District News

Life in the WDMCS 3/10/14

Crestview Elementary

Crestview fourth grader Jasmyn Tran, fifth grader Eleanor Horak and fourth grader Kaylyn Lee recently finished reading and reporting on all 2014 Iowa Children’s Choice books.  Working through this collection provides a real sense of accomplishment and delight for those who took the challenge to complete all 25 books by March 1st.  Both Eleanor and Kaylyn agreed “Love Aubrey” by Suzanne-LaFleur was their favorite while Jasmyn picked “Might of Angels” by Andrea Davis Pinkney as hers.

Fairmeadows Elementary

The 23rd Street Singers, a lively chorus of 114 Fairmeadows fifth and sixth graders who enjoy singing and choreography, will hit the road with performances at the West Des Moines Public Library and Edgewater Retirement Community. They also held two performances at home, one for Fairmeadows students and another for the community in the Fairmeadows gym.  The program featured a variety of musical styles and dance choreography including “We Sing Gloria,” Katy Perry’s “Roar,” “Africa,” a ballad called “When I am Silent,” and even a Maori proverb entitled “Tama Tu.”

Hillside Elementary

March is Youth Art Month! Congratulations to the following Hillside Elementary artists for having artwork showcased in the state wide juried student art exhibition held at the State Historical building in Des Moines: fifth grader Logan Dearduff, fourth grader Samantha Lara and first grader Lauren Igou. Their work was displayed alongside other young artists from around the state of Iowa.

Hillside Elementary participated in Read Across America Day March 3.  Students honored the late Dr. Seuss by reading books written by the famous author.  Fourth, fifth and sixth grade classrooms were paired with kindergarten through third grade classrooms.  Hillside students love to read so they were excited to be paired up and share their talents together!

Fourth graders at Hillside Elementary are mushing! Students are following the annual Iditarod Dog Sled Race in Alaska. This “last great race” is held every March and teams of dogs and mushers race from Anchorage, Alaska to Nome, Alaska. In the classroom, each student has chosen one musher to follow. They check their musher’s updated statistics daily as well as reading the highlighted article for the day. This information is then gathered in a packet, as well as a few pages on the background information, history, and rules of the Iditarod. This is preparing the students on how to navigate a website to gather research and collect data, which is a life skill students need in today’s classrooms.

Jordan Creek Elementary

Jordan Creek fourth graders Carson Krogulski, Sophia Heller, Allison Shannon and Austin Smith celebrate the history and importance of Mardi Gras in the Southeastern region. The students learned the cultural background of Mardi Gras as well as traditions celebrated during this special holiday. Fourth graders celebrated Mardi Gras by decorating party masks and sampling the traditional King’s Cake, an important cultural tradition during Mardi Gras. The cinnamon flavored cake is decorated with purple, gold and green frosting topped with decorative Mardi Gras beads. A tiny baby is hidden in the cake; the lucky recipient of the baby in their piece of cake is granted luck for the year and is the host for next year’s party!

Members of the Jordan Creek Kids Care Club recently met to learn more about the current Character Pillar of focus on Trustworthiness. Sasha Mudlaff, a grief counselor from Hamilton’s Academy of Grief and Loss, was the guest speaker. Sasha and her bunny friend, Hamilton, shared how there are kids in our local community who have had losses in their lives. Sasha talked about two of the grief support programs the academy offers:  Healing Hearts (for children in first through sixth grade), and Little Hands (for children age three and a half to six years old). Each group is designed to help children begin to recognize and understand the many feelings associated with the death of someone loved. With adult support, children can continue to develop lifelong skills for coping with loss as a part of life. We also learned that a lit candle is the universal symbol of remembrance.  Sasha explained how at the closure of the group sessions, each child that participates, receives a fleece blanket, as a way to honor and remember their loved one who has died. Each time they wrap the blanket around themselves, they are encouraged to think of their loved one giving them a big hug. As a way to pay it forward for all the support Sasha and the Healing Hearts and Little Hands programs have given Jordan Creek students over the years,  the JC Kids Care Club made 25 fleece blankets to donate to Hamilton’s Academy of Grief and Loss as our service project this month. Thank you to the many parent and teacher volunteers who helped pre-cut the fleece material, and to all our Kids Care Club members who helped tie and finish the blankets during our meeting, and at recess time.

