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Archive for Topic: '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

Board Sets Tax Rate at $13.27

On Monday, April 11, the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education adopted the district’s $198 million 2016-17 certified budget and set the tax rate at  $13.27.

This is slightly higher than the current $13.24 rate, but district officials estimate that the rate will remain at its current level once finalized.

During the Board’s regular business meeting, Chief Financial Officer Paul Bobek explained that one of the goals in developing the 2016-17 certified budget was to maintain a constant property tax rate.

When the Board adopted and certified the 2015-16 budget, it did so at a total property tax rate of $13.27. Subsequently, the Department of Management made adjustments that resulted in a final total 2015-16 property tax rate of $13.24189. It is possible the Department of Management may still make adjustments to the 2016-17 budget after the Board adopts and certifies, lowering the tax rate.

More information about the district’s 2016-17 budget is available here.

For previous budget-related posts, please click here.

Topics: Budget, School Board News

School Board Sets District Priorities

On May 4th, the West Des Moines School Board of Education identified the following district priorities for the next 10-12 months:

  • effective grading practices,
  • personalized learning (New Tech, online learning),
  • community outreach, and
  • professional learning communities (PLCs).

These priorities are aligned with an overarching goal of equity and student achievement and were selected from the district’s strategic plan developed in 2014. A possible additional priority to align finances with the strategic plan will be discussed at a later work session.

The Board asked Superintendent Dr. Lisa Remy to write action steps under each priority area, which she will present to the Board at a later meeting.

The Board also reviewed its “What Graduates Will Know and Be Able to Do” statement developed at its March 7 meeting.

The statement is: “A West Des Moines Community Schools graduate will possess the essential skills and integrity to communicate, collaborate, and solve problems as a confident citizen, embracing our diverse and changing world.”

The statement provides a goal for the Board aligned with the district’s mission and vision. The Board will continue its to further define its role in moving the organization forward during upcoming workshop sessions.


Topics: School Board News

Public Hearing to Be Held on Tiger Field Project

The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education will hold a public hearing on the Tiger Field renovation project on May 9.

The Tiger Field is located at Valley High School and serves as a physical education and competition space for high school students during the day. Seasonal sports and local groups use the field in the evening and on weekends.

The field renovation project includes:

  • Removal and replacement of the existing track, practice field, bleachers, and press box;
  • Installation of a new synthetic turf multipurpose field;
  • New sports field lighting;
  • New bleachers and press box;
  • New long jump runways;
  • And the addition of two new shot put rings.

The district hired Shive-Hattery Inc. to design the project. Renovation work is currently scheduled to take place May-October 2016. The preliminary construction base bid budget for the project was approximately $2.7 million, with the cost opinion base bid coming in at $3,261,309. There are six add alternates totaling $543,279 that could be added to the base bid if selected.

The sales tax fund, which cannot pay for general fund expenses like teacher and staff salaries or educational programming, pays for all construction projects, including the Tiger Field renovation.

The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 9 at Crestview School of Inquiry, 8355 Franklin Ave, Clive. Any persons interested may appear and file objections to the proposed plans, specifications, form of contract, or cost of such improvement. Proposed drawings, specifications, and form of contract may be examined at

Topics: Budget, School Board News

School Board Holds Public Hearings April 11

The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education will hold public hearings on the following topics at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 11.

Topics: School Board News

Recent Cuts Help District Manage Expenses, Keep Tax Rate Steady

​​​The West Des Moines Community Schools’ decision in December to trim its 2016-17 budget by $560,000 may have helped keep its tax rate relatively steady and manage what many Iowa education leaders are calling inadequate state funding.

During a School Board workshop last week, Chief Financial Officer Paul Bobek presented a proposed publish tax rate of $13.37 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for 2016-17. This is slightly higher than the current $13.24 rate, but he estimates that the rate will remain at its current level once finalized. If approved by the School Board, the rate will continue to be the lowest in the metro area. Other area districts are 32 to 53 percent higher. The WDMCS has been able to maintain its low tax rate for the past few years because of the community’s strong property values.

