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Archive for 2015

Dollars & Cents: Spending and Enrollment Down


The West Des Community School District spent less money than budgeted last year in its ongoing effort to manage expenses as education costs continue to outpace funding statewide.

This positive budget news was dampened in mid-October when the official enrollment count showed approximately 132 fewer students in the district than last year. Each WDMCS student in kindergarten through 12th grade generates $6,446 in revenue, making enrollment a significant factor.

Current projections indicate the district will still need to reduce spending. District leadership may propose a reduction of $1 million or less for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Meeting since June, a committee of parents and district employees is reviewing budget information with the goal to provide a recommendation to the School Board in late November about how the district can reduce spending.

The committee is following the Tregoe decision-making process used during the district’s budget planning two years ago, and it is starting with the list of suggested cuts created at that time by community members, parents, and district employees. The group has not made any decisions at this time and will continue to meet through November. A list of the committee members is available online.

Enrollment and past spending are two key factors in planning the 2016-17 budget. The district will not be able to finalize the budget until state funding is determined by the legislature, which begins meeting in January.


Topics: Budget

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Board Meeting Update: Calendar Hearing Held, Action on Nov. 9

At its Oct. 26 meeting, the School Board held a public hearing on the proposed 2016-17 school year calendar, with Wednesday, Aug. 24 as the first day of school. No one made comments at the public hearing.

The School Board is tentatively scheduled to take action on the calendar on Monday, Nov. 9.

Calendar Highlights and Full Proposed Calendar

Topics: School Board News

School Board Meets with Senator

Iowa Senator Charles Schneider

Senator Charles Schneider (Photo source:

During a workshop held Oct. 26, the School Board met with Iowa Senator Charles Schneider (R – District 22) to discuss education funding and legislation. Each legislator representing the district was invited to attend the meeting. Schneider said he understands funding is top priority for education, but also acknowledged that state revenue may not increase as expected based on current estimates. The Board shared its legislative priorities, which are available at

Topics: Budget, School Board News

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Informaline Oct. 19, 2015


en español

Virtual Backpack/La Mochila Virtual

​Snow Day! Update Your Information to Get Notifications
Winter weather is approaching! The district will be conducting a test of its emergency notification system at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27. The call will come from 515-633-5599. Read more about the test call on the district website.

Staplin Center Dedication Nov. 12
Join the West Des Moines Community Schools for a celebration of the arts as our community dedicates the Staplin Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12. This event is free and open to the public.

The dedication honors Dr. Phyllis Staplin, who served as a district curriculum director for 33 years and provided enduring support to every facet of the district’s fine arts program.

The evening will feature student artwork, a youth dance performance, and performances by Valley band, drama, orchestra, and vocal students.

Don’t Miss the Learning, Service & Fun Community Education Offers
The WDMCS Community Education department connects people, ideas, and resources. In her annual update to the School Board on Oct. 12, Community Education Director Shahna Janssen provided program and service highlights. View the full infographic report online, or find out more at

Learn More. Learn Often. with the LEARNwest Program
LEARNwest is a program from WDMCS Community Education for adult learners who want to expand their skills and try something new. There are still openings for fall classes, offered evenings and weekends, so check out the Fall 2015 catalog and sign up today!

Wheels on the Bus: School Bus Drivers Say Kids Best Part of the Job
Did you know that WDMCS bus drivers safely transport about 3,600 students each day? In one school year, they drive more than 700,000 miles. National School Bus Safety Week, from Oct. 19-23, is a time to raise awareness of bus safety and celebrate the dedication of our bus drivers. We asked them what their favorite part of being a bus driver or assistant is. Read some of our favorite answers: English | Spanish.

Trick or Treat! Ten Tips for Staying Safe on Beggars’ Night
Beggars’ Night is from 6–8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30, for most WDMCS families. Whether you and your family will be trick-or-treating or not, here are 10 tips will help keep the night safe for everyone. Get more tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before going door-to-door!

Valley 2015 Graduate Ojas Pradhan Top Iowa AP Scholar
Recent Valley High School graduate Ojas Pradhan was named a State AP Scholar, making him one of two top Advanced Placement Program® (AP) students in the state.

The College Board also recognized 181 other Valley students for their high achievement on the AP Exams taken in May 2015. Read the full list online.