Phenix Elementary

Phenix Early Elementary Childhood center celebrated their 75 years with carnival night titled School of Rock. Families enjoyed dinner by Carlos O’Kellys and played games such as Randomizer, the Fortune Teller.  Phenix  wishes to give a big thank you to all who contributed their time, and services to help make this night a success.

Western Hills Elementary

West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer was able to celebrate the conclusion of Read Across America week with Western Hills. After a school-wide vote, it was determined Green Eggs and Ham was the favorite Dr. Seuss book of all the titles voted on. He joined Principal Beth Thornton in a collaborative reading of the book.

Valley High School

The 2013 Valley Tiger Tales Yearbook was recognized for excellence and featured in the Herff Jones IDEAS THAT FLY showcase book. There were only two schools from Iowa selected for this honor. The Valley yearbook has been selected for inclusion four years in a row. The Editor in Chief is Katelyn Brower and  Diane Hicks is adviser.

Eleven students were recently inducted in to the Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists.The students have all shown initiative and produced superior work in writing, editing or photograpy for the student newspaper or yearbook and are in the top third of their class academically.  New inductees include Sarah Bell, Camryn Dreyer, Connor Ferguson, Annie Fredericksen, Katie Galles, Allison Kacer, Emily Kacer, Taylor Mankle, Cole Schulte, Cooper Warner and Claudia Athens. Officers Ashley Skokan, Madison Ward and Jenna Baldus presided with adviser Diane Hicks.  Valley High School has had a Quill and Scroll chapter since 1940.

The Valley Mock Trial senior team advanced to the state competition. Congratulations to team members Brooke Beatty, Alexandra Brennan, Kyra Cooper, Rae Gernent, Catherine Leafstedt, Thomas Leafstedt, Mason McCoy and Madison Tuttle.

WDMCS Board Approves $2.7 Million Reduction Package

Budget Logo




On Monday, March 10, the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education approved a budget reduction package of $2.7 million for the 2014-15 school year. The package includes closing Phenix Early Childhood Center, eliminating teaming at Valley Southwoods, reducing central office budgets, reducing 1.5 FTE administrators, eliminating the half-day kindergarten program and more.

Three items originally recommended for reductions were removed from the list. Superintendent Dr. Lisa Remy revised the submitted recommend by removing Level 1 special education program assistants, first grade assistants and the Valley counselor position.

Revised Budget Reduction Package

The district will immediately begin the planning work to implement the reductions, which will take effect next school year.

Boys Basketball at State Tournament

The Valley boys basketball team takes a 15-8 record to Wells Fargo Arena for the state basketball tournament this week. The Tigers will face Dubuque Senior in quarterfinal action Wednesday at 6:35 p.m.

Live Stats


Sophomore Turner Scott was named to the first-team all-CIML CIC Western Division, while freshman Quinton Curry was a second-team pick and sophomore Ted Brown was honorable mention.



Board to Take Action on Budget Reductions Monday

Budget Logo





The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education will address the final budget reduction proposal on Monday, March 10 at 7:00 p.m. The Board will also hold a work session at 5:15 p.m. during which they will review the 2014-15 certified budget.

Some of the items being proposed include closing Phenix Early Childhood Center, eliminating the district’s half-day kindergarten program, eliminating first grade assistants and reducing Level 1 special education program assistants.

The full proposal is available here: Final Budget Reduction Proposal

The proposal is being submitted after a four-month process, which included gathering reduction ideas and feedback from parents, community members and employees. This included holding several public meetings to provide information on the budget, the process being used to determine reductions and to gather feedback on possible reductions.


When will the School Board vote on the budget reductions?

