District News

Cook to Represent Iowa Principals at Convention

cookeValley Assistant Principal Dr. Erika Cook has been invited by the Iowa Department of Education as the 2013 principal to represent the state of Iowa at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) meeting December 3-4 in Orlando, Fla. The meeting will be with department of education leaders plus one principal from each state to focus on implementing the Common Core State Standards.

The meeting is titled Supporting Principal Effectiveness in Leading Teacher Evaluation and Supports and Common Core Implementation and will be led jointly by CCSSO’s Implementing the Common Core State Standards (ICCS) collaborative team and State Consortium on Educator Effectiveness (SCEE) collaborative team. The meeting will address the ongoing support needed for principals who are implementing the Common Core.

“I am truly honored to be the Iowa principal delegate to the Council of Chief State School Officers meeting,” said Cook. “I am excited to learn more about Common Core implementation best practice to bring back to the state.”

Life in the WDMCS 12/2/13

Life in the WDMCS is a weekly feature that highlights what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Clive Elementary
Clive Elementary School has established a group called Clive Family Outreach. The group works together to provide our students in need of assistance with a holiday gift bag in December. Volunteers are needed to help support our children by taking a gift wish from the Giving Tree. Your special gift will be giving to a specific child to open over the holidays. The  Giving Tree is located in the lobby as you walk in the front doors of our school. You may drop off your gift at the school office on or before December 13. Thank you for making the holidays a special occasion for our Clive children.

As more and more standards and objectives begin to incorporate the use of technology, the art room at Clive Elementary has also begun to integrate technology in the facilitation and creation of projects aligning with the curriculum. Sixth grade students are rendering three-dimensional self-portraits in the iPad app Foldify.  These will be printed two-dimensionally, then folded and cut to become three-dimensional sculptures.  This project is paired with a self-portrait assemblage made of Model Magic, yarn, fabric and other assorted materials.  Sixth grade will also create stop-motion animations as they think through process, planning, movement, sequence, and audience. Fifth grade students have been creating self-portraits in the style of Roy Lichtenstein – primary colors and comic book-esque effects – in the ProCreate app.  This is facilitating their understanding of building artwork in layers, which applies to all art creation, not just that created digitally. The lower grades will explore photography basics and editing, and have been using exploratory art apps for understanding color theory, art concepts, elements and principles, and games interacting with art history.  The integration of iPads and other technology helps to supplement the art curriculum and challenge the young artists to think more critically and create in ways that weren’t possible only ten years ago.

Crestview Elementary
Students in second grade at Crestview Elementary went on an imaginary trip through the landforms with Señora Tammy Dann.  They walked through the hallways looking for the landforms and animals they had been studying during their unit in Spanish class.  They described the landforms, sang songs, read books, retold a story learned the previous year and talked about the animals they saw.  They took many “pictures” with their paper cameras.  The next day they labeled their “pictures” and reviewed what they had seen on their trip through the landforms.

Crossroads Park Elementary
The special education students at Crossroads Park has been busy tracing hands along with some mainstream classrooms.  A tree was then made in the hallway and their hands were used as the leaves for the tree.  They wanted to show how much they enjoy being read to by Melodee Grefe and picking library books every week.  The theme of the art work was “Fall Into Reading.” Students also decorated the tree with torn red, yellow and green construction paper apples.

Fifth grade social studies students at Crossroads Park have been learning through interactive simulations. In October, students pretended to cross the Atlantic Ocean as a 16th century explorer following the route of Christopher Columbus. They dealt with chance which allowed students to face challenges encountered by European explorers. Situations they faced included bugs in biscuits, rancid meat, getting off course and a ship running aground. Through simulations students use the vocabulary of the unit and develop a working understanding of the time period. The explorers simulation is the first of five simulations students will participate in throughout the year.  Currently, students are involved with Colonization in which they learning challenges faced when establishing a colony in the 1600s.Next, the American Revolution simulation will take place in which they take on the role of Patriots and Loyalists and look at primary source documents outlining the events of April 16, 1775, when the first shot of the revolution was fired. They will deal with the frustration that the colonists felt over taxation without representation and reenact the ratification of the Declaration of Independence. Later in the year, they  will simulate traveling west in a covered wagon and finally take sides in the Civil War, hoping to stay healthy and safe as they march to battle to bring the Union back together. The value of simulation is high engagement and it forces the students to think critically about situations faced by people in history. They have to make some of the same decisions that people from the past had to make. This type of learning is very motivational to the students and gives them a great base of background knowledge in understanding America’s past.

