District News

Students Look to the Future at Biz Town

Sixth grader Sarah Amro interviews to be the bank CEO at Biz Town.

Sixth grader Sarah Amro interviews to be the bank CEO at Biz Town.

Sixth graders across the district are getting some real-life experience as they prepare for a visit to Junior Achievement Biz Town.

A wide variety of jobs are available for students to pick a career they would like to have in their new “city.” At JA Biz Town 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.

Clive Elementary sixth grader Sarah Amro chose her top job as CEO of the Biz Town Bank. “It seemed really fun to be able to do deposits and loans and work with people,” she explained.

Students must apply for the positions and go through interviews to be hired. A mayor and district attorney are also elected.

“At first the interview was really scary,” Amro said, “but then you kind of got into it and just answered all the questions.”

The life lessons don’t stop there. Once hired, students are required to budget their time and money while balancing their checkbooks. Employees must be paid and business loans repaid. Students must market and advertise their businesses in order to draw in customers and use their social skills to provide good customer service.

Daniel Pajazetovic, also a sixth grader at Clive, interviewed to be the district attorney and thinks that Biz Town will help him decide his career path.

“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was six years old,” he explained. “When you go to JA Biz Town there’s a lot of experience there. If I do get picked for district attorney I really want to see how it is.”


Speech Students Advance to IHSSA State Competition

Valley Drama set a new school record with 23 entries moving on to state in the Iowa High School Speech Association’s Large Group Speech Contest. Each school is allowed to enter 23 events at contest. Valley Southwoods had nine of its 12 events also advance to state, while Walnut Creek Campus junior Gabe Mason advanced in solo mime.

Entries receiving a I rating at districts, which were held at Valley Jan. 25, advance to the state competition where three judges critique the performance for a chance to move to all-state where a professional artist will adjudicate the performances.

See the List of Entries

Life in the WDMCS 1/27/14

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 Student Council sponsored a school-wide Twin Day to help raise money for indoor recess activities. Children were invited to find a friend, plan to dress alike, and bring in a free will donation to help purchase indoor recess activities. Together we were able to raise almost $200. Thank you to all the students and staff that participated to help break the boredom of indoor recess. Way to go Clive Tigers!

Hillside Elementary
Second grade students at Hillside are currently working within the artful learning unit “Balance and Motion”. The significant question for this unit is, “How does balance affect our world?” Students in Brittany Bowers’ class explored the concept of balance and how it can be achieved with different objects and shapes. By using weights and counterweights, students learned how to balance out a card stock crayfish using two clothespins. Students were given time to find different balance points on the crayfish and compare their findings with other children in class.

Congratulations to Elyssa Parkingson, Mabel Teed, Courtney Ahlrichs, Maddy Anderson, Taylor Coe, Mia Rand and Sophia Epstein for having their art work selected to represent Hillside Elementary in the Impact of Art XXIV exhibition showcasing the student talent of West Des Moines Community Schools . An artist reception and celebration was held January 23 and the show shall remain on exhibition in the education wing of the Des Moines Art Center until the end of the month. Hillside Tiger Pride honors two hardworking artists: Kauai Cua and Jacob Holt. These students were awarded Spring Art Center Scholarships so that they may attend classes at the Des Moines Art Center and continue to develop their talents as creative visual artists.

Hillside families came out to enjoy a soup supper and Open House January 23. Students’ hard work was on display for their families to enjoy in classrooms throughout the building. Students were able to deposit money into their Kids First Bank accounts, a program sponsored by First Bank that encourages students to develop the habit of saving money for the future. Kids First Bank is open every Wednesday morning before school for students to make deposits or to open new savings accounts.

Jordan Creek Elementary
Second graders at Jordan Creek have dived into an ocean unit and are learning many new things about the ocean and all that lives in the massive body of water. Students researched about a certain ocean animal. They gathered information from books and web sites and filled in a graphic organizer. From there they wrote a rough draft and then typed out their final copy. With the help of their parents, students created a visual aid of their ocean creature in their habitat to go along with their report.