Topics: Informaline

Board Meeting Update: Community Education’s Annual Update

ce_annual_update_graphicDon’t miss the learning, service, and fun WDMCS Community Education offers. The Community Education department connects people, ideas, and resources.

In her annual update to the School Board on Oct. 12, Community Education Director Shahna Janssen provided program and service highlights. Here are just a few:

  • If Kids West were a school, it would be the largest elementary school in the WDMCS district.
  • Silver Cord participants volunteered 45,223 service hours in 2014-15.
  • Adventures provide 75 opportunities for continued learning after school for more than 700 elementary students.

You can read the whole report on our website.

Learn more by visiting or by calling 515-633-5001.

Topics: School Board News

Informaline October 5, 2015


en español

Virtual Backpack/La Mochila Virtual

Calling All 2016-17 Kindergartners! 
The WDMCS district is now taking names for the 2016-17 kindergarten class! All children who will be 5 years old by Sept. 15, 2016, are eligible for kindergarten next school year. Start your child’s education journey with us, by entering your name on our list. Schools are assigned based on home address, so secure your place with us as soon as possible!

Human Growth and Development Video Previews
Parents are invited to an Oct. 15 human growth and development video preview event at the Learning Resource Center. The fourth-grade videos are at 6:30 p.m. (girls) and 7 p.m. (boys), the fifth-grade video is at 7:30 p.m., and the sixth-grade video is at 8 p.m.

Poole Elected School Board President
The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education elected Dr. Vicky Poole as its president and Tali Greenspon as its vice president on Sept. 21. Find out more about Poole and Greenspon, and the school board’s new committee representatives, in our ‘School Board News‘ district blog category.

You’re Invited to Preschool Palooza!
Join us for Preschool Palooza from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, at Hillside Elementary! Children ages 2-6 will enjoy fun and educational activities, while their grown-ups gather information about early childhood opportunities like preschool programs and kindergarten enrollment in the WDMCS district.

Five Tips for Keeping Kids Healthy
As we head into fall and winter, we also enter cold and flu season. Here are some tips for keeping your child healthy and ready to learn: English | en español

Eat, Compete, and Have Fun!
From Oct. 12-19, the WDMCS district will be celebrating the school lunch program with National School Lunch Week. The week will emphasize the healthy foods that are offered daily at our schools and include fun lunchtime activities for students and their families. Read about all the different activities that will be offered.

Topics: Informaline

Eat, Compete, and Have Fun!

Elementary Pupils Collecting Healthy Lunch In CafeteriaFrom Oct. 12-19, the WDMCS district will be celebrating the school lunch program with National School Lunch Week.

The week will emphasize the healthy foods that are offered daily at our schools and include fun lunchtime activities for students and their families.

Here’s how we are celebrating:

Have Lunch With Your Child! at elementary schools all week

  • Parents are encouraged to visit school and eat lunch with their elementary-aged children. Each school will also host a police officer and Valley student-athletes in their uniforms who will eat with students.

Fun Games with Food Prizes! at Indian Hills Oct. 13, Stilwell Oct. 12, and Southwoods Oct. 15

  • Nutrition employees will visit these schools with nutrition trivia and estimation games. Winner of the “How Many in the Jar?” contest will receive a la carte credit, and students who participate in trivia will get a free sample of a smoothie or mini-bagel pizza bite.Stickers will also be placed on random trays. Students with the stickered trays can collect a free a la carte item.

Special Pizza Delivery! at Valley Oct. 14 and Walnut Creek Oct. 16

  • Nutrition employees will visit Valley High School and Walnut Creek Campus with activities, and students will also get a special meal. Domino’s Pizza will deliver special Domino’s pizzas that meet school lunch guidelines! It will be served as part of a reimbursable lunch or an a la carte item.

Please join us in celebrating National School Lunch Week, Oct. 12-19!

Topics: Nutrition

Poole Elected School Board President

our school board  members_Poole

Dr. Vicky Poole

The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education elected Dr. Vicky Poole as its president and Tali Greenspon as its vice president on September 21.

Each year, the school board chooses a president and vice president. The president preside at all meetings of the Board, signs contracts and school district warrants approved by the board, and more.  The vice president serves in the absences of the president.

our school board  members_Greenspon

Tali Greenspon

Poole was elected to the school board in 2013 and is retired from the West Des Moines Community School District, where she served as principal of Valley High School (2000–2011) and as associate principal (1996–2000). Greenspon was also elected in 2013 and is an account executive at Competitive Edge, Inc.