The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education will address the final budget reduction proposal on Monday, March 10 at 7:00 p.m. in the Community Room at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, West Des Moines.

School Board Meeting Agenda

School Board Meeting Information Packet


Where can I find the final list of items being proposed to cut?

The final budget reduction proposal being submitted to the School Board is available here:

Final Budget Reduction Proposal


Where can I find information about the district’s budget situation?


Life in the WDMCS 3/3/14

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

Parent-teacher conferences at Clive Elementary are often a time of great excitement for both teachers and families. Students can share their growth throughout the year and also set goals for the spring. Another second grader Ashley Irungu remarked, “My dad got to see my dolphin report, and he thought it was very very interesting. I like going to conferences because I show him my writing, and my other work.” Second grader Katelynn Mulhern said, “My mom said my non-fiction cheetah book was good. She liked it that I used my capital letters and endmarks.”

Clive Elementary fifth and sixth grade students had the opportunity to play brass hand bells last month. The hand bells are rotated throughout the WDM schools within the music classroom.  Fun chords and songs were played by ringing brass hand bells. Three sixth grade students have been selected to play hand bells in the all district honor hand bell choir.   Those students are Grace Feeken, Madeline Shumaker, and Hannah Walker.   They meet on Wednesday mornings to rehearse along with other sixth graders in the district.   They will be playing  in the honors concert in May.

On March 25, all fifth grade students from Clive will be attending the Des Moines Youth Symphony Orchestra concert program at the Civic Center.    Many other surrounding school districts as well as our district attend this wonderful music field trip.

The 73rd Street Singers Choir has been rehearsing since the second week of January for their upcoming concert program.   The evening choir performance for parents will be held on Tuesday, March 11 at 7 p.m.    Choir students are looking forward to their vocal performance.

Crestview Elementary

Five more avid readers at Crestview Elementary have completed the challenge to read and report on all 25 Iowa Children’s Choice Award books before March 1.  Congratulations go to fourth graders Natalie Thomas, Marina Mihura, Anna Van Wyndarden and Grace Derouin and sixth grader Delfina Mihura. Natalie chose “A Dog’s Way Home” by Bobbie Pyron and Delfina “The Unwanteds” by Lisa McMann as their personal favorites. Marina’s all-time favorite from this collection is “The Unwanteds” by Lisa McMann. Anna’s choice for her favorite is “A Dog’s Way Home” by Bobbie Pyron, while Grace’s favorite is “The Unwanteds” by Lisa McMann. The girls enjoyed the journey and look forward to beginning on next year’s nominee’s.

Fairmeadows Elementary

Staff and students at Fairmeadows are focusing on being people of good character.  The staff at Fairmeadows chose students they felt were showing the pillars of character in all parts of the school day.  These students showed the staff they are responsible, respectful, trustworthy, fair, caring and good citizens. Students received a special certificate, pencil and have their picture taken for display. Students included for the month of March are: Grayson Swain, Brevin LaFave, Jaiden Wamsley, Andrew Nelson, Gwen Wright, Isabel Rodriguez, Gentrit Ererllahu, Baqer Alsaadi, Katherine Alberico, Berlanti Abu- Assaf, Carter Barker, Dakota Breden, Fergie Penate, Juliet Kelly, Josh Myers, Bella Phillips, Elijah Medina, Jordan Dewes, Preston Kipnusu, Ava Scott, Liam Bechman, Sydney Decker, Ben Bratz, Blerta Hasani, Natalie Maxwell, Nicole Jordan, Zachary Basart-Moris, Anna Uzel, Addyson Kastli, Ava Coleman, Sam Gibson, Audrey Johnson, Izzy Winne, Emma LaFave, Cale Jacobson, chase Thompson, Veronica Wennerstrom, Alexa Noonan, Kim Webb, Mackenzie Oleson, Jake Umble, Annalyn Poulson, Keir Wilson, Kaitlyn Bebensee, Dylan Roth and Kate Carney.    Congratulations!