Fifth grade students in Jeri Daniels’ class presented a Reader’s Theatre and shared activities with their first grade buddies to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The two classes worked together to create a little book about King’s life which the first graders read to their buddies. The classes also discussed the importance of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Students then shared their own dreams for making life better.

Kirby Van Der Kamp, Valley graduate and senior at Iowa State University, visited the fifth and first graders at Jordan Creek. Kirby was a volunteer at Jordan Creek when in high school and has come back to spend time with the students and visit with them about their education, football and his experiences. Van Der Kamp has been the punter for Iowa State the past four years and is expected to be drafted into the NFL. Fifth grade students posed as ESPN announcers with their prepared questions to conduct their interview with Kirby. Students also viewed pictures of Van Der Kamp throughout the six years volunteering and visiting at Jordan Creek as well as football pictures. Kirby talked with the students about his life as a students and an athlete, traveling with teams, overcoming challenges, working hard in school, participating in extracurricular activities, and encouraged students to try new activities and classes. The session ended with an open question and answer time. Students wished him good luck in the Senior Bowl on January 25.

The school-level National Geographic Geography Bee was held at Jordan Creek with more than 30 students in fourth through sixth grade participating. These students reviewed and applied geography concepts during practices after school on Wednesdays and before school on Fridays. All of the students who participated showed an impressive amount of geographical knowledge. The school champion was sixth grader Jay Chevuru, second place was sixth grader Arun Ganga and third place was fourth grader Mia Dukle. Jay has now taken the qualifying test to see if he will compete in the state-level National Geographic Geography Bee this spring. Students who compete at the state level will have the opportunity to win an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Geography Bee.

Phenix Elementary
The Phenix Tiger Cubs Preschool classes took a walking tour through Valley Junction as a part of their unit of study on buildings. Students compared the different building materials, colors, shapes and sizes of the buildings. They took pictures of buildings and construction sites to use in the classroom as they continue the investigation comparing buildings in the neighborhood with others around the world. Students will also be investigating how buildings are build, who builds buildings, what materials are used to make buildings, and what happens inside different buildings. 

Valley High School
Winter weather got you singing the blues? Change your tune with a night of jazz Friday, January 31 at 7 p.m. during the 2014 Valley Vocal Jazz Summit. The concert will be held at Valley Church, 4343 Fuller Road, West Des Moines. The concert will feature the Valley Jazz Choirs, jazz choirs from other area high schools and clinician and guest artist Greg Jasperse. Tickets will be sold at the door and are $5 for adults and $3 for students.

Congratulations to Valley Drama for a great showing at the IHSSA speech contest. Valley entered 23 large group acts and set a school record by having all 23 advance to state.

Budget Proposal Draft to Board in February

Rose Earns Bill & Sherry Freese Contributors Award

rosebValley Activities Director Brad Rose has been honored with the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Bill & Sherry Freese Contributors Award.

The IHSBCA expressed its appreciation to Rose for his support and contributions that he gave the association this past summer while hosting the 2013 All-Star Series. His organization, financial support and hospitality went without saying.  Brad has been a long time member, a strong support, and advocate for the association during his many years as a high school coach and now an athletic director at Valley High School. Those involved with the all-star series understand the long days that surround the event

Brad was always the first one there and the last to leave on a daily basis. He also became a one man grounds crew on a number of occasions during the series. Brad also spent time working with the local business community towards raising money to help off-set player/staff meal costs.

Submit Your Input! NEW 2014-15 Calendar Options

The WDMCS Calendar Committee is seeking your input on four options for the 2014-15 school calendar. The survey results will be considered as the committee develops its final proposed calendar, which will be submitted to the WDMCS Board of Education for approval in February.

  • The survey is open until Thursday, Feb. 6.
  • See the main features of each option and then take the survey below.

Key Features

Some calendar options include ending the first semester before winter break for secondary schools. Another option eliminates early-out Wednesdays and instead includes three half-days spread throughout the calendar.