The board also appointed school board member Melinda Dunnwald to serve as the board’s representative on the district’s School Community Network, which is a committee of parents, teachers, and administrators.

Board Member Jill Caton Johnson, Ph.D., was appointed as the board’s representative on the West Des Moines Community Schools Foundation and Liz Cox was appointed as the board’s representative on the Iowa Association of School Boards‘ Delegate Assembly.

WDMCS Board of Education Information

School Board Meeting Agendas

Follow board meetings live on Twitter!

Topics: School Board News

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Informaline September 22, 2015


en español

Virtual Backpack/ La Mochila Virtual

Two Schools Have New Names
Two schools in the West Des Moines Community School District have new names this year. Clive Elementary is now Clive Learning Academy, and Crestview Elementary is now Crestview School of Inquiry.

The new names reflect their new approach to instruction: the New Tech Network educational model. The new names were approved by the School Board on July 13, 2015, and each building opened its doors on the first day of school with a brand-new name.

School Board Election Results
David J. Brown, Liz Cox, Melinda Dunnwald, and Jill Caton Johnson, Ph.D., have officially been elected to the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education.

The Polk County Auditor’s Office conducted the official vote canvass on Friday, Sept. 11, and the elected Board members were sworn into office Monday, Sept. 21.

What is the CogAT?
Third-grade West Des Moines Community Schools students started taking the Cognitive Abilities Test, or CogAT, on Sept. 14, 2015. Sixth-grade students will take the test starting Sept. 28. We wanted to answer some common questions about the CogAT and help families feel more prepared to support their students during testing. Learn more and get some test-stress tips here.

All About Homecoming 2015: September 28–October 3
Homecoming festivities start next week and include many districtwide activities for our schools, WDMCS families, and the entire community. This year’s theme is “Under the Big Top.” Events include:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 29: Powder Puff Football, 7 p.m., Valley Stadium
  • Thursday, Oct. 1: Homecoming Parade, 5:45 p.m. (starts at Valley Southwoods*); Tiger Carnival and $5 Barbecue, 6:15 p.m., Valley Stadium (rain location: Valley Southwoods)
  • Friday, Oct. 2: Homecoming Football Game, 7:30 p.m., Valley Stadium
  • Saturday, Oct. 3: Homecoming Dance, 8-11 p.m., Iowa Fairgrounds Varied Industries Building (Attire: No hats, chains, canes, athletic wear, or costumes.)
    • *Please make sure to view the parade map online, not in the printed Informaline. It has been updated to show the parade starting on Fuller Road.

Secondary Conference Tips
Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up at many of the WDMCS secondary schools. We talked to some district teacher-leaders to get the top tips for how to navigate your child’s conferences.

The most important thing parents and guardians can do is attend conferences. 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.

What Do They Do? Teacher Training Day Explained
Monday, Sept. 21, will be a day off for students, but teachers across the district will be hard at work. The day will provide teachers extended time to:

  • analyze current student work and assessments,
  • identify the needs of individual students, and
  • share ideas and strategies across grade levels or subject areas to help students grow academically.

Teachers will be able to put their day-long learning directly into action when students come back to school on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Plan ahead!
Make sure to place the upcoming professional development dates on your calendar. School will not be held on these days: January 18, 2016; February 26, 2016; and April 29, 2016.

Topics: Informaline

School Board Election 2015

This post was frequently updated with information about the Sept. 8, 2015, WDMCS school board election. (Final Update: Sept. 21, 2015)

Election Results     School Board Reception Information

vote_boywithsignSchool board elections will be held this year on Tuesday, Sept. 8. There will be four seats on the ballot.

The school board represents the parents and citizens of our community. In the West Des Moines Community Schools, school board members are elected at-large, or represent the entire school district. They receive no compensation for their service.

Each school board member is elected for a term of four years. Terms are staggered to ensure continuity of leadership.


Key Election Dates – 2015

The following are a few key dates for in the school board election process. Please see the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office website for more information.

  • Monday, July 6: First day to file nomination papers with the board secretary.
  • Thursday, July 30: Last day to file nomination papers. Deadline is 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 4: Last day candidates may withdraw. Last day written objections to nomination papers or eligibility of candidate may be filed.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 8: School Election Day.


Public School Board Candidate Forums

UPDATED Sept. 2 — Coverage of both forums is online.