Jordan Creek Elementary
Jordan Creek Tiger Cubs preschoolers toured the Hy-Vee on Mills Civic Parkway recently.  Both morning and afternoon classes participated.  Highlights of the tour included touching a lobster, seeing the bakery use frosting to write and the floral shop.  This tied into the preschoolers’ study of foods and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Grayson Ehrle, a third grader at Jordan Creek Elementary, and Olivia Roush, a sixth grader at Jordan Creek, were recently chosen as Kids of Character at the all school Character Counts assembly that focused on the character pillar of citizenship.  Kelly McQueen of State Savings Bank presented Grayson and Olivia with a Kid of Character award and a savings certificate to State Savings Bank.

Westridge Elementary
Fourth grade students at Westridge Elementary are constructing a Body in a Box.  The students are learning about the human body and have selected an organ or body system that sparks their interest.  Students are learning how to take notes, use the internet for research, write an informational piece and will be constructing their body and putting it in a box.  Jacob McGreen is learning about the brain.  He commented, “I can’t wait to start researching!  This is the coolest thing I have EVER done.” When constructing their Body in a Box, they may use common household items, play-dough, modeling clay, model magic or anything else that they can find.  After completing their project, they will put it in a box for display.  Projects will be displayed around Westridge and students will showcase their hard work. Michael Neumann from 4A added, “It’s a lot of fun because you learn about something you never knew about.”  He is also learning about the brain.  Madison Miller from 4C is learning about the liver for her project.  She feels, “It was very interesting and fun to learn about body parts.  I didn’t know anything about the liver, but it was very fun to find out about the liver.”

Valley High School
You can advertise your business while helping to provide scholarships to Valley and Walnut Creek students by being a sponsor for a home Valley basketball game or wrestling meet.  When Valley scores a three-pointer or gets a pin, your name or business will be announced in exchange for a $25 tax deductible donation to the WDMCS Student Scholarship Fund (maximum donation is $200 per game/meet).  Please complete the online form at  http://adobe.ly/RTlyK7 or contact Andrea Masteller at andreamasteller@msn.com as soon as possible if you would like your name/business to appear in the winter sports program; otherwise, the deadline to be a  sponsor is December 4.

Valley’s Retired Teachers Give Back

Retired principal and current School Board member Dr. Vicky Poole along with retired teacher Kathie Lutter dropped off 16 turkeys and 16 hams to Valley for the Booster Pak program

Retired principal and current School Board member Dr. Vicky Poole along with retired teacher Kathie Lutter dropped off 16 turkeys and 16 hams to Valley for the Booster Pak program

A group of retired teachers from Valley High School have partnered with the Booster Pak program and the Hy-Vee on Grand to help provide turkeys and hams to students at Valley.

The Valley retirees collected donations among their peers and retired principal and current School Board member Dr. Vicky Poole along with retired teacher Kathie Lutter dropped off 16 turkeys and 16 hams to Associate Principal Dr. Erika Cook, who helps run the Booster Pak program at Valley. The buy a ham get a turkey free promotion at Hy-Vee helped the group double the number of students served through this project.

The Booster Pak program is in its third year operating at WDMCS elementary schools. The program, headed by Melanie Menken, provides nutritious, kid-friendly foods to students on weekends and school breaks when they do not have access to the free and reduced meal programs. The program is free and offered to all students.

The program just recently expanded to Valley students on Oct. 1. Cook, along with Valley Southwoods retired teacher Vickie Pospisil and Valley campus monitor Sam Kranovic help distribute items to students each Friday. The program works in conjunction with Tiger Pride Supplies, which provides a backpack and school supplies to students. There are also plans to expand the program to include a clothing closet.

Valley retirees Dr. Vicky Poole and Kathie Lutter help Assoc. Principal Dr. Erika Cook bag the turkeys and hams.

Valley retirees Dr. Vicky Poole and Kathie Lutter help Assoc. Principal Dr. Erika Cook bag the turkeys and hams.

If you would like to donate to the Booster Pak program, you can give at their website http://www.boosterpak.org/give.

Gustafson Coordinates Students, Staff to Feed Those in Need

vhs-meals-heartland3Walking into the Valley cafeteria, you might not expect to see a sea of students in hairnets rocking out to music blasting from the speakers. But that is exactly what senior Grant Gustafson had in mind when he coordinated his senior honors project.