Calendar No. 1

  • First Day of School: August 13
  • First Semester Ends (Secondary): December 19
  • Winter Break: December 22-January 2 for students. (Teachers return on Jan. 2)
  • Spring Break: March 16-20
  • Second Semester Ends (Secondary): May 22
  • Last Day of School: May 22
  • Early Outs/Teacher Collaboration Schedule: Follows current Collaboration Schedule, with all schools dismissing 45 minutes early every Wednesday.

Calendar No. 1 Month-by-Month View


Calendar No. 2

  • First Day of School: August 14
  • First Semester Ends (Secondary): December 23
  • Winter Break: December 24-January 1
  • Spring Break: March 16-20
  • Second Semester Ends (Secondary): May 22
  • Last Day of School: May 22
  • Early Outs/Teacher Collaboration Schedule: Follows current Collaboration Schedule, with all schools dismissing 45 minutes early every Wednesday.

Calendar No. 2 Month-by-Month View


Calendar No. 3

  • First Day of School: August 20
  • Winter Break: December 22- January 2
  • First Semester Ends (Secondary): January 14
  • Spring Break: March 16-20
  • Second Semester Ends (Secondary): June 3
  • Last Day of School: June 3
  • Early Outs/Teacher Collaboration Schedule: Follows current Collaboration Schedule, with all schools dismissing 45 minutes early every Wednesday.

Calendar No. 3 Month-by-Month View


Calendar No. 4

  • First Day of School: August 13
  • First Semester Ends (Secondary): December 19
  • Winter Break: December 22-January 2 for students. (Teachers return on Jan. 2.)
  • Spring Break: March 16-20
  • Second Semester Ends (Secondary): May 22
  • Last Day of School: May 22
  • Early Outs/Teacher Collaboration Schedule: Eliminates early dismissals on Wednesdays. Early Outs/Teacher Collaboration occurs during three half days on September 15, November 14 and December 12.

Calendar No. 4 Month-by-Month View

Hours Instead of Days

Each of our calendar options is based on the number of hours of instruction the district provides students. Here’s a little background:

  • The state has always mandated that school districts provide a minimum of 180 days of instruction for students. A recent change in Iowa law now allows school districts to count instructional time based on hours.
  • Your children will receive the same amount instructional time as they have in the past, even though the calendar options are based on hours instead of days.
  • Does this mean we don’t have to make up snow days? Not necessarily. We have chosen hours instead of days because it provides more flexibility. Instruction time missed because of inclement weather may still be made up. How this will be made up has not yet been determined.

Survey – The Survey is Now Closed.

The calendar survey is open through Thursday, Feb. 6. The survey results will be considered by the district’s calendar committee in determining the final proposed calendar, which will be submitted to the WDMCS Board of Education for approval in February. The calendar committee is made up of parents, teachers and administrators.

Public Hearing on Calendar February 10

A public hearing on the final proposed calendar is tentatively scheduled for Monday, February 10 at 7:00 p.m. at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, West Des Moines. An announcement will be posted to the district website with the final date and time.


Life in the WDMCS 1/21/14

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.

Valley Archery took home first place in the elementary and middle school divisions, while placing second in the high school division at the Des Moines Metro Challenge at Johnston High School. In the elementary division, the Jordan Creek girls swept the top three slots with Tessa Morgan placing fist with 228 out of 300, Cynnava McAvoy placing second with 213 and Kaci Kopf placing third with 193. Jordan Creek’s Kaleb Sander placed first in the boys division with a 222 score. In the middle school division, Stilwell’s Mitchell O’Meara placed first with a score of 278 and Joe Adamson was second with 272. Stilwell’s Katherine Van Arnum was the top finisher for the girls, placing fourth with a 256. Valley’s top finishers were Ella Bishop in third with a score of 266 and Ryan Johnston placing third with a 281.

