond, she proclaimed the first annual Walnut Creek Campus Boat Regatta was a lot of fun.

Howard was one of 120 Walnut Creek Campus students who participated the boat regatta Friday, Aug. 23. The event was the culmination of two days of learning about science and teamwork through project-based curriculum.

The Walnut Creek Campus advisory program is moving toward a project-based learning, which involves students working to solve real world problems.

“The Walnut Creek regatta is an idea that arose from this change in curriculum as a fun way to kick off our year that requires our advisories to work collaboratively for a common purpose,” Walnut Creek Campus Social Studies Teacher Ted Vandeventer explained.

The task was to successfully build and launch a cardboard boat around the fountain at the pond next to the Learning Resource Center.  Advisory teams worked together with just one refrigerator box and duct tape to build their vessel. 

To prepare for the task, students learned about boating, canoeing and the principles surrounding water displacement and buoyancy.  They started by building models of their crafts that they tested by weighting them with pennies.

The next step was to construct the real boat based on a blueprint advisory team members developed. Groups had to solve equations for the amount of water displaced and the depth with which the boat would sink.

They also had to come up with a theme. Crystal’s team was “The Mystery Machine” from the Scooby Doo cartoon series.

Students also had a session with West Des Moines Police Officer Terry Brauch, who provided Real Colors Personality training, which gave students a better understanding of their temperament and that of their teammates. It also gave them a common language to use in working collaboratively.

There were three trophies handed out at the regatta:

  • Fastest Boat went to Team Italia,  which included Sarah Beck (West Des Moines), Monica Haes (West Des Moines), Ian Kinney (West Des Moines), Kirk Phillips (West Des Moines),  Jesus Rodriguez (Des Moines), Hannah Short (West Des Moines), Michael Toomer (West Des Moines), Brent Watkins (Des Moines), Adrienne Wright (West Des Moines) and Jack Yungclas (West Des Moines).
  • Best Team Spirit went to Team Mustache, which included Mitch Fransen (Clive), Justin Christianson (Clive), Mary Holmes (West Des Moines), Emily Clausen (West Des Moines), Falken Wright (West Des Moines), Sam Renda (West Des Moines), Anthony Ross (West Des Moines), John Reszel (West Des Moines), Peter Palomeque (West Des Moines), Halil Becic (West Des Moines), Morgan Hubbard (West Des Moines) and Jair Mendez (Clive).
  • Most Creative Boat went to Team Zebra Cakes, which included  Jayden Bender (West Des Moines), Chelsea Button (Windsor Heights), Diego Carreras (West Des Moines), Abby Dunn (West Des Moines), Jenna Marks (West Des Moines), Adan Robles (West Des Moines) and Fransico Sanchez (West Des Moines).

Boat Math Video

Topics: Student Achievements, Uncategorized

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Board Highlights from Aug. 12


The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education has approved its priorities for education legislation for the Iowa legislature’s 2014 session. The priorities are:

  1. Provide a minimum of 4% Supplemental State Aid for the 2014-2015 school year to encourage continuous improvement and to better reflect actual cost increases experienced by school districts;
  2. Maintain at least the current funding level to sustain quality voluntary preschool programming;
  3. Hold the district harmless with respect to lost commercial property tax revenues due to last year’s passage of Property Tax Reform;
  4. Provide adequate funding to deliver the required special education programming for students.

The district will provide these priorities to the Iowa Association of School Boards, which advocates for school boards across Iowa.


The School Board has approved continuing to participate in the Instruction Support Program. The program is a levy designed to provide school districts funds for instructional programing.

At its July 8, 2013 meeting, the Board began the process to renew and continue the levy for a five year period beginning on July 1, 2016. A public hearing was held on August 12, 2014, at which no objections to the levy were presented or filed.

The Instructional Support Program will generate $4,660,325 of revenue in the general fund for the 2013-14 school year.

Meeting agendas and full minutes are available on the district website

Follow informal board highlights on Twitter @WDMCS.

Topics: School Board News, Uncategorized

WDMCS Audits Communication Efforts

As any high school student who has done a research paper will tell you, one of the first steps to completing the project is to do your research.

The same is true when developing a plan to improve communications.

This is why the West Des Moines Community Schools recently conducted a communications audit. The ComAuditPresnetation_3purpose was to assess the effectiveness of the district’s current efforts to provide information to parents, staff, students and community members; see where it can make improvements; and provide recommendations to make those improvements.

There were eight recommendations that came out of the report:

  • Recommendation 1: Reframe WDMCS’ approach to communications to ensure more strategic communication.
  • Recommendation 2: Develop a culture of communication.
  • Recommendation 3: Incorporate marketing/branding strategies to build WDMCS’ reputation as a leading school district.
  • Recommendation 4: Expand outreach to community stakeholders.
  • Recommendation 5: Update crisis planning to include current communication techniques.
  • Recommendation 6: Grow WDMCS’ use of social media as a communication tool.
  • Recommendation 7: Re-evaluate current communication tools to effectively reach internal and external stakeholders.
  • Recommendation 8: Align the communication goals and strategies of the district with Community Education’s on-going communications.