After a year of researching and planning, his efforts helped Meals from the Heartland put 51,624 meals in the hands of those in need across the globe.

Gustafson, who is a member of the Student Leadership Board for Meals from the Heartland, always knew he wanted to incorporate his work with this organization into his honors project.

“Two students last year planned a similar event,” said “So this year I tried to make it bigger with a bigger goal of meals and teams.”

Last year, Amber Aeilts and Abigail Austin planned the event for their honors project and packaged 38,016 meals with around 100 volunteers. Gustafson raised the bar and rallied more than 160 student and staff volunteers to surpass his goal of packaging 50,000 meals.

His unique approach to finding volunteers turned out to be spot on.

“I asked 15 different people to recruit teams of their own,” he explained. “I tried to get people from different activities in the school, so it could be something that brings together groups that normally don’t see each other in such a big school.”

Life in the WDMCS 11/18/13

Life in the WDMCS is a weekly feature that highlights what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Crossroads Park Elementary
Crossroads Park Elementary wrapped up a busy week of Iowa Assessment Testing with a rockin’ assembly.  The Crossroads Park Professional Learning Community, comprised of teaching staff, brought in a performance group called Sheltered Reality to perform for staff and students.  Sheltered Reality is a drumming group that delivers an anti-bullying message.  Former Crossroads Park student Drew Minard, the founder of the school’s Anti-Bullying Club, generously provided financially to make the assembly a reality.  Thank you to our parents who made an extra effort during testing week to make sure their students arrived on time and prepared to take the Iowa Assessments.

Fairmeadows Elementary
Fairmeadows second graders are exploring texture in art class.  First, students drew creatures covered in shapes, lines, patterns and designs, as examples of visual texture.  These animals were based on Oaxacan carvings from Mexico.  Students then gathered examples of textures by creating rubbings with crayons – shoe soles were a big hit.  Students then created their own textures in clay, using a variety of clay tools and found objects.  The next step is to put all of this knowledge together and create a sculpture from clay using texture as the main design motif.

Fairmeadows honored veterans on Veteran’s Day with a program. It began with the Fairmeadows Cub Scouts presenting the flag and leading the student body, staff and guests in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Fifth grader Bailey Walke welcomed all students and guests to the program.  Fifth graders Aubrie Dewes, Sam Fess and Levi Janssen read their essays describing “Why we celebrate Veteran’s Day.” In addition, the fifth grade chorus, under the direction of Deb Augspurger, performed a patriotic song “Step up, Honor our Veterans.” Two special guest veterans, Dan Gannon and Ron Langel, spoke to the Fairmeadows students about the history of Veteran’s Day and what life was like during war time.  The program ended with a slide show paying tribute to Fairmeadows’ family members who are veterans. Rhonda Koerselman, the fifth grade social studies teacher, organized the program and created the slide show.

Hillside Elementary
Fourth grade classes at Hillside Elementary visited the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City.  They enjoyed learning more about bison and other prairie animals, prairie grasses and flowers, and how the prairie has changed over the years.

The Code 411 program at Hillside is set up to help students make good decisions.  The curriculum was developed by the WDMCS and the Clive and West Des Moines Police Departments.  Officer Weatherall has spent the last spent nine weeks teaching about the topics of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, bullying, crimes and kids and internet safety.  After each lesson, students had time to ask questions and journal about the topics.  They have also had class time to reflect and journal about these topics and how it relates to them.

The Hillside sixth graders are learning about economy, government and business concepts in social studies.  These lessons incorporate ideas about economics, free enterprise, taxes, business management, work-readiness skills, resume’s, job applications, balancing a check book, citizenship and government. The students will be attending JA Biztown in December.  This is a program sponsored by Junior Achievement. The students attend the simulation town and have a job that gives them responsibilities throughout the day.  The JA Biztown curriculum is incorporated into the WDMCS social studies curriculum. This is a cross-curricular study that incorporates reading, writing, and math lessons throughout the unit. At JA Biztown each student has a different job in one of the following businesses: city hall, bank, radio, magazine, financial center, utility/realty office, sports shop, restaurant, technology center, insurance agency and distribution center.

