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Board Continues to Study Moving Sixth Grade, Preschool

Facilities study image: Image of building ceiling with district logo and the words "Board Studies Learning Spaces."

The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education will continue to study various space allocation options, including moving sixth grade and preschool out of district elementary schools.

During a special workshop session held Oct. 30, the School Board asked Shive-Hattery Architecture and Engineering to return in December with estimates for construction and ongoing operational costs associated with such moves.

Members agreed that no decision can be made at this time without further information.


Initial Feedback Shows Support for Moving Sixth Grade Out of Elementary Schools

The School Board reviewed preliminary feedback gathered by Shive-Hattery this fall from groups of teachers, parents, and administrators at each elementary school. The preliminary feedback shows support for moving sixth grade out of the elementary and combining seventh- and eighth-graders together.

Space Utilization Summary (PDF)

The four main themes that arose from the group discussions included:

  • developmental disparity (the academic or social development of sixth graders compared to fifth graders and seventh graders),
  • scheduling classes,
  • curriculum style, and
  • teacher endorsement.

Shive-Hattery Architect Joe Benesh said there is no evidence that shows sixth-graders perform better academically when grouped with seventh-graders than with fifth-graders. However, the groups of teachers, parents, and administrators at each school reported that they believe there is a difference between the socialization of sixth-graders when they are grouped with seventh-graders versus fifth-graders. They said moving sixth-graders out of the elementary school was a good idea not just from a space usage standpoint, but also from a socialization standpoint. Shive-Hattery Architect Michelle Huggins reported some parent representatives said the district’s K-6 structure is a unique feature that could appeal to some families.

The school groups reported scheduling classes and the K-5 grade span of the core standards are a challenge with the current structure. Teacher endorsements were an initial concern, but it was reported that most teacher certification covers a K-8 span.


Feedback Mixed for Moving Preschool Out of Elementary Schools

The school groups’ feedback about moving preschool out the elementary schools was mixed, Benesh reported. The groups from Crestview School of Inquiry, Crossroads Park Elementary, and Fairmeadows Elementary were not in favor of moving preschool programming out of the elementary school when considering the integration of students, preschool teacher collaboration, and the transition to kindergarten.

Space Utilization Summary (PDF)

Crestview reported that moving the preschool program out of an elementary school’s neighborhood to a central district location would be a barrier for families who have limited or no transportation options. In addition, they reported that it is beneficial for preschool students and families to become familiar with the school building prior to kindergarten.

Those schools in favor of a central preschool location noted instruction could benefit because teacher collaboration would be easier.

Nearly all schools were in favor of providing childcare services before and after the half-day preschool program.


Upcoming Meetings & Further Study

The October 30 meeting was the second of three special workshop sessions scheduled to review the district’s 10-year facility plan. The remaining workshops are scheduled for:

  • December 5, 2016, 5:15-7:30 p.m., at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines
  • NEW DATE! December 19, 2016, 5:15-7:30 p.m., at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines
  • January 22, 2017, 1-3 p.m., at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines

For background on this study, please visit:

Facilities Projects – Updates

Topics: Facilities, School Board News

Grading Practices Task Force Meets Oct. 26

The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) Grading Practices Task Force will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, in the Media Center at Valley High School, 3650 Woodland Ave., in West Des Moines. This meeting is open to the public.

Teacher grading papers.

The purpose of this task force is to address the district strategic plan goal area on consistent, effective grading practices in the West Des Moines Community Schools. The task force is charged with researching and identifying effective grading practices and providing specific recommendations to the WDMCS Board of Education for grades K-12 in the district. Additionally, the task force will recommend professional learning needs for staff, communication needs to students and families, and a timeline for implementation.

For more information, please visit:

Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 Agenda
5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • Review from last meeting
  • Report out on “homework”
  1. Research and professional literature that supports traditional grading practices (points, percentages).
  2. Grading policies from other Iowa schools
  3. Employee evaluations (business)
  • Use data to create a “Purpose of Grading”

WDMCS Grading Practices Task Force – Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 Agenda

WDMCS Grading Practices Task Force – Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 Meeting Minutes

Future Meeting Dates
Wed., Nov 30, 2016 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Wed., Jan 25, 2017 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Wed., Feb 22, 2017 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Wed., Mar 29, 2017 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Wed., April 26, 2017 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Wed., May 31, 2017 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Topics: Grading Practices

WDMCS Taking Action to Address Education Equity

Equity workshop 092016 ewmedits

Race & Equity in Our Schools: Actions Steps for Positive Change

The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) recently released its plan to address education equity in its schools. “Race & Equity in Our Schools: Action Steps for Positive Change” outlines short- and long-term action steps the district and Valley High School will take during the 2016-17 school year and beyond.

