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Archive for October, 2014

Public Feedback Session Dates Set for Boundary

boundary_icon_colorThe public is invited to give feedback on boundary options at three public sessions:

  • Sat., Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. at the Learning Resource Center
  • Tues., Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School
  • Thurs., Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Learning Resource Center

During these open forums 2-3 options for district boundary changes will be presented and the public will have an opportunity to discuss and provide feedback to the boundary study committee and district administration as they prepare to submit a recommendation to the school board.

The district began its study of trends in student enrollment and review of the location of school boundaries earlier this school year because:

  • The cities we serve – West Des Moines and parts of Clive, Urbandale and Windsor Heights – have continued to age and populations have changed.
  • Some of our schools have seen growing student enrollment, causing more students to be placed at buildings other than their neighborhood school in order to keep class sizes at 26-28 students.
  • Phenix Early Childhood Center was closed, which necessitates boundary adjustments to accommodate all resident Phenix students to be able to attend Hillside.

Data & Reports Being Reviewed By Committee

Topics: Boundary Study

Informaline – Oct. 20

VIEW IN PDF

informaline
boundary_icon_colorBOUNDARY COMMITTEE BEGINS MAP DEVELOPMENT
The district’s boundary study committee held its second meeting on Oct. 6, creating map sketches as an initial step toward developing boundary options. The committee of 50 was divided into eight small groups with each group submitting a cursory suggestion. The committee will hold its next meeting Oct. 21. These meetings are open to observers. 

PUBLIC FORUM DATES SET
The public is invited to boundary forums on the following dates to give their feedback to the committee on the proposed boundary change options to be developed:

• Saturday, November 8 at 1 p.m. at the Learning Resource Center

• Tuesday, November 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Valley Southwoods

• Thursday, November 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Learning Resource Center

DISTRICT TO TEST PHONE NOTIFICATION SYSTEM OCT. 24
Winter weather is approaching! The district will be conducting a test of its emergency notification system Fri., Oct. 24 at 11 a.m. This is ONLY A TEST.
10 TIPS FOR PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES
Parent-teacher conferences are in full swing! Each school does things a little differently, so we asked faculty and staff to share their best parent-teacher conference tips.
BOARD HIGHLIGHTS FROM OCT. 13
School Board Visits Westridge
On Monday, Oct. 13, the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education visited Westridge Elementary. Each year the Board visits two elementary schools and one secondary school in the district on a rotating basis. The Board will visit Indian Hills Junior High on January 12 and Hillside Elementary on May 11.
GET YOUR FLU SHOT – CLINIC AT HILLSIDE NOV. 3
The Polk County Health Department is sponsoring a community flu clinic at Hillside Elementary on Monday, Nov. 3 from 4-7 p.m. This clinic is open to students, staff, and families of West Des Moines Community Schools. It is also open to the community, so please invite family, friends and neighbors!Most insurances are accepted, so please bring your insurance card with you. Flu shots will be $20 without proof of insurance. Some students may qualify for a free vaccine. Please call the Polk County Health Department at 515-286-3798 with any questions regarding insurance and/or free vaccine eligibility.
SAVE THE DATE! PRESCHOOL PALOOZA IS NOV. 8
Mark your calendar for the second Preschool Palooza on Saturday, Nov. 8 from 9:30 a.m. to noon at Hillside Elementary. Children ages two to six will enjoy fun and educational activities while their grown-ups gather information about early childhood opportunities. All activities and snacks are free.
VIRTUAL BACKPACK
Valley wrestling club and basketball clinic, WDMCS Transition Night, Trunk or Treat Nights, Learn to Skate, nature programs and MORE!
Remember to

 

Topics: Informaline

School Board Highlights – Oct. 13

School Board Visits Westridge
On Monday, Oct. 13, the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education visited Westridge Elementary. Each year the Board visits two elementary schools and one secondary school in the district on a rotating basis. The Board will visit Indian Hills Junior High on January 12 and Hillside Elementary on May 11.

During the Board’s Westridge visit, student leaders provided a tour of the building, which was renovated last summer. Board members also learned about the school’s “The Leader in Me” initiative, which is based on “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and equips students with the self-confidence and skills for the 21st-century economy. Students talked about the Westridge Cares Club, which is a student club that works to support a positive school environment.

Members of the Parent Teacher Association spoke about the wide-range of activities they sponsor and support, including the Chess Club, the National Geographic Bee, Diversity Day, the Fourth Grade Bike Ride, the Garage No-Sale, the Reading Challenge Fall Fundraiser, the Spelling Challenge Winter Fundraiser and much more. Teachers spoke about the school’s upcoming play, “Alice in Wonderland,” and students performed a scene from the musical version of the famous story. In addition, Board members saw how students use technology in the classroom, specifically Google Classroom for assignments, collaboration and more.