Jordan Creek Elementary
Two of wonderful programs are off and running with success at Jordan Creek.  Circle of Friends is in its fifth year with close to 100 students involved. The kickoff event was at Howell’s Pumpkin Patch and the next event will be at Pump it Up. The kids have also had a pizza lunch and look forward to the November lunch bunch and December events. Sibling group is also off to a great start, with close to 20 kids who meet to talk about what it is like to have a brother or sister with a special need. The group meetings monthly and they like having a low key format to just talk and connect with other kids that experience similar home situations.

Members of the Jordan Creek Kids Care Club recently hosted an All School Character Counts Assembly focusing on citizenship and Veterans Day. Kids Care Club members shared a special tribute to thank our Veterans who were invited as guests of honor. Special guest speakers Becky Coady,  Lisa Langel and Mitch Chapman spoke about Paws and Effect, a non-profit organization that trains service dogs for wounded veterans and children with autism. They came with their service dogs Tango, Justice and Theo. Paws and Effect was the recipient of the Iowa Character Counts Award for 2013. Members of the Kids Care Club hosted a donation drive at Jordan Creek for Paws and Effect. Students collected and shared numerous dog items including chew toys, ropes, collars, leashes, dog treats and cash donations to be used with training their service dogs.

Phenix Elementary
Second grade students in Jessica George’s class are learning about form in music class.  They danced a reel to “Turkey in the Straw” after determining the form of the song.   A parachute provided extra fun while analyzing the form of the “Star Wars” main theme.

Westridge Elementary
Students been working very hard in Physical Education class. Grades 1‐6 have been working on fitness testing over the last month. The students have been tested on sit and reach, pull-ups, shuttle run, bent arm hang, sit-ups and mile run. Kindergarten students have been working on motor skills, movement patterns and respecting their selves and others in physical activities. Our fifth and sixth grade students started volleyball in the month of November. The sixth grade students will have an all-district volleyball tournament at Valley High School on Tuesday, November 26.

Movement is a key component of everyday life and should be a part of everyday learning. There has been a lot of research documenting the benefits of physical education including the following.

  • Researchers James Pollatschek and Frank Hager stated, “Children engaged in daily Physical Education show superior motor fitness, academic performance, and attitude towards school as compared to their counterparts who did not participate in daily Physical Education”.
  • In a Canadian study done by Dr. Carla Hannaford, 500 students who spent an extra hour each day in Physical Education class far out performed at exam time, than those who did not exercise.
  • In a study done by William Greenoug, mice that exercised had a greater number of connections among neurons than those mice who did not exercise.

Valley High School
The VHS sewing classes will help make Christmas a little brighter for more than 100 girls in South Sudan. For the second year, Kelli King and Courtney Mottet focused the class’ service project to benefit Dress a Girl Around the World, a charity that provides sun dresses to little girls across the globe. With the help WDMCS School Board member Milton Cole, they have partnered with St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church to have the dresses shipped to South Sudan. The church plans to pair a Beanie Baby with each dress, shipping them so they arrive just before Christmas. Last year, the class donated 45 dresses in one size. They more than doubled that number this year while expanding the patter to make medium and large size dresses for older girls. For many of the recipients, this will be the only dress they have ever owned.

VHS Students Sew for Girls in Sudan

vhs-dresses-sudanThe VHS sewing classes will help make Christmas a little brighter for more than 100 girls in South Sudan.

For the second year, Kelli King and Courtney Mottet focused the class’ service project to benefit Dress a Girl Around the World, a charity that provides sun dresses to little girls across the globe. With the help WDMCS School Board member Milton Cole, they have partnered with St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church to have the dresses shipped to South Sudan. The church plans to pair a Beanie Baby with each dress, shipping them so they arrive just before Christmas.

Last year, the class donated 45 dresses in one size. They more than doubled that number this year while expanding the patter to make medium and large size dresses for older girls. For many of the recipients, this will be the only dress they have ever owned.

“It’s been a great project to incorporate into our curriculum,” said King. “It allows students to expand on their sewing skills while doing something good for someone else.

“I’ve just been really impressed to never hear a complaint from my students about making something that isn’t for themselves. They recognize the importance of the project and don’t mind spending the time or the money for fabric.”

Thank You from the Winter Warmth Drive

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this year’s Winter Warmth Drive. This community drive, which spans multiple school districts, collected nearly 4,800 items.

Stilwell Junior High and Valley Southwoods stood out as the schools with the largest amount of items collected, while Valley High School had the greatest increase from last year in items collected.