ComAuditPresentation_Slide 6

While the district is already working on many of these areas to make improvements, the audit provides specific focus and suggestions that can be implemented over a two to three year period. In fact, the next step will be to develop a strategic communications plan and timeline to implement the recommendations provided.
Also helpful are the key findings of the audit:

Our strengths are our:

  • Education Programs
  • Strong Teachers and Administrators
  • Supportive Community

Our challenges are:

  • A perceived wealth and status disconnects stakeholders from changing demographics and budget realities
  • Community, parents, staff call for more consistency within WDMCS
  • Increasing engagement of all stakeholders in decision-making processes

The audit was conducted by the National School Public Relations Association (NSRPA) and involved a document review, surveys and focus groups representing the school board, community citizens, parents, students, support staff, administration, community leaders and teachers.

WDMCS Communications Audit Report – Full Report

WDMCS Communications Audit Report – Summary/Presentation

NSPRA Contract

WDMCS Strategic Communications Plan


Topics: Uncategorized

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Advice for Recent Graduates

Written By Caroline Havekost, School Community Relations Intern, Learning Resource Center. Caroline studied journalism and mass communication with an emphasis in marketing and business writing, and graduated from Iowa State earlier this May.

With graduation just around the corner it is only fitting for some of the soon-to-be graduates to start thinking more intently about college.  As a recent college graduate myself, I have come to learn and compile a list of things I wish I had known as a college freshman.  I experienced both the small and large school atmospheres, as I transferred during my college career.  I started my freshman year at College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, MN.  While I enjoyed the year I knew it wasn’t the school for me, and didn’t have the major I wished to study.  With that I transferred to Iowa State University my sophomore year to study journalism and mass communication, and actually just graduated earlier in May.  While not every day of college was happy and wonderful, I learned a lot about myself through some of the tough times.  I ended my senior year so happy with my college experience, and sad for it to end.

I wanted to share some information I learned from college and share it will all of the recent graduates planning on attending college in the fall.

Summer planning

Don’t wait until the very last minute to start buying and packing.  I recommend starting in early July by creating a list of things you know you need.  For example linens, toiletries, bedding, storage bins, etc.  Remember to read through all of the information your residence hall sends you.  Some beds require twin sheets, while others require twin extra long sheets.  Trust me, it makes a difference!  When it comes to storage look at getting tubs that you will be able to slide under a bed.  This way things are hidden, but still easy to access.  It will take at least two trips to the store in order to get everything you need, possibly more.  Consult with friends, or your new roommate, about what they are bringing and needing and compare notes.  I found a lot of good information this way and it can be a great opportunity to get to know your roommate.

Final weeks before moving

Start packing early!  You don’t want to spend the final days scrambling to put things together.  Have a plan to work for an hour or two each day so you don’t overwhelm yourself.  Unload and unwrap all items and put them in their proper storage bin, this way once you arrive at your residence hall you can place your bins and not worry about organizing everything in them.  Also have an idea of how much space you will be given.  Will there be more drawer space or hanging space?  This does matter and should be taken into consideration so you don’t over pack and are forced into sending some of your favorite things home.

Keep a lookout for important emails coming in.  You will be given a college/university email address.  Most schools start sending important dates, times, deadline information, orientation information, etc. during the summer time.  While email may not have been the number one thing you checked during high school, it will be in college.  In fact I found myself checking my email more than I checked social media in a day.  Email is the way your new school will communicate with you.

The 10 Random Things You Need to Know

  1. Wash your towels.  If you buy new towels you need to wash them in order for them to absorb water.
  2. Communicate with your roommate(s).  Split up some of the bigger items so one person is not responsible for bringing it all.
  3. Buy flip-flops JUST for the shower.  You never know, and you will be happy you did so.
  4. Does your residence hall have an elevator?  You’d be surprised some don’t, or if they do they only have one.
  5. Do you need to bring your winter coat right away?  It all depends on where you are going to school, and if you will have time to make it home before the first snowfall.  Thankfully I brought my winter coat when I moved in my freshman year to a small school in Minnesota.  I ended up needing it earlier than I thought; the first frost was at the end of September.
  6. If your college/university has a transportation system learn it!  However, don’t rely on it too heavily.  I went to a large state school and never used the bus to or from class.  Sometimes your own two feet can be faster than the big bus.
  7. If you are looking to save money on books check out some of the online book stores and websites to see if they have what you need.  Your professor should list what book(s) are required for your course on the class schedule or class description.  You can save some money and in my experience it takes less than week to get them to you.  Make sure to buy the book(s) that are required.  You will need them, and they will come in handy.
  8. Write your name on the movies or television shows you bring.  If someone asks to borrow it you want to have proof that it is yours.  I know too many people that have leant out dozens of DVDs and never saw them again.
  9. Buy a flash drive, and use it.  There will be one time or another in college where you save something and then some glitch happens and you will never see it again.  Don’t get in the habit of only saving it all once.  You will save time and the flash drives are less than $20 and can be used throughout your entire college career.
  10. Last, and most importantly, don’t forget that being nervous, along with excited is completely normal.  Everyone is a little nervous about moving and going to college, and if someone tells you they aren’t, just wait because either they are not telling you the truth or they haven’t realized they are nervous yet.  Change is hard, but trust me it is worth it.  Leave your door propped open the first few days or weeks of class so people can stop by and say hello.  In all honesty my roommate and I kept our door open every day of first semester freshman year.  In fact, I met one of my closest friends that way.

