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My Journey Through the WDMCS

Written By: Maddie Hamborg

maddie_hamborg_graduationI have been in the WDMCS district my entire school career.  I attended Jordan Creek Elementary from kindergarten through sixth grade, and then transitioned to Stilwell, Valley Southwoods, and, ultimately, Valley High School.

I had great experiences at each of these schools.  My fondest memories of Jordan Creek revolve around it’s traditions–from a field trip to the Omaha Zoo to the sixth grade bike ride and clap-out.  At Stilwell, I participated in the school plays and in the mime shows.  While I am far from a brilliant actor/mime, these experiences allowed me to meet many new people and to try something completely out of my comfort zone.  I also began to run cross-country, which I continued throughout Valley Southwoods and Valley High School.  My fondest memories of Southwoods and Valley are cross-country and orchestra events, such as “Frisky Friday and pasta dinners,” and the many orchestra concerts and trips.

I believe that the West Des Moines schools, and Valley in particular, provided me with a strong educational background, which will help me be very competitive when I enter the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Va., this fall.  Beginning in eighth grade, I took advanced level classes, which prepared me to enter the Valley Honors Program.  The classes I took as part of this program were very challenging. They forced me to develop a strong work ethic and time management skills that will prove invaluable in college. One of the unique things about Valley is that it is not uncommon for students to have a teacher for more than one year.  Some of my favorite teachers are those I had throughout my high school career.  Mrs. Karen Downing was my ELP /honors seminar teacher, and she inspired me to accomplish things I never would have imagined I could do as a mere freshman.  In addition, my orchestra teacher, Mr. Phil Peters, and cross-country coach, Mr. Bob Hardin, pushed everyone to work toward “personal bests,” and to be the best musician or runner he or she could be.

Additionally, Mrs. Downing and others at Valley encouraged me to seek balance in my life, and to find a few activities outside of the academic world that not only filled my time but also made me happy.  If I could offer any advice to underclassmen, I would tell them to do just that:  Instead of loading your schedule with a variety of clubs and activities, focus on something you could see yourself having a passion for or expanding on in the future.  For me, it was working with special needs students.  During my sophomore year, I began volunteering in the special needs department at Jordan Creek Elementary. Ultimately, I was able to create an extracurricular program in which 30 special needs students now participate, which is designed to increase their physical activity in a comfortable social environment.  WDMCS gave me the necessary training and confidence to begin this program, and I know I will take this experience with me throughout my life.

Topics: Uncategorized

Loss and Grief

Submitted by Elementary School Counselors

According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are five stages of grief. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For those of us who have experienced a loss, we know that there is no set time or order when going through those stages. It is a time when we experience a vast array of emotions. Whether it is the loss of a pet, or the loss of a loved one, children grieve too. There are ways to help them through this confusing time. Activities such as making a memory book, sharing favorite stories about the pet or person they have lost, or meeting with a grief counselor can help to ease some of the pain a child is feeling after a loss. Below are some additional resources to help children through a time of loss and grief.

Click on the following links to learn more about the services offered.

Topics: Counseling

Two-Hour Delay – Wednesday, February 5 – No Early Release

Because of severe winter weather conditions, all schools will start two hours late Wednesday, February 5, 2014. There will be no early dismissal per Wednesday collaboration schedule.

  • There will be no morning preschool.
  • No Westridge half-day kindergarten.
  • Full-day kindergarten will start two-hours late district wide.
  • No morning activities or early bird classes.
  • Kids West will open at 8:30 a.m.
  • Busses will pick up students two hours after their normal pick-up time.
  • Walnut Creek Campus: Full-Day Students report at 11:20 a.m.; P.M. Students report at 11:46 a.m.; A.M. Students no school

Valley Southwoods Schedule

1st hour:               10:20am-10:53am  (33 minutes)
2nd hour:              10:56am-11:25am  (29 minutes)
Lunch
5th hour:

  • A 11:25am-11:51am  (26 minutes + 4 minute passing period)
  • B 11:50am-12:16pm  (26 minutes + 4 minute passing period)
  • C 12:15pm-12:45pm  (26 minutes + 4 minute passing period)

3rd hour:               12:45pm-1:14pm  (29 minutes)
4th hour:               1:17pm-1:46pm  (29 minutes)
6th hour:               1:49pm-2:18pm  (29 minutes)
7th hour:               2:19pm-2:48pm  (29 minutes)
8th hour:               2:51pm-3:20pm  (29 minutes)