All items donated will be delivered to Des Moines area non-profit agencies and schools and distributed to the homeless or near homeless and students in need. Thank you for everyone’s support in making the Winter Warmth Drive a success!

District Begins Strategic Planning

For many years, the West Des Moines Community Schools has set goals that help guide the work we do. The goals are:

  1. Close the gap between present practices and the Shared Vision.
  2. Improve student achievement through effective instructional and assessment practices.

In recent years, however, the district has not had a strategic plan for how we will reach these goals.

That is changing.

Starting November, the School Board, building principals and district administrators will begin a strategic planning process to define where we as a district are headed over the next several years and how we will achieve our goals.

Meetings will be held on Nov. 26, Dec. 3 and Jan. 16 from 5-9 p.m. at the Learning Resource  Center. These meetings are open to the public.

Life in the WDMCS 11/12/13

Life in the WDMCS is a weekly feature that highlights what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Clive Elementary
Fifth graders at Clive Elementary just finished a woodlands unit in science.  In this unit, students learned about the parts of the seed – seed coat, stored food and embryo.  The class got to make their own model of a seed using a raw egg as the embryo, dropping the seed model to see if the seed coat protected the embryo well enough. Students also planted seeds inside a clear CD case and watched the seed grow inside the dirt and into a real plant.  The unit also focused on parts of a flower, reading tree rings, food chains, and layers of a forest.

Every year the community gathers to celebrate the Day of the Dead at the Des Moines Art Center. This year, a representation of third, fourth and fifth grade students from Clive Elementary contributed to this community celebration. Art from several third and fifth graders provided a colorful backdrop of calaveras and monarchs. A group of fourth grade students performed a Day of the Dead song in Spanish. Singers included Madison Snyder, Libby White, Geni Williams, Suné Van Bosch, Julia Young, Elayna Klinkefus, Megan Wainwright, and Payten Neswold. It was a fun and memorable day for all!

Crestview Elementary
One way Crestview Elementary celebrated Hispanic Heritage month was to have different displays in the glass case next to the library.  The first week featured clothing worn in Spanish speaking countries.  The second week was music instruments from Spanish speaking countries.  The third week was art and Spanish speaking artists.  The last week was Hispanics and sports.

Crestview fourth graders culminated their study of the prairie with a trip to the Red Feather Prairie, which is a tall grass prairie located at Jester Park.  This field trip was sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources and specially designed for 4th grade students.  While on this field trip students were able to construct a Native American teepee that would have been found on the prairie, learn about plants and animals found on the prairie, experience Native American and prairie games, and take a nature walk. What a fun way to learn about the prairie firsthand.

Fairmeadows Elementary
Kindergarten students at Fairmeadows Elementary are busy learning how to read and apply skills that will strengthen their comprehension.  They are currently learning the importance of recalling the correct sequence of a story.  The teachers use language of what came first, next and last.  New readers often work so hard at learning new words they forget the ultimate goal of reading is to comprehend.  Stories are often retold through pictures and puppet play to encourage this comprehension skill.

RJ Hernandez recently visited Deb Augspurger’s fourth grade general music classes at Fairmeadows.  He spoke with the students about music of Mexico and demonstrated many instruments including the guitarron, vihuela, guiro and claves.  The students were excited to listen to and perform together with Mr. Hernandez.

Hillside Elementary
Sixth graders at Hillside are studying how independence and interdependence create a successful community by preparing for an exciting experience at J.A. Biztown.  The students learn to write a resume, apply for a job and interview for the position.  A mayor and judge are elected to run the town.  The businesses and everyday workings of the town are the run by the students.  The students create a name for their businesses, develop a financial budget, and write commercials to prepare for their simulation.    It is an amazing experience!

First graders at Hillside Elementary performed “Bugz: The Musical” for families and other students in early November. The students sang, danced, buzzed, stung, flapped, crawled and flew as they took the audience on a journey to a picnic where all the insects are sure they’ve been invited. Although the poor stink bugs cause a bit of a disruption, the bugs learn to work together so all the insects can dive into the feast with their mandibles. The performance was the culmination of the connections unit in which they use the Artful Learning model to gain a deeper understanding about the world around them. Artful Learning is unique approach designed to engage students through inquiry and provide a deeper understanding than can be achieved with standard educational approaches.  It links the arts and the artistic process to the daily classroom experience. Hillside Elementary is in it’s10th year of being selected as a legacy school for Artful Learning by the Leonard Bernstein Foundation.