Final Advice

Remember to ask questions.  Most colleges and universities send out information packets full of information, and they are also available during the summer to answer questions.  Give them a call about specifics, they expect you to have questions and will have the answers you need.

Whether you are attending a small or large school, in state or out-of-state remember to enjoy your time there and take advantage of all of the opportunities that come your way.  Whether it is studying abroad, joining the Greek community, playing intramural or club sports, or starting a new organization or event, have a wonderful time and enjoy your journey.

Topics: Uncategorized

Board Recognition for April 8

The Board of Education of the West Des Moines Community School District is pleased to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of district students and staff.



Kerrigan Owens represented the state of Iowa at the national contest for Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy Contest. Her speech “Is the constitution still relevant?” won at the local, district and state levels and she traveled to compete in Washington, D.C., in March.

Valley High School seniors Eric Chen, Caroline Erickson and Tricia Shi were selected as a candidate for the United States Presidential Scholars Program, which recognizes the nation’s most distinguished graduating seniors.

All six of the National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists from Valley High School were upgraded to National Merit Scholarship Finalists this week. Seniors Erica Becker, Eric Chen, Emma Lind, Michelle Rose, Tricia Shi and Alexander Zhou will be notified in June if they have been selected as a national Merit Scholar.

Westridge fifth grader Pramit Vyas, Jordan Creek fifth grader Animesh Joshi, Indian Hills eighth grader Kacey Baker and Stilwell eighth grader Ben Koele have been named semifinalists in the 2013 Iowa National Geographic Bee.

Valley junior Brianne Tuttle ­won first place in Costume Contest and junior Molly Brown took fourth place in Reading Comprehension at the Illinois Junior Classical League convention. The IJCL encourages an interest in and an appreciation of the language, literature and culture of ancient Greece and Rome to impart an understanding of the debt owed by our own culture to that of classical antiquity.

The Indian Hills Math Counts team had eight students finish in the top 25 percent at the chapter competition. Three students ranked in the top 10 of all individuals – Brain Gu in eighth place, Linh Tran in seventh place and Cayden Codel in fifth place. The team, made up of Cayden Codel, Linh Tran, Brian Gu and Shubham Tayal placed third out of about 35 schools, which qualified them for the state competition. The team alternate, Madison VanSickel, joined Brian, Linh and Shubham for the state competition over spring break. Notable individual performances went to Linh Tran, scoring 12th in the state and Shubham Tayal, scoring eighth in the state. The Indian Hills team finished in third place overall.

Stilwell eighth grader Gabriel Mintzer competed in the Math Counts state competition, placing second and earning a trip to the National Math Counts competition in May. He qualified to compete at the state competition after placing first at the chapter competition.

Congratulations to the Valley Mock Trial Team for an outstanding performance at state competition. Only four teams from across the state made it to semifinal competition, including two teams from Valley. Team i b red up won a 3-0 victory in the semifinals and advanced to the championship, placing second in the state. Students on the second-place team were Dylan DeClerck, Caitlin Edwards , Lucy Korsakov, Ben Kruse, Joel Kruse, Emma Lind, Megan Nubel, Rishi Shah, Grady Stein  and Ben Weinberg. Students on team TNHB were Katie Apland, Brooke Beatty, Lexi Brennan, Kyra Cooper, Rae Gernent, Catherine Leafstedt, Thomas Leafstedt and Abby Pepin. (more…)

Topics: Athletics, Education, School Board News, Student Achievements

Website Tip #2: Always There for You

When using the WDMCS website, notice that the white banner at the top is always present. It is like a friend, always there for you when you might get lost or you are not sure where you heading. As you travel from one page to another (including the school sites) the top banner stays consistent on every page. No matter where you are at within the website you can always have access to the district calendar, news, careers, directory and tabs for students, parents, staff and more. It may not be your bestie, but it won’t let you down.

Topics: Uncategorized