These steps include:

  1. Establish a District Equity Team—Complete by Oct. 31, 2016
  2. Establish a Valley High School Equity Team—Complete by Oct. 31, 2016
  3. Select a Framework to Focus Equity Work—Complete by Feb. 28, 2017
  4. Hire an Outside Entity to Provide Professional Development—Complete by April 30, 2017
Equity actionsteps slide

WDMCS Equity Action Steps

Details about these action steps are available in the full action plan document available here:

“Race & Equity in Our Schools: Action Steps for Positive Change”

The district and Valley High School are currently working with community members and organizations to assemble the equity teams, which will hold their first meetings in November 2016. Once determined, the teams’ members will be announced, along with the date and time of their first meetings.

The goal of the equity work is to improve the district climate and culture in order to establish equitable practices for all students that:

  • eliminate systemic racial inequity,
  • provide equitable educational opportunities for students of color, and
  • nurture authentic and trusting relationships between staff and students and between students themselves to make a positive difference in how students of color experience school.

To learn more about this effort, including an equity audit the district commissioned from the Iowa State University, please see the following information publically available on the district website:


Equity Action Plan (Full Document): “Race & Equity in Our Schools: Action Steps for Positive Change”

Equity Action Plan (PowerPoint): WDMCS Board of Education Workshop Session Presentation

Equity Audit (Full Document): “Developing an Action Plan for Creating a More Equitable School”

Equity Audit (PowerPoint): “VHS Racial Equity Report” Presentation

Equity Audit Presentation (Video): WDMCS Board of Education Workshop Sept. 12, 2016


Topics: Equity

WDMCS Making Positive Changes for Education Equity

The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) has released its plan to address education equity in its schools.

“Race & Equity in Our Schools: Action Steps for Positive Change” outlines short- and long-term steps the district and Valley High School will take during the 2016-17 school year and beyond.

Find the full plan and other resources at

Topics: Equity

District to Unveil New Brand and Marketing Efforts

Get ready! A new district brand – including an academic logo and brand platform – will be unveiled at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.

The district has worked with students, parents, staff, and local branding and graphic design experts to develop a full brand platform of which our community can be proud.

district_branding_Slide1In 2013, the West Des Moines Community Schools conducted a communications audit with the National School Public Relations Association. One recommendation from the audit was to incorporate marketing and branding strategies to build the district’s reputation as a leading school district.

Subsequently, the School/Community Relations Office developed a comprehensive communications plan, which included conducting and implementing a branding process and marketing plan by 2016-2017.

district_branding_Slide2In 2014, the School/Community Relations Office began a branding process with assistance from Share Marketing. The process launched in November with a 22-question branding and positioning survey of parents and employees. Student’s of Valley High School Business Teacher Sarah Bird’s marketing class were also involved in the branding process and participated in the survey.
In January 2015, three four-hour branding work sessions were held with nearly 30 parent, teacher, administrator, and support staff representatives. Through the committee’s work, a brand platform was developed for the district.

Based on this foundational work, the process moved to the district’s visual identity suite and tagline.

district_branding_Slide3The district hired (c)3 Marketing, a service of Love Scott & Associates, Inc. (c)3 Marketing President Andrea Love and Vice President/Creative Director Adam Jensen have an understanding of and history with the district as the firm worked with staff, parents, and students to develop the district activities logo. In addition, Love is a graduate of Valley High School.  The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education approved the logo and tagline in August 2015.

The School/Community Relations Office will continue its work during the summer to create new materials for our district. Stay tuned!

Topics: Informaline

Tiger Field Project Bids Approved, Facilities Plan to be Reviewed

On a 4-2 vote with one abstention, the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education approved the bids for the renovation of Valley High School’s Tiger Field.

The project includes a new track surface, press box, long jump and shot put/discus area, sound system, sidewalks, increased seating at the field with new bleachers, additional lighting to extend the hours of operation, and more. Construction will begin this summer, with substantial completion of the project scheduled for August.

New field turf will be considerably wider at 225 feet than the current grass field, which is 180 feet, and will allow more physical education classes to be held outside even when the ground is wet, which currently is not possible according to Valley High School Athletics Director Brad Rose.