The School Board members thanked the administrators, teachers, students and parents of Westridge for welcoming them to the school.

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

Topics: School Board News

Ten Tips for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Written by Alexandra Wade

Parent-teacher conferences are in full swing! Each school does things a little differently, so we asked faculty and staff to share their best parent-teacher conference tips:

All Grades

  1. Try to focus on what your child is learning, versus his or her point total. The two should be connected, but it is more productive to look at course or grade objectives, learning targets and standards as a whole than to examine every missed point.
  2. Ask if there is anything your student can work on to become a more complete student. The teacher may see an area for improvement, even if your student is doing well. You can also share challenges your student has had in the past. Teachers like to know what has previously worked for students.
  3. Find out what is coming up. This can help you form more specific questions and get more specific answers about schoolwork from your student. You will also know when you need to offer more support at home.
  4. Ask questions! No one knows your student better than you. If the information you receive from the teacher is at odds with what you have experienced or heard in the past, raise the issue.
  5. Don’t be afraid to keep it short. Most parents have an accurate idea of how their student is doing, thanks to online grading. If you want to speak about a specific issue, set up a time with the teacher outside of conferences to make the process smoother for everyone.
  6. Bring a writing utensil and something to write on, and please turn cell phones off during conferences so you can devote your attention to the conference.
  7. Remember that we are a team. Students, parents, and teachers are all working on the same goal: student achievement. Parent-teacher conferences are an awesome opportunity to come together and agree on some common expectations.

Secondary – Junior High & High School

  1. Review your student’s grades on Infinite Campus ahead of time, so you have specific talking points and questions. You can even bring a printout for each class. If you have questions about Infinite Campus or need to have your account set up, see the office before conferences.
  2. Don’t forget to meet with your child’s entire team of teachers. Junior high team conferences may be in one location with elective teachers in another, and it is easy to miss them. A form was sent out through mail and on messenger with locations for each team. If you have questions, ask your student’s teachers.
  3. Although it is not required, you are welcome to bring your student. This often helps prevent any confusion between the teacher, parent and student, and it gives students a sense of positive ownership. If you are unsure if your student should attend, ask one of his or her teachers.

The most important thing parents and guardians can do is attend conferences. Even if you know how your student is doing, it shows your support and a value for education. There may also be opportunities to volunteer or visit a book fair during conferences, so take advantage while you can. Watch for messages that explain the conference procedure, and note if you need to schedule any conferences in advance. If you have questions, email one of your student’s teachers.

Many thanks to Eric Boyle, Justin Miller, Hannah Quandt, Joe Rich, and Katie Seiberling for these excellent tips!

Topics: Education

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Boundary Committee Meets October 21

The West Des Moines Community Schools Boundary Committee will continue its study of the district’s enrollment and boundaries at 6:30 p.m. on October 7 in the Community Room at the Learning Resource Center. This meeting is open to observers.

 

Boundary Committee Meeting – October 21, 2014 Agenda

Boundary Committee Meeting Dates

Data & Reports Being Reviewed By Committee

 

Topics: Boundary Study

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American Heritage Classes Thrive at Valley High School

Written by Alexandra Wade

Close to 2,000 students are enrolled at Valley High School each year. With the recent additions, Valley has expanded to include more classrooms than ever before. The administration has worked to adjust to the school’s enrollment and space needs over the years, while also making sure Valley remained a personal experience for each student. One of the efforts toward this goal resulted in the creation of the American Heritage class.

news_AmerHeritage_Cameron GaleThe American Heritage class was spearheaded by Dr. Vicky Poole, former Valley High School principal and current school board member. Poole recruited teachers interested in contributing to an integrated curriculum. Together, they explored different ways to combine courses. The group decided language arts and social studies would be the strongest integrated curriculum. The American Heritage class was first offered for the 2003–2004 school year. The class was only taught every other year at first, due to low interest in the class. Through promotion of the class, more students became interested as they realized how beneficial the class could be. This led to a second team of teachers being added by the 2007–2008 year.

Scenes from inside Valley’s American Heritage Classes – Video

The four current American Heritage teaches are Lori Hinton, Nick Nelsen, Cameron Gale and Greg Hudson. Hinton and Hudson teach social studies, while Nelsen and Gale are language arts instructors. Former American Heritage teachers who helped to develop the program include Ann Broderick, Shannon Johnson and Jim Martin. The class is now extremely popular, being taught every year to at least two sections of students. It covers U.S. history from the Constitution to present day and provides a survey of American literature. The instructors have found that combining the subjects helps students gain a deeper understanding of both.