Jordan Creek Elementary
Sixth graders from Jordan Creek Elementary traveled to Iowa State University to attend the Taking the Road Less Traveled career exploration conference.  This conference is organized by The Program for Women in Science & Engineering and is open to female students grades 6-12.  The presentations increase student awareness and understanding of career opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  The sixth grade boys spent the day participating in a variety of science related workshops as well.  On campus, they learned about DNA, concrete, and meat science.  Team PrISUm also spoke with the boys about their most recent solar car, Hyperion.  The boys learned about athletic training and turf management on their tour at Jack Trice Stadium.

Lynn Hunt’s first grade students at Jordan Creek compiled their first published written work – a joke book.  The steps in publishing a book were the real focus of this project. Each student wrote a draft; edited each joke focusing on capitalization, spelling, finger-spaces and punctuation; and finally rewrote (published) the joke into his/her own book. Next they will be working on a new social studies unit, Red, White and Blue for Me and You. In this unit they will focus on the diversity of our country in the land and the people and learn about some of the symbols that represent this great land. They will also learn about freedom of choice…like parents voting in November.

Phenix Elementary
Phenix students were excited to bring their costumes to school last week for the annual Fall Parade and parties.  Students and staff alike dressed up as their favorite characters, with many of the staff dressing as matching Minions from the popular animated movie Despicable Me.  Students enjoyed seeing their teachers play along!  Many parents and siblings watched the parade, with some even participating.  After the parade, students and teachers retired to their classrooms for a healthy treat.  Phenix staff loves to incorporate wellness into everyday life at the school, so everything from the parade down to the snacks in the classroom tried to support a healthy lifestyle example for the students.

Westridge Elementary
Second graders at Westridge Elementary will begin studying Native Americans, exploring four Native American cultures from different parts of the United States. As an introductory activity they had Mike Havlik from the Des Moines YMCA come to Westridge to build a teepee and learn about Native American culture and traditions.

Indian Hills Junior High
Congressman Tom Latham recently presented a tribute to Colby Cook that he read on the floor of the United States Congress about Colby and his actions to save another student from choking.  The Congressman visited Colby’s science classto present the award.

Valley Southwoods
The Valley debate team won the sweepstakes championship at the Minneapple debate tournament in Apple Valley, Minn. The Minneapple tournament is one of eight major national tournaments held  each year, drawing students from across the nation. In Novice Lincoln-Douglas debate, freshman Brian Gu was the tournament champion, while freshman Xandra French finished as a quarterfinalist. In JV LD debate, seventh grader Conal Thomas-McGinnis finished in quarterfinals while freshmen TJ Foley, Trent Gilbert and Evan McKinney all placed in the top 16. In varsity Lincoln-Douglas debate, senior Jason Smith finished as a quarterfinalist, receiving his second bid to the national debate Tournament of Champions, which is held each spring at the University of Kentucky. He is now fully qualified to attend that event.

Valley High School
Valley sophomore Danielle Reyes was chosen to be one of the speakers at the Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit at Hy-Vee Hall.  She was the youngest member of the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council and has represented the youth in Polk County for the past two years.

Congratulations to Colin Timmerman who placed third in the local VFW Voice of Democracy speech contest. He entered this year with the theme “Why I’m Optimistic About our Nation’s Future.” Colin presented a fine speech describing how we all can contribute to serving our country.

Valley High School contributes 345 items to the recent Winter Warmth Drive – five pairs of boots, five blankets, 12 pairs of snow pants, 45 scarves, 50 hats, 68 gloves and 160 coats. All items donated will be delivered to Des Moines area non-profit agencies and schools and distributed to the homeless or near homeless and students in need.  Thank you for everyone’s support in making the Winter Warmth Drive a success!

National Merit Scholar Semifinalists Announced

Valley High School seniors Chloe Goodman, Grant Gustafson, Catherine Leafstedt, Ashwin Madhan, Alicia Meng, Neeve Sivagurunathan, Jason Smith, Corrine Smolen and Jeffrey Swegle have been named National Merit Scholar Semifinalists.

These students will be in competition with students nationwide to become a National Merit Scholar, earning a $2,500 scholarship. National Merit Scholars are chosen based on abilities, skills and accomplishments. Academic records, school curriculum, test scores, an administrative recommendation, information about activities and leadership as well as an essay are used in the judging process.

Finalists will be announced in February and students will be notified in June if they have been selected as a National Merit Scholar.