Hillside Elementary

Congratulations to the following Hillside students for having art work on display at the Learning Resource Center – third grade Transformation Sculptures: Kaisey Abdullahi, Akok Anqui, Alex Castro,  Kolin Craig, Edgar Cruz-Lopez,  Valeria Lara-Espinosa, Summer Liddle, Faraja Mukome,  Gage Rhiner, Bret Scheffler, Cora Waterman and  Alicia Yanqui; fifth grade Tanktotem Sculptures: Madison Allen, Brandon Derrig, Keeley Downey, Sophie Gauthier and Walker Kimbrow; fifth grade Modigliani Style Portraits: Reagan Demmon , Lauren Gilmore,  Ava Hetherington,  Jada Long, Clarisse Martinez,  Eddy Prutina, Henry Shires and Mia Rand; and sixth grade Gargoyles: Nathan Adams, Autumn Campbell,  Abbie Clark, Sophia Epstein,  Mikayla Finn, David Gaunt, Jenna Hilt , Sam Ridgway, Chloe Stark and Elvis Vallejo.

Jordan Creek Elementary

Jordan Creek fifth graders worked in groups to design and build toothpick bridges in science.  At the end of the unit students tested the strength of the bridges by adding weight to them and seeing how much they would hold until the bridge broke.  The winning bridge held almost 73 pounds!
(jordan-creek1) Jordan Creek fifth graders Lauren Graff, Kaelyn Lawrence, Zack Drey and Ryan Mendez designed a toothpick bridge in science class which needed to hold as much weight as possible.

On Friday, February 14, Jordan Creek students enjoyed a day filled with activities that celebrated world cultures.  Fifth graders heard Native American stories, made tin art from Mexico, listened to Blues music, and did some salsa dancing.  It was a very educational and fun day for the students!


Westridge Elementary

Westridge first graders enjoyed celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday with Read Across America Day.  They read many Dr. Seuss books, such as “The Lorax,” “Horton Hears a Who” and “Yertle the Turtle,” discussing  the lessons within the stories.  They read “The Cat in the Hat” and other early reader books and were inspired to write about what Thing One and Thing Two would do if they were in their homes.  The students learned about Theodore Seuss Geisel’s life.  Many were surprised to discover that his real name wasn’t Dr. Seuss.

Valley High School

The Valley First Tech Challenge team, Beta, finished in second place for the Inspire Award and also earned the Rockwell Collins Innovate Award at the RTC State Championships. The Inspire Award is given to the team that is a top contender for all other judging categories and is a strong competitor on the field. The Innovate Award celebrates a team that not only thinks outside the box, but also has the ingenuity and inventiveness to make their designs come to life. Beta won five of six qualifying matches and finished competing in the first round of division semi-finals that pitted the top 48 teams from Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

The Valley High School IHSSA Individual Events Speech team spoke their way to success at the district contest March 1. With 19 students performing in 30 events at districts, the team advances to the State contest March 15, with 16 students in 24 events.Participants are Xandra French, Lilly Seltz, Grace Barker, Dani Lipman, Alex Johnson, Maggie Wildermuth, Henry Parizek, Mandy Brown, Bre Katcher, Hannah-Kate Fox,Kenzie Hamlett, Taylor Mankle, Allison Moore, Anja Schepp, Natalie Bantz and Elizabeth Reed. The group is coached by Carol Engelmann and Sonja Hansen-Smith.

Girls Basketball on to State

vhs-gbb-state-qualifierAn amazing season continues as the Valley girls basketball team takes on the best in Iowa at the Girls State Basketball Tournament this week. The Tigers face Southeast Polk in the quarterfinals Wed., March 5 at 3:15 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena. Tickets are on sale at the Valley Activities Office until noon on Wednesday. All tickets are $8.


Follow Live Game Stats

Watch the Game

The Tigers, who take a 22-1 record into tournament play, qualified for their first state tournament since 2007. The team broke the school’s single game scoring record twice this season, scoring 97 points and 99 points, en route to setting the single season total points record at 1,573.