Clive Elementary
Clive Elementary students participated in a Rock In Prevention assembly Friday, January 10.  Rock In Prevention teaches children to live happy healthy drug free lives and prevent bullying.  During the assembly students enjoyed singing and dancing to the rockin’ music.  All students acted out different scenarios to demonstrate how to stop bullying.  Sixth grade students from Clive were selected to be leaders and help out during all of the assemblies.  Follow-up guides and CD’s were sent home with every student to continue to encourage students to make healthy decisions in all life areas.

Crossroads Park Elementary
An adult English class is being offered to Crossroads Park Elementary parents who want to increase their English skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing.  This class is offered through West Des Moines Community Education and is held at Crossroads Park Elementary on Tuesday evenings from 6-7:30 p.m. during the months of January and February.    Former second grade teacher, Jana Foley, is instructing the class.

Fairmeadows Elementary
Fairmeadows Elementary students in Rhonda DeRocher’s first grade class recently enjoyed stories read by Carol Engelmann’s Valley High School advanced speech class.

Hillside Elementary
Fifth grade band students at Hillside Elementary are working very hard this month in preparation for the annual All-District Band Spectacular held at Valley Southwoods on Tuesday February 11 at 6:30 p.m. Students from across the district have been preparing a wide variety of short pieces, showcasing their development in musicianship and playing technique since beginning their instruments in September. The 57-member Hillside fifth grade band, led by director Jake Strachan, also meets for weekly small-group lessons, allowing students to focus on instrument-specific technique development, fingerings, and other playing skills. This lesson time is crucial in fulfilling the individual needs of young instrumentalists in their first few years of playing. WDMCS band directors hope to continue and further improve the district’s strong band program traditions through large annual collaborations like the All-District Fifth Grade Band Spectacular, the 6-12 grade All-District Marching Band performance at Valleyfest, and our Sixth Grade Honor Band, which will perform with the other Sixth Grade Honor ensembles in May.

Robbie Robinson’s class, and the rest of the third grade at Hillside Elementary, is just finishing a unit on transformation.  This theme has guided the students through several exploratory projects that included the creation of painted tissue paper art inspired by Eric Carle and the construction of a PowerPoint and model planet the students have been studying independently.  This unit has been very exciting and educational for the students and has encompassed a wide range of learning modalities. In addition to some excellent class projects, the third graders will soon be resuming their hip-hop classes with Robinson.  The dance classes have been an excellent way for students to learn a contemporary form of movement that is both fun and a treat for the cardiovascular system.  The class has been exposed to traditional top rock and six-step movements that hark back to the foundations of breakdancing.  With almost 60 students, the hip-hop class has been an exciting and invigorating addition to the multitude of Hillside Elementary extracurricular activities.

Jordan Creek Elementary
The Jordan Creek Chorus is busy preparing for their upcoming March concerts.  The chorus is an extracurricular ensemble that rehearses before school on Monday and Friday mornings.  Currently 118 fifth and sixth graders are in the chorus; music teacher Amy Hachmann is the director.  The students are singing literature from a variety of genres for their performances.  Families, neighbors, friends and community members are invited to attend the evening concert on Tuesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. in the Jordan Creek gymnasium.

Students at Jordan Creek elementary are enjoying the opportunity to read more in Spanish.  Thanks to the district leadership, schools were provided money in the fall for Hispanic Heritage month.  Candace Sherwood, Spanish teacher, along with the help of Kristy Skoglund, media center staff, selected bilingual and Spanish books to add to the collection.  We are excited that students will have more choices in their selections at the media center. Since students only have Spanish class for an hour a week, this is an excellent opportunity to provide additional practice. During class, students love hearing and reading in another language.  How can you beat a story about Froggy or Curious George in Spanish?  Students DO understand even if they don’t know every word!  Students who read in Spanish develop a richer vocabulary. Studies have shown that reading in both languages enhances language proficiency in both Spanish and English. Another reading opportunity is provided through a new Scholastic program called Club Leo.  Jordan Creek students in third grade are able to purchase books and develop their own libraries at home.  Due to the success of this program, other grade levels will probably be added in the future.  What a delight to see students excited about reading outside of class.  Through books we are able to extend the FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools) into the community.Reading is just one reason that the FLES program has been very successful.  We incorporate reading, writing, listening, speaking, and culture into our curriculum.  Recently, a team of Cedar Falls teachers requested a visit to Jordan Creek to observe and find out more about our program.  Their district is implementing a similar program and they chose our school as an exemplary model.  They were impressed with the language proficiency of the students at all grade levels.  Indeed, students in West Des Moines are fortunate to benefit from learning another language.  At Jordan Creek the students will now be learning even more with the addition of reading materials.