“Looking at [history and literature] in an integrated way makes them more relevant,” Nelsen said. The culturalnews_AmerHeritage_Nick Nelsen context keeps students interested, while also increasing their knowledge and understanding.

Classes are taught in two-hour blocks by two teachers, one representing each subject. Classes tend to have an average of 35 students, mostly juniors. The extended time together and structure of the class help students reach a level of comfort with each other that they might not otherwise. Students are more willing to engage with each other and take risks, resulting in strong group work and class discussions.

The clearest example is the 1920s-style radio broadcasts the students have to create. Students reflect their knowledge of history at the time by putting together a radio show about the news and cultural events of the period. They read “The Great Gatsby” during the unit, giving them a better idea of what the era looked and sounded like. Some students might be reluctant to give their all to a performance-based project, but the American Heritage students’ projects reflect the comfort and confidence they feel with each other and in the class.

There is a strong sense of community in the classes, but any individual attention needed is also easily available with two teachers in the classroom.

news_AmerHeritage_Lori Hinton“Classroom management is a breeze because there’s two of us,” Hinton said. She added that classroom observation was also easier. Having two teachers makes for a more relaxed atmosphere, as students see the teachers interacting and joking with each other. The dynamic benefits the students most, as they have two instructors to learn from or go to with questions.

“Students learn in different ways,” Hudson said. “Some gravitate to one or the other of us. It gives them an option, which is good for different learning styles.”

The instructors said that they also felt a stronger sense of community. Teaching in teams has provided connections with their colleagues they might not have had otherwise. Teamwork between the teachers is key to the process. They take part in common planning time and figure out how to balance the two subjects. History will take precedence on some days, while other classes will focus on literature. It comes down to a give-and-take between teachers and between teams. The good relationships the teachers have are essential to making the class work.

The administration has continued to provide a high level of support for the class, something the teachers are news_AmerHeritage_Greg-Hudsonvery thankful for. Scheduling can be tricky with so many teachers, but the administration has made a strong effort to continue the class and to keep students with the same teaching team, bolstering the sense of community. Accommodating the class size was also a challenge at times, something the new addition to Valley addressed. The new building includes a room designed with American Heritage classes in mind. The room is a better fit for the large class sizes. The teachers have their own classrooms as well and rotate in and out of the American Heritage room.

In a school as sizeable as Valley, it is valuable to provide such a personal learning experience for students. Each American Heritage class has shown this to be true by becoming its own small learning community, forging connections between students, between teachers, and between the two together. The American Heritage class may have started small, but it has grown into a popular class that encourages confidence and passion in both the students and the teachers involved.

Topics: Education

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Boundary Committee Begins Map Development

boundary_icon_colorThe district’s boundary study committee held its second meeting on Oct. 6, creating map sketches for the demographers to review as an initial step toward developing boundary options. The committee of 50 was divided into eight small groups with each group submitting a cursory suggestion.

The demographer will determine if the suggested sketches are a viable options for further study based on building capacity, population density of the proposed area and more.

Goals set by the school board for the committee to consider during their work were:

  1. Neighborhoods Intact: Where possible, boundaries should be structured to maintain a neighborhood within one school’s attendance area. Neighborhoods should not be split between two schools. A neighborhood is defined as the smallest division of a residential planning area that can be subdivided by a natural line of demarcation, such as a stream or major traffic way. There should be logical limits to define a neighborhood.
  2. Contiguous Attendance Areas: When it is possible, attendance areas should share a common border or have borders that are touching. Compact grouping of residential subdivisions — or planning areas — should be maintained.
  3. Duration of Boundaries: Attendance areas should remain the same for as long as possible. This factor addresses the ability of an attendance area to accommodate the anticipated enrollments for a projected period of time. Where possible, attendance areas should be stabilized to limit the number of boundary changes experienced by students. In established areas with little or no demographic change projected, boundaries should be planned to last for a period of time.
  4. Projected Enrollment/Building Utilization: Attendance boundaries should have balanced, logical enrollment that works within the confines of the assigned school capacity. This factor considers building utilization, student enrollment, staffing needs and the educational program(s). Where possible, attendance boundaries should be created to anticipate the projected enrollment and the program/current capacity of the building. Efficient building utilization should attempt to maximize student population without exceeding capacity long-term.
  5. Impact: The retention and recruitment of district students should be considered when developing attendance boundaries.

Each group also reported on the pros and cons of their sketch, with many groups noting their sketch addressed the current overcrowded buildings, while also balancing attendance at the district’s two junior high schools. Many of the groups also reported that by following the criteria their sketches would affect most of the schools in the district.