The district’s proposed certified budget for 2016-17 includes an additional $589,558 under the 2.25 percent funding increase recently approved by lawmakers. Bobek said the increase is for regular programming costs and will not ​fully ​cover expenses even with the recent cuts. The School Board ​may decide to use district reserves to cover the remaining expenses. ​​

A hearing on the district’s proposed​ ​$198 million certified budget for 2016-17 will be held at 7 p.m. on April 11 at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines.

Topics: Budget, School Board News

District Sells Former Walnut Creek Campus Building

On March 8, the West Des Moines Community Schools finalized the sale of the former Walnut Creek Campus building at 815 8th Street in West Des Moines to the Imani Family Church for $500,000.

The building was originally built as a church and was purchased by the school district in 1999 to house the district’s expanding alternative high school.

Except for a few temporary tenants, the building has been empty since 2012 when Walnut Creek Campus moved to its new location at 1020 8th Street.

According to state law, proceeds from the sale can only be used for building renovations and other facility projects, and cannot be used for district operating expenses.


Topics: School Board News

WDMCS Board Cautions Slow Approach to Changing Grading Practices

During a recent special meeting, members of the West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) Board of Education cautioned district administrators to move slowly and involve parents in any effort to change the district’s current grading practices.

Book CoverThe school board held the second of two workshop sessions on February 29 to study grading practices. Board members read “Rethinking Grading” by Dr. Cathy Vatterott, which examines traditional grading practices and presents effective methods for standards-based learning and assessment.

“Parents need to be a huge part of it from the beginning,” said School Board Member Tali Greenspon, noting the opposition other districts faced when trying to change practices. Her comment was echoed by several other Board members, who suggested that the district establish a task force to study the topic.  

According to a survey of other area school districts, Des Moines, Waukee, Ankeny, Dallas Center-Grimes, and Van Meter are implementing standards-based grading at some level, while Johnston and Urbandale have started conversations.

The administration will review the district’s plan to study research-based best practices in effective grading and report back to the School Board at a later date.

Topics: Grading Practices, School Board News

WDMCS Releases Annual Student Achievement Report

The West Des Moines Community Schools recently released its annual student achievement report, which shows more students proficient in reading even as the number of students learning the English language for the first time increases.

The number of English learners attending the West Des Moines School District has increased by approximately 100 students each year. There are currently 884 students attending the district who are learning the English language, while there were only 414 in 2010.

Last year, 80.6 percent of students in grades 3-5 were proficient in reading, according to the Iowa Assessments taken this fall in the district. Of those same students, now in grades 4-6, 81 percent are proficient. Growth was seen at other grade levels, except in grades 7-11, which dipped slightly.

“We are spending more time focusing on reading and the reading data,” said Associate Superintendent Dr. Laurene Lanich during a presentation to the school board on Monday, Feb. 22. “We are honing in on what students need to know and be able to do.”

However, she cautioned that the Iowa Assessments do not provide a complete picture of what our students learn, because it is not fully aligned with the Iowa Core. A new state assessment for Iowa students is being proposed this legislative session. The district uses other tests to garner a broader, more accurate picture of student achievement. For example, the ELDA test shows the percentage of English learners in the district exceeds the state target. The FAST assessment shows students outperform the state in all grade levels on both CBMreading and aReading.

The full student achievement report is available at

Topics: School Board News

Board Continues Study of Grading Practices

On Monday, Feb. 15, the West Des Moines Community Board of Education held the first of two workshops to examine the district’s current grading practices and determine if a new approach is needed.

“The goal is to know if the Board is interested in moving forward with changing our current grading practices,” said Superintendent Dr. Lisa Remy. The district’s strategic plan includes researching effective methods.

Book CoverBoard members are reading “Rethinking Grading” by Dr. Cathy Vatterott, which examines traditional grading practices and presents effective methods for standards-based learning and assessment.

Several metro-area districts have changed how teachers assess students, adopting practices that require students to meet specific academic standards and exclude factors like class participation.

The school board will meet again at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 29 to continue its research and discussion.


Topics: School Board News