  • Historical Valley Junction Foundation & West Des Moines Education Association Forum, August 1, 2015 from 9:30-10:30 a.m., West Des Moines Community Center, 217 5th Street, West Des Moines. A video of this forum is available online.
  • WDM Chamber of Commerce Forum, Aug. 31, 2015, from 7-9 p.m. The West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce invites area residents to meet the eight candidates running for four seats on the West Des Moines Community School District’s School Board. The Des Moines Register’s coverage of the forum is available online.


Candidate Information

UPDATED Sept. 2 — Links to the Des Moines Register’s candidate coverage have been added.

The filing period for school board candidates ended at 5 p.m. on July 30. The following individuals have filed nomination papers:

  • Incumbent David J. Brown, 5870 Highland Circle, West Des Moines, is vice president of compliance at Principal Financial Group. He is a graduate of Valley High School. He received his bachelor’s degree in German from Lawrence University and his law degree from the University of Iowa. Family:  Wife Julie; three children – Ross is a 2010 graduate of Valley; Keegan is a 2012 graduate; and Chase is a sophomore at Valley.
  • Incumbent H. Milton Cole, 2001 S. 40th Court, West Des Moines, is a retired Episcopal priest. His undergraduate studies were in sociology and anthropology at The College of William and Mary in Virginia and social welfare at Virginia Commonwealth University; his master’s degrees are in early childhood and elementary education from The University of The District of Columbia and in divinity from The New York General Theological Seminary; and his doctoral studies are in higher education at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Family: Wife Mary; three children – George is a graduate of Valley High School; Leah is a senior at Valley; and Mary-Scout is a sophomore at Valley.
  • Liz Cox, 4802 Plumwood Drive, West Des Moines, is Principal owner of Due North + Associates. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Dakota. Family: Husband Thomas; three children – Megan Cox is a 2014 graduate of Valley High School, Emma is a senior at Valley, and Sam is a junior at Valley.
  • Michele Dahlen, 617 34th St., West Des Moines, is a financial consultant Wells Fargo Consumer Lending Group. She received her accounting degree from Gustavus Adolphus College. Family: Husband Matt; three children – Grace is a junior at Valley, Grant is a freshman at Valley Southwoods, and Greta is a seventh grader at Stilwell.
  • Melinda Dunnwald, 5837 Meadow Valley Court, West Des Moines, received her bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Iowa State University and her master’s degree in business communication from the University of St. Thomas. Family: Husband Jeff; two children – Dayna is an eighth grader and Drew is a seventh grader, both at Stilwell.
  • Judy Jesse, 13533 Village Court, Clive, is a retired teacher, administrator and university clinical supervisor. She received her bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of Northern Iowa, her master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Northern Iowa, and her doctorate in K-12 administration with a superintendent endorsement from Drake University. Family: Husband Bob.
  • Jill Johnson, 213 S. 31st St., West Des Moines, is an associate professor of education at Drake University. She received her bachelor’s in elementary education and her masters in early childhood education from the University of Iowa, and her doctorate in curriculum and instruction, literacy education from the University of Minnesota. Family: Husband Tom Johnson; two children – Jack is an eighth grader and Caton is a seventh grader, both at Stilwell.
  • Incumbent Andi Lipman, 316 46th Place, West Des Moines, is an attorney. She is a graduate of Valley High School. She received her bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Iowa. Family: Husband Jeff; four children – Arielle is a 2010 graduate of Valley, Dani is a 2015 graduate, Meier is a junior at Valley, and Asher is a fifth grader at Western Hills.

Dr. Kevin Carroll is not seeking re-election.

A candidate must be an eligible elector in the school district at the time of the election. An eligible elector must be a citizen of the United States, be a resident of Iowa, and be at least 18 years old.

Each candidate must file an affidavit of candidacy and nomination petitions with the school board secretary. The affidavit of candidacy and nomination petitions must be filed together or they will be rejected.

The minimum number of signatures required for a petition is 50. Petitions may be signed only by eligible electors within the school district

Nomination Petition

Affidavit of Candidacy

Completed nominating petitions and the affidavit of candidacy may be turned at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, between July 6 and no later than 5 p.m. on July 30.

Please see the following websites for additional information:

Iowa Secretary of State
Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board
Polk County Election Office
Find Your Polling Place
See the Ballot
Election Results and More


Topics: School Board News

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