The Board awarded the construction contract to Elder Corporation of Des Moines, Iowa on the basis of its low total bid of $3,309,500. Revenue from the state sales tax will pay for the project. According to Iowa law, these funds can only be used for construction projects and can not be used for general operating costs, including salaries.

Board member Liz Cox voted against awarding the bid stating that she felt the bids were high and the district could get better prices bidding in December with construction starting next summer.  Board member Melinda Dunnwald also voted against awarding the bids. Board member Jill Caton Johnson abstained stating that she did not have enough information about the bidding process.

During the School Board meeting, teachers from Westridge Elementary expressed concern with the field project and noted that kindergarten classrooms at their school have inadequate instructional space. Operations Director Eric Smith, who has met with staff members at the school, acknowledged these concerns and reported that this summer the administration would like to review the district’s 10-year facilities plan, current space needs in the district’s buildings, and bring a recommendation regarding the plan to the Board this fall.

Topics: School Board News

Grading Practices Under Review

The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) Board of Education has appointed a task force to review the district’s grading practices.

On May 9th, the School Board approved a 51-member task force that will look at the district’s current grading practices, study national research on effective practices, and possibly recommend changes to how students are graded.

Drake University Associate Professor of Education Dr. Thomas Buckmiller and Solon High School Principal Nathan Wear will facilitate the task force of parents, community members, teachers, administrators, and School Board members. Both facilitators have an extensive background in effective grading practices and have worked with schools in Iowa and across the nation in this area.

The task force will complete its work during the 2016-17 school year and provide a recommendation in the spring of 2017.

The committee meetings will be open to the public.

Effective Grading Practices Task Force Membership List


Topics: Grading Practices, Informaline, School Board News

Board Discusses Effective Grading Practices April 28


(Photo if Rick Wormeli. Source:

The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) Board of Education will hold a special workshop session at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 28 in the Community Room at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines. This meeting is open to the public.

National education speaker Rick Wormeli will talk with WDMCS Board of Education members about effective grading practices. One of the first Nationally Board Certified teachers in America and Disney’s American Teacher Awards 1996 Outstanding English Teacher of the Nation, Wormeli has more than 30 years of experience in education. Learn more here.


School Board Meeting Materials

School Board Information

School Board Meeting Calendar

Topics: Grading Practices, School Board News

School Board Approves Revised Discipline Policies

Students in the West Des Moines Community Schools who sell or attempt to sell or distribute alcohol, a controlled substance, or a look-alike may either be suspended or expelled from school under a policy change recently approved by the school board.

A revised version of Board Policy 502.8 “Alcoholic Beverages and Controlled Substances – Selling or Distributing”  and several other discipline-related policies were unanimously approved by the board on April 25, 2016.

Policy 502.8 had the most substantial change with the addition of  “long-term suspension” as a disciplinary option for students who violate the policy.

Previously, administrators could only recommend students be expelled from school for violating 502.8. The policy change allows administrators the flexibility to recommend students either be suspended from school for more than 10 days or be expelled from school.

For a long-term suspension, a student is out of school more than 10 days. Often educational services are offered and paid for by the district at a location other than a school. For example, the district provides the Four Oaks program at the Learning Resource Center. There is no set time period for an expulsion from school and the district provides no services. The school board must approve long-term suspensions and expulsions.

The Superintendent’s Board Policy Advisory Committee recommended the revised policies. The policy committee made its recommendation after surveying similar disciplinary policies from area school districts, most of which were similar to the new language.

During the open forum portion of the April 25 board meeting, parent Kelly Koch expressed concern with the number of disciplinary hearing the board has been addressing and urged members to provide mentors or other supports as opposed to suspending or expelling students.

Board members talked about holding a workshop session to further discuss student discipline policies and related research,



Topics: School Board News

Board Approves New Stadium Scoreboard

The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education approved a new Valley stadium scoreboard at its April 25, 2016, meeting.

The new LED video board will have a nameplate that reads: “In Memory of Brandon Ellingson.” A donation from Ellingson’s family will fund the video board, along with funds from the athletics booster club.

Ellingson graduated from Valley High School in 2012.  Ellingson was captain of the football team his senior year and played during the Tigers’ state title game in 2011. He died nearly two years ago while vacationing in the Lake of the Ozarks.

The scoreboard will be used to highlight video productions from activities during the week, replay current events, promote upcoming events, show student interviews, as well as advertising and fundraising.

The board also passed a resolution to donate a portion of the revenue generated from advertising on the scoreboard to substance abuse education.

Installation of the scoreboard is pending City of West Des Moines approval for signage.

Topics: Athletics, School Board News