The team won the CIML Central Iowa Conference title outright, setting the table for multiple honors. Senior Madi Agey, who took over the school’s career assists (345) and single season assists (119) records this season, and junior Grace Vander Weide were each named to the Des Moines Register’s Elite All-State Team. They were also named first-team all-conference and first-team all-division. Freshman Hannah Fuller and senior Kasey Feldt were named second-team all-division while junior Whitney Fuller was an honorable mention pick for all-division. Hanna was also named second-team all-conference.

The team is lead by head coach Josef Sigrist, Chris Larson, Monique Jones, Seth Hagarty and Ross Bower.

WDMCS Selected for Teacher Leader System

The West Des Moines Community Schools is one of 39 school districts selected to be the first in the state to launch a teacher leadership system in the 2014-15 school year.

Calendar Updates: This Year, Next Year and the Year After

THIS YEAR: 2013-14 School Calendar

  • To date, the West Des Moines Community Schools have had three school days cancelled due to inclement weather.
  • The three cancelled days of instruction will be made up in June – Monday, June 2; Tuesday, June 3; and Wednesday, June 4. (The April 18 professional development day will not be used to make up any of the three current snow days.)
  • Therefore, the last day of school as of today is June 4.
  • The district will follow past practice of considering using professional development days if there are five (5) or more “snow days.”

NEXT YEAR: 2014-15 School Calendar

The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education approved the 2014-15 school year calendar with a start date of Wednesday, Aug. 20. Features of the calendar include:

  • First Day of School: August 20
  • Finals week before winter break.
  • Winter Break: December 22-January 2
  • First Semester Ends: January 13
  • Spring Break: March 16-20
  • Last Day for Students: June 2

Month-by-month view of the approved calendar.

THE YEAR AFTER: 2015-16 School Calendar

The Board also directed administrators to have a calendar prepared by the end of this school year for 2015-16 school year.

  • The 2015-16 calendar will have first semester ending and finals before winter break.
  • This may mean the 2015-16 school year could start as early as August 12.
  • The calendar committee will reconvene to continue its work and to provide a recommendation to district administrators. The committee makeup will be reviewed and adjusted as needed to ensure appropriate representation across the district.

More WDMCS Students Proficient on State Test

news-student-pencil-studyAccording to a report released Monday, Feb. 24, students attending the WDMCS performed better in reading, math and science on the Iowa Assessments in 2013 than in 2012.

The Iowa Assessments are tests the state requires students to take in grades 3-8 and grade 11. In WDMCS, students take the tests in the fall.

“I am very optimistic about the data,” said Dr. Laurene Lanich, associate superintendent of Teaching and Learning for the district. In fact, the district met 16 out of its 17 annual improvement goals. “This is a significant achievement for our district and the students attending our schools.”

The data also shows:

  • 5 out of 8 grade levels saw an increase in the percentage of proficient students in math
  • 5 out of 8 grade levels saw an increase in the percentage of proficient students in reading

In comparison to students across the state, the WDMCS has a greater percentage of proficient students in mathematics, reading, and science in grades 3-11. The exception of in science for grade 11.

Lanich said while there are many variables that determine student performance on standardized tests, the district has implemented several strategies to improve instruction and student proficiency. These include district-wide professional development focused on:

  • Learning Targets: Written statements that provide clarity about what a student is supposed to know or be able to do.
  • Differentiation: A way of teaching; it’s not a program or package of worksheets. It asks teachers to know their students well so they can provide each one with experiences and tasks that will improve learning.
  • Professional Learning Communities (PLCs): Groups of educators that meets regularly, share expertise and work collaboratively to improve instruction. Our PLCs work on answering the following essential questions to achieving effective instruction –
    • What is it we want our students to learn?
    • How will we know if each student has learned it?
    • How will we respond when some students don’t learn it?
    • How can we extend and enrich the learning for students who have demonstrated proficiency?

For more information, please see the “West Des Moines Community School District Student Achievement Report 2013-14” on the district website.