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WDMCS Audits Communication Efforts

As any high school student who has done a research paper will tell you, one of the first steps to completing the project is to do your research.

The same is true when developing a plan to improve communications.

This is why the West Des Moines Community Schools recently conducted a communications audit. The ComAuditPresnetation_3purpose was to assess the effectiveness of the district’s current efforts to provide information to parents, staff, students and community members; see where it can make improvements; and provide recommendations to make those improvements.

There were eight recommendations that came out of the report:

  • Recommendation 1: Reframe WDMCS’ approach to communications to ensure more strategic communication.
  • Recommendation 2: Develop a culture of communication.
  • Recommendation 3: Incorporate marketing/branding strategies to build WDMCS’ reputation as a leading school district.
  • Recommendation 4: Expand outreach to community stakeholders.
  • Recommendation 5: Update crisis planning to include current communication techniques.
  • Recommendation 6: Grow WDMCS’ use of social media as a communication tool.
  • Recommendation 7: Re-evaluate current communication tools to effectively reach internal and external stakeholders.
  • Recommendation 8: Align the communication goals and strategies of the district with Community Education’s on-going communications.

ComAuditPresentation_Slide 6

While the district is already working on many of these areas to make improvements, the audit provides specific focus and suggestions that can be implemented over a two to three year period. In fact, the next step will be to develop a strategic communications plan and timeline to implement the recommendations provided.
Also helpful are the key findings of the audit:

Our strengths are our:

  • Education Programs
  • Strong Teachers and Administrators
  • Supportive Community

Our challenges are:

  • A perceived wealth and status disconnects stakeholders from changing demographics and budget realities
  • Community, parents, staff call for more consistency within WDMCS
  • Increasing engagement of all stakeholders in decision-making processes

The audit was conducted by the National School Public Relations Association (NSRPA) and involved a document review, surveys and focus groups representing the school board, community citizens, parents, students, support staff, administration, community leaders and teachers.

WDMCS Communications Audit Report – Full Report

WDMCS Communications Audit Report – Summary/Presentation

NSPRA Contract

WDMCS Strategic Communications Plan


Topics: Uncategorized

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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

Website Tip #2: Always There for You

When using the WDMCS website, notice that the white banner at the top is always present. It is like a friend, always there for you when you might get lost or you are not sure where you heading. As you travel from one page to another (including the school sites) the top banner stays consistent on every page. No matter where you are at within the website you can always have access to the district calendar, news, careers, directory and tabs for students, parents, staff and more. It may not be your bestie, but it won’t let you down.

Topics: Uncategorized

Website Tip #1: There’s No Place Like Home

You don’t have to click your heels together three times to get back to the home page of the WDMCS website. If you are visiting a page within the website and decide you want to get back to the home page, just click the WDMCS mark (the circle with two “stick figures) located in the upper left hand corner.

Clicking on a company’s mark, logo, or graphic treatment at the top of a website is a standard and easy way to get to a home page on many websites today. If you want to click your heels together while doing this, we won’t stop you.

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

How can I keep my student focused during winter break?

Bethene Songer, Kindergarten Teacher at Western Hills Elementary
Congrats!  You’ve made it to winter break!  A well-deserved break from home work and school obligations.  To help prepare for a smooth transition back, you can help your child stay mentally active over break with these fun family activities;  READ for pleasure, WRITE thank you notes, JOURNAL your travels or activities, COOK together, GAME nights, CRAFT for fun and most of all….ENJOY your time and MAKE wonderful new memories!

Jackie Scieszinski, Math Teacher at Indian Hills Junior High
Take advantage of daily routines to include a little mental math…for example…it is 8:57.  You have an appointment at 10:15.  How many minutes before your appointment?  It takes 10 minutes to get there. What time should we leave? (more…)

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Board Recognition 12/10/12

The Board of Education of the West Des Moines Community School District is pleased to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of district students and staff.

Congratulations to Kerrigan Owens who advanced to the state level for the Voice of Democracy contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Her speech “Is the constitution still relevant?” won at both the local and district levels. Also competing well at the local level were seniors Dylan DeClerck and Hannah Beuse.

The Crestview First Lego League team won the High Quality Team Performance award at a regional competition. Team members are Cael Elmore, Mark Breiner, Jerry Breiner, Sukhman Virdi, Grant Rieker, Gwyn Chilcoat, Lindsay Wirta, Chloe Thorn and Hans Bunn. (more…)

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Ansingh Thanks Community for Hillside Assistance

The following was submitted to the Des Moines Register from WDMCS Superintendent Dr. Peter Ansingh.

Dear Editor:

As superintendent of the West Des Moines Community Schools, I am proud that the word “community” is part of our name. It is a reflection of how the citizens of our district come together to support our children.

A recent example of this was the outpouring of offers this summer from individuals, businesses and organizations to assist when we were looking to temporarily relocate the students of Hillside Elementary. (more…)

Topics: Superintendent, Uncategorized

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Three Meetings, One Night: New WDMCS Board members, officers, and more

The following is an informal summary of the actions of the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education at recent meetings. These are provided as a service to district staff and the public. They are not the official minutes of the board meeting, but quick rundowns of action taken. Official board minutes must be approved by the board per Policy 212.1 and then are posted on our website (

The evening of Sept. 19 saw the transition of the WDMCS board. Current board members are (back row, from left) David J. Brown, Kevin Carroll, Jill Hansen, Milton Cole, Elizabeth Brennan, Andi Lipman and Mark Lagomarcino. Retiring board members are (front row, from left) Mark Lyons, Terry Tobin and Tom Suckow.

The Board of Education of the West Des Moines Community School District met in special session on Monday, September 19, 2011, and took the following action: (more…)

Topics: Uncategorized