Valley High School Schedule

2st period 10:20-11:22
1L11:27-11:57 4P:12:02-1:06
4P:11:27-11:58 2L12:01-12:31 4P12:35-1:06
4P:11:27-12:31 3L12:36-1:06
6th period 1:11-2:13
8th period 2:18-3:20

Topics: Uncategorized

Schools Dismissing Two Hours Early – Tuesday, February 4

Because of deteriorating weather conditions, schools will dismiss two hours early today, Tuesday, February 4, 2014

  • The Junior Highs will dismiss at 12:35
  • Valley High School and Valley Southwoods will dismiss at 1:20
  • Walnut Creek and Crestview Elementary will dismiss at 1:10
  • All other elementaries will dismiss at 1:55
  • No afternoon preschool. AM preschool will dismiss at the normal time.
  • Buses will run according to the adjusted schedule.
  • Kids West will open immediately following school dismissal. Kids West will close at 5 p.m.
  • If you are a preschool parent in a non-district building, please contact that facility.
  • Indian Hill’s sixth and seventh grade parent night is rescheduled for Thursday, February 6.

All after-school and evening activities and classes are cancelled.

Topics: Uncategorized

Relational Aggression

Bullying in elementary school

Submitted by Elementary School Counselors

Bullying is a subject that our school district has focused heavily on during recent years.  Sometimes this subject can be overwhelming.  Research shows that one of the best ways to significantly reduce the rate of these incidents is for adults to reach a consensus on what bullying is.

Bullying can take many forms.  The most typical forms of bullying would be either physical or verbal aggression. The third form is referred to as relational aggression.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, relational aggression is “harm within relationships that is caused by covert bullying or manipulating behavior.”

Covert bullying:

  • Not allowing someone to join a group
  • Refusing to share friends
  • Embarrassing someone in front of friends

Manipulating Behaviors:

  • Giving someone the silent treatment
  • Trying to stop two people from becoming friends
  • Relaying gossip or rumors to the target of the gossip

Because it is less obvious than physical or verbal bullying, it requires careful observation.  Parents may be unclear about how to help their children handle these situations.  The Ophelia Project outlines “The Essential Seven”, which are tips for parents to deal with relational aggression.

  1. Do listen attentively to your child’s stories and ask questions.  Don’t rush the conversation or make light of the situation.
  2. Do teach kindness and try to model it in your home.  Don’t teach your child to get even or take revenge.
  3. Do focus on empathy by asking questions like ‘how would you feel?’  Try role-playing.  Don’t allow your child to believe that his or her feelings are the only ones that matter.
  4. Do talk to your child about relational aggression.  Name it.  Don’t hesitate to confront your child about his or her behavior.
  5. Do model positive interpersonal relationships in your home.  Don’t inadvertently model relational aggression in your own friendship circle.
  6. Do everything possible to make sure your child has friends outside the school’s social scene.  Encourage outside activities.  Don’t make popularity the goal in your family
  7. Do talk daily with your child.  Encourage discussion; ask open ended questions about friends and social interactions.  Don’t ask yes/no or general questions like ‘did you have a good day?’

Awareness is the key.  If parents and children speak with each other openly and honestly about friendship issues and concerns, situations such as relational aggression can be recognized  and be handled in a proactive and effective manner.

www.opheliaproject.org

www.stopbullyingnow.com

www.awaythrough.com

www.thebullyproject.com

www.olweus.org

www.cyberbullying.us/

Topics: Counseling

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

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

District Website Update

It has been nearly three months since the launch of the new district website and I am not sure where the time has gone. We continue to work hard on updating the website and completing the content as well as launching individual school sites. If you have not had a chance to take a look around I encourage you to take a few moments and familiarize yourself with the new site. Be sure not to miss the following:
  • The audience tabs on the left side of the home page contain important information for you as a community member, parent, student, staff and newcomer. You can save time by viewing this area first when visiting. It contains frequently used links by each audience group, up to date news information and important reminders. To dig in even a little deeper as a parent, student or staff member you are encouraged to click on the corresponding landing page either from the sidebar tabs or at the top navigation.
  • Announcements found on the District tab of the home page. The announcement section contains information that you would have previously seen on the home page of the old district site. For example information on break dates, board hearings, etc.
  • District Calendar – this calendar is a comprehensive look at the district happenings as a whole. It has extensive search capabilities and has the most up to date information included in it.