WHAT’S NEXT
At its October 21 and November 6 meetings, the committee will review the report from the demographer based on their proposed sketches and determine one to two viable boundary scenarios to present to the public.

These presentations will occur at public forums where the community can give their feedback:

    • Saturday, Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. in the Community Room at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway
    • Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Forum at Valley Southwoods, 625 South 35th Street
    • Thursday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Community Room at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway

Topics: Boundary Study

Boundary Committee Meets October 7

The West Des Moines Community Schools Boundary Committee will continue its study of the district’s enrollment and boundaries at 6:30 p.m. on October 7 in the Media Center at Valley Southwoods Ninth Grade High School. This meeting is open to observers.

Boundary Committee Meeting Agenda – October 7, 2014

Boundary Committee Meeting Dates

The committee will further review data on the district’s enrollment and begin to work in small groups to provide feedback for possible boundary options.

The committee held its first meeting on September 30, 2014. During this meeting, members reviewed the purpose of the committee, the criteria set by the School Board, the district’s current boundaries, and the reasons why the district is reviewing these boundaries. These reasons include:

  • The cities we serve – West Des Moines and parts of Clive, Urbandale and Windsor Heights – have
    continued to age and populations have changed.
  • Some of our schools have seen growing student enrollment, causing more students to be placed at
    buildings other than their neighborhood school in order to keep class sizes at 26-28
    students.
  • Phenix Early Childhood Center was closed, which necessitates boundary adjustments to
    accommodate all resident Phenix students to be able to attend Hillside.

The committee also agreed to the following process for the committee:

  • Provide information (district representatives)
  • Utilize small groups (share out to larger group)
  • Develop and evaluate scenarios (start with a clean slate and discuss pros and cons)
  • Develop recommendation
  • Receive community feedback
  • Revise as needed
  • Seek Board approval

For the full meeting minutes, please see the link below.

Boundary Committee Meeting Minutes – Sept. 30, 2014

 

Topics: Boundary Study

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Valley Graduate Tanner Stine Stars on Nickelodeon

When Tanner Stine was eight years old, he told his mom he wanted to be a movie star. jc_TannerStine_1

The 2013 Valley High School graduate is on his way to reaching his goal. This fall he is starring as “Oyster” in Nickelodeon’s “The Thundermans.”

  • Click here to see Tanner Stine as “Oyster” in Nickelodeon’s “The Thundermans.” The show airs Saturdays at 8 p.m.
  • See his return to Valley High School here.

Now living in Los Angeles, the 19-year-old Stine recently returned home to watch the premiere of his appearance in the TV show, and to stop by Jordan Creek Elementary to have lunch with his younger brother Dawson. He also visited his friend Abbie Kliegl at Valley High School and younger brother Chase, who is a senior at Valley.

Coming back to school was nostalgic for Stine.  “The biggest thing I noticed is how much smaller it is,” Stine said of Jordan Creek Elementary compared to when he was younger.

Although Stine knew early on he wanted to be an actor, it was not his only interest. After being in plays at the Des Moines Playhouse in fifth and sixth grade, he changed his focus in seventh grade and started to play football.

jc_TannerStine_lunch2“I love football and I still watch it today and wonder if I should have played football instead of coming out to L.A.,” Stine said. He was a junior when Valley High School won the state championship in 2011. Stine said he has great memories of playing football, but it wasn’t easy. He worked hard to improve while playing second string for most of high school.

Things changed his senior year. He become a starter for the Valley football team and competed in the IMTA (International Modeling and Talent Association) in Los Angeles, where he won Junior Male Actor of the Year and Junior Male Model of the Year.

Stine was signed right away with an agent. He moved to California and started attending Santa Monica College. He also started auditioning and got a part for one episode on Nickelodeon’s “The Haunted Hathaways.” He later auditioned for the “The Thundermans.”

“It was like a one audition deal,” Stine explained of his audition for “The Thundermans.” “They filmed it and the casting directors in the room liked what I did. A few days later they called and said you booked it. I said, ‘No call back?'”

He was initially hired for only two episodes, but the show kept calling him back. He ended up filming eight episodes.jc_TannerStine_teacher

In addition to acting, Stine attends Santa Monica College. Looking back on his education, Stine said what has helped him the most is learning that hard work leads to success.

“I think that was the biggest lesson for me in school was learning that the effort you choose to put into things is what you are going to get out,” he said. “I believe that you can do whatever you want to do — it’s just a matter of how hard you work to get it.”

 

Topics: Student Achievements, Uncategorized

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