Valley High School
Pasta for Prom Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser will be held Friday, January 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Valley’s north gym. Meal includes caesar salad, pasta (marinara or alfredo sauce), breadsticks and beverage.  Desserts will also be available for purchase.  Tickets are $7 in advance (recommended) or $8 at the door and $6 for children ages six and under. Contact Kelli King at kingk@wdmcs.org or 633-4258, if you have questions. All proceeds will go to help fund the Valley prom April 12.

All juniors in an Iowa high school or a home-school program are eligible to apply for this award honoring the 31st U.S. President and his accomplishments. Approximately 15 Iowa high school juniors who propose, and then accomplish, projects of their own design will receive $1,000 awards, with three students going on to receive $5,000 scholarships. Full details are available in the Counseling Center, and online at www.hooverassociation.org. The application deadline is March 31, 2014.

Congrats to Choralation on being named Grand Champion of the Waukee Star Struck Show Choir Invitational Jan. 18. Other honors included Best Vocals, Best Show Band and Best Female Soloist to Emma Stier. Ignition also had a great showing, placing second out of 10 choirs in the prep division. Choralation is coached by Ryan Deignan and Ignition is coached by Haley Gibbons.

Budget Update – Jan. 21






Your Child’s Iowa Assessment Results Coming Soon

vsw-studyingThis fall, WDMCS students took the Iowa Assessments, formerly known by their acronyms as the “ITBS” or “ITEDS.” You will receive information on your student’s performance in the next couple of weeks. Principals will notify you specifically when and how the results will be provided to you.

What do I need to look at on the reports to determine how my child did on the tests?

  • The reports provides a lot of good information about your child’s progress. Here are just a few key items to look at:
  • The Profile Narrative, where you will find your child’s scores.
  • The Notes box, which is under the Profile Narrative. This will provide the range of proficiency in the areas of reading, mathematics, and science.

Traditionally we have focused our attention on the National Percentile Ranking (NPR) score. With the Iowa Assessments, we will begin to focus on the National Standard Score (NSS). This is because the National Standard Score gives us a clearer picture of your child’s growth. We are also providing information on National Grade Equivalency (NGE), which describes academic performance in terms of grade level and month.

There is a lot more information on the report I received and I have more questions. Whom do I contact?

Please remember, the Iowa Assessments are just one tool to use in determining how your child is performing academically. Talk with your child’s teacher or teachers to gather a broader view of how your child is doing in school.

Greer Earns Award for Martin Luther King Essay Contest

fm-elaine-greerFairmeadows Elementary fifth grader Elaine Greer won second place for her grade division in the state-wide 2014 MLK Essay Contest. She will receive a $25 prize and be honored at the State of Iowa Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Jan. 20 at the Euclid Room.

This year’s contest question for fifth through eighth graders was if you were to organize a community event where everyone you knew was there to help, what would it look like and how would it make a difference?

Greer’s idea was to organize an event to protest the inequality of women throughout the world. She would gather her friends and family and start a peaceful demonstration of marches and speeches, asking women who have escaped bad situations by coming to America and becoming U.S. citizens to deliver and write speeches. She believes her ideas would make marriages, communities, and economies more successful. She thinks her event would make a difference because “more women would get the opportunity to live their lives like they want and share their intelligences and gifts.” She believes this freedom would lead to making this world a better place for all.

Congratulations on a job well done!