  • Our Blog – if you are reading this than you either already know about the blog or you are one step closer to knowing about it!
  • Staff Directory – find contact information for your child’s teacher more easily with the new staff directory.
I continue to hear many positive comments along with constructive criticism about certain features as well. I realize that with any new site there is going to be a learning curve for the user and the creator. There are things that work like you wanted them too and then things that don’t work as well as you had hoped. Every suggestion that I have received I take seriously and take into consideration on how I can solve the issue for the user. My goal is to continue to grow and improve the website to the best of my abilities and within reason for the audience. Check back in the coming weeks to learn more about our website updates, new features, things to look for, etc., along with website tips to make your browsing experience more enjoyable.

Topics: Uncategorized

Connecticut Elementary School Tragedy

Superintendent’s Message Monday, Dec. 17, 2012
Dear West Des Moines Community Schools Families:

My heart remains sad with the continuing news from the Connecticut tragedy. Given the Holiday Season, I was able to spend  time with family and friends, and I hope you were able to do so as well. Life is truly precious. The victims and their families continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

I want to assure you that we are doing all we can to make sure our schools are a safe place to work and learn. Here are actions we are taking:

  1. Reviewing Emergency Protocols: We are asking all district staff to review emergency protocols, which are posted in every room of our buildings. The protocols include lockdown procedures.
  2. Reviewing the Crisis Management Plan: All building administrators will be reviewing the district Crisis Management Plan to ensure all emergency preparation steps outlined are being followed. This includes conducting drills for several emergencies, including lockdowns. General information about our plan is available here: http://www.wdmcs.org/district/our-schools/crisis-plan/.
  3. Full Review of Crisis Management Plan: This fall, the district began a full review of the Crisis Management Plan and protocols. We will continue this work, which will involve local law enforcement agencies, fire departments and other crisis experts throughout the process.

Please also know that resources about how to talk with your children about such incidents are available here: http://www.wdmcs.org/mental-health-resources/. We will continue to update this page with resources. Also know that our school counselors are here during school hours to help students, if needed.

We are also listening to feedback, concerns, ideas and more that are being provided to us about crisis preparedness, crisis response, safety, and communications. We are doing our best to gather resources, answer questions, and more. Please feel free to contact me or your principal if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,
Dr. Peter Ansingh,
WDMCS Superintendent

 

Superintendent’s Message Friday, Dec. 14, 2012
Dear West Des Moines Community Schools Families;

Today, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of the Connecticut elementary school tragedy. As we hear such news we are reminded how important it is for our schools to provide the safest possible learning and working environments for our students and staff.

Please know that the West Des Moines Community Schools has safety and crisis protocols for such situations in place that were developed with input from law enforcement.  We will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to keep our students and schools safe.

In addition, we know such news can be confusing and difficult for children. If you are seeking information about how to help children at home deal with tragic news, please feel to reference the resources below. Also know that our school counselors are here during school hours to help students.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help in any way.

Dr. Peter Ansingh,
WDMCS Superintendent

Resources for Parents

WDMCS Crisis Plan Information

Topics: Superintendent

Features of the New District Website

We are a couple weeks away from the launch of the new district website and because I am not very good at waiting I thought I would give you a sneak peek of some features of the new site. As mentioned in a previous post during the planning process we surveyed students, parents, employees, and the community to gather data about their use of the current district  website, along with their likes and dislikes. The main objective was to create a website that is audience centric, has up-to-date information, and is easy to navigate. We are accomplishing this in several different ways, but a couple of the ways we are doing this is through the top and side navigation as seen here. Depending on what category you fall into you can go directly to “your” page and find the information that is relevant to you. The information that is provided on this page was decided after looking at Google analytics and user research.

Top Navigation

Another objective for the new site was to create an awareness of the happenings within our district. The main way that this is being done is through the news feed seen here. Up-to-date information and events will be announced on the home page along with press releases and happenings.

What's New NewsNews Full Page

A request that was mentioned in the survey over and over again was a more user online calendar system. The new site will have a very robust and user friendly online calendar system. You will now be able to have a more accurate calendar of the districts events year round. You will be able to search by month, day, activity and school. We will then carry this even one step further as we continue into phase two with the redesign of individual school websites. Each school will have a calendar on  their home pages which will include their own events.

Calendar on home page

The last item I am going to share today is the Staff Directory. This is something that I hear repeatedly, that people have a hard time using and finding the information they need in our current staff directory. Brian Abeling, Director of Technology worked closely with Flying Hippo Web Technologies to create, what we think, is a very useful and robust staff directory.

Staff Directory Search Box
I am looking forward to sharing the new and improved site with you in the next couple of weeks. We still have a lot of things to do in order to launch the new site so better get back to it!

Topics: Education

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