District News

School Menus Update

The WDMCS Nutrition Department is proud to announce an exciting update to the WDMCS district’s school menus!

A new software program provides parents and students with additional information about the district’s food-service menus.

Starting in February, all menus will be available at wdmcs.nutrislice.com. Nutrislice will offer:

  • More information about each food, including a photo, nutrition facts, and description
  • A FREE app for iPhone and Android – School Lunch by Nutrislice
  • A mobile website
  • And you can still print a PDF of the menu by visiting the menus website above.

To access our menus, download our free smartphone app or check out our new menus website, http://wdmcs.nutrislice.com

PLEASE NOTE: Pictures and descriptions of all items may not be yet available, but will be coming soon.

We hope you’ll check out our new menus and let us know what you think!

District First in Iowa to Offer New Tech Schools


Staff members from Stilwell Junior High talk with a teacher at Columbus Signature Academy – Central Middle School Campus in Columbus, Indiana.

The West Des Moines Community Schools will be the first district in the state to offer New Tech schools, where students learn through real-world projects and all children are assigned a personal digital device.

Next year, Clive and Crestview elementary schools will become New Tech schools. Both Indian Hills and Stilwell junior high schools will offer a “school-within-a-school” model, with one team of seventh-grade students learning in a New Tech environment. Incoming seventh-graders will have the opportunity to apply to the New Tech team at their junior high or choose to be assigned to a team using the traditional teaching model.

Informational meetings for parents and guardians will be held in the next few weeks:

  • Sixth-grade parent meetings will be held Thursday, Feb. 5, and Thursday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Valley Performing Arts Center, 3650 Woodland Avenue, in West Des Moines. The same information will be presented on both dates.
  • A Clive Elementary parent meeting will be held Tuesday, March 10, at Clive, 1600 73rd Street, in Windsor Heights, at 6:30 p.m.; dinner at 5:30 p.m.
  • A Crestview Elementary parent meeting will be held Wednesday, March 11 at Crestview, 8355 Franklin Ave., in Clive at 5:30 p.m.; dinner at 5 p.m.

Stilwell teachers speak with a student from Columbus Signature Academy Central Middle School Campus in Indiana.

New Tech students will receive the same curriculum as their peers in the district. However, it will be delivered through project-based learning, in which students collaborate on projects that require critical thinking, creativity, and communication to answer challenging questions or solve complex problems.

Students are not only assessed on their understanding of academic content, but also on their ability to successfully apply that content when solving problems.

Project-based learning gives students the opportunity to develop the real-life skills required for success in today’s world. Students often collaborate with local organizations or groups on projects that affect the cities or neighborhoods where students live.

District administration researched the New Tech model for more than a year. Representatives from the city of West Des Moines and local businesses joined administrators, teachers, and parents on visits to other New Tech schools in the Midwest and California. The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education approved a contract with the New Tech Network on Monday, Jan. 26.



New Tech Network Brochure Español

New Tech at WDMCS PowerPoint

New Tech – Junior High Teams FAQ

Sixth Grade Parent/Guardian Meeting

 Clive Parent/Guardian Meeting

Crestview Parent/Guardian Meeting


WDMCS Student Teams Design Future Cities

Two West Des Moines Community Schools student teams traveled to Cedar Rapids to participate in Iowa’s Future Cities competition on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2015. Future Cities is an engineering competition that challenges students to design a city of the future that addresses a particular concern. Urban agriculture was this year’s focus. Coach Gina Reinier, ELP teacher at Western Hills and Hillside elementaries, and Community Mentor Jeremy Reinier, P.E., helped students prepare for the competition.

Each team designed a city that produced a protein and a vegetable grown in quantities to feed the entire population. The Western Hills team worked on a city set in Thailand. They used pneumatic tubes and bicycle paths for transportation. The team chose crickets and mealworms as a protein and produced lentils as a vegetable.

The Hillside team revitalized a vineyard killed by pests. It was set in a city on the Italian coast. They raised chickens as a protein and carrots as a vegetable. This team won an award for the best land-surveying practices.

Students wrote an essay and a narrative, built a model of their cities, presented it to multiple judges, and worked on an online simulation. Through this opportunity, students learned about different engineering disciplines, the way services and needs are managed in a city, the importance of teamwork, and how to articulate their ideas.

Article and photos submitted by Kristine Milburn, WDMCS English teacher and K-12 ELP PD/Curriculum Facilitator. Not all team members were available for photos.

Valley College Planning Seminar and Fair Answers Students’ Questions

Register for the Valley College Planning Seminar and Fair

Valley High School (VHS) is hosting a college planning seminar and college fair for Central Iowa on March 2. The seminar will start at 5 p.m. in the Media Center, and the fair will start at 6 p.m. in the VHS cafeteria and commons area.

VHS counselors Karla Hardy and Eric Traynor plan the event each year with the help of Polly Maly, VHS Counseling Center secretary. Hardy and Maly organize the fair, while Traynor works with the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN) to plan the seminar. ICAN is a non-profit organization that aims to help students and parents successfully navigate the college journey.

“We send people to their site all the time,” Traynor said. “They’re a great resource.”

ICAN approached VHS about presenting a college planning seminar a few years ago. Seeing the success of the college fairs at the school, ICAN decided they wanted to be part of the event as well. ICAN now works with Traynor to plan and present relevant, useful seminars each year.

The seminar will be presented by Erick Danielson, ICAN supervisor, with support from some of the college fair admission representatives. Danielson will present the main information, and the representatives will provide specific examples of how the schools they are representing tackle things like campus visits or admission standards. To present as much diversity as possible, they plan to include three representatives in the presentation: one from a state school, one from an out-of-state public school, and one from a private school. The seminar will cover a wide variety of topics, including:

  • the application process
  • key things students should think about when comparing schools
  • campus visits
  • admission standards
  • financial aid and other resources

The financial aid portion will only cover the basics, as ICAN presents a seminar specifically on financial aid at VHS each December. The college planning seminar will also provide time for students and their families to ask any questions and receive input from all the presenters.

The college fair will follow the seminar. Representatives from several regional colleges will attend. A tentative list of attending schools is available but subject to change. Interested schools must be registered through the Iowa Association for College Admission Counseling.

While the seminar gives an overview of the college selection process, the fair is a good time for students and their families to find out specific information from schools and either start or continue researching schools.

“It’s a really nice way to start the process,” Hardy said. “It’s asking questions and getting used to comparing schools. Anyone who comes will get something from it.”

Attending colleges will have information to hand out and representatives available to answer questions. Traynor explained that the representatives attend fairs “all over the state” and are experienced at answering all types of questions about the schools they represent. Hardy, Maly, and Traynor agreed that the questions students and their families have are the most important things they can bring to the fair and seminar. Hardy provided a list of good questions to ask representatives, such as:

  • What are the admission criteria?
  • What majors are offered?
  • What type of student activities are available?
  • What is the average class size?

The questions and others are available from the VHS Counseling Center, along with other college planning documents. They will also be available at the fair.

Any students and families who want to attend the seminar and fair are welcome.

“It’s not open just to juniors and seniors,” Maly said. “Certainly freshmen and sophomores can come if they want to start getting an idea of which schools they want to look at.”

Hardy and Traynor added that even students who have not started at VHS can attend. Students are encouraged to sign up at gotocollegefairs.com beforehand. To streamline the fair process and allow more time for discussion, students will submit their information to the website, which will generate a barcode they can print out or access on a smartphone or tablet. The school representatives will then scan that barcode, allowing them to acquire the students’ information without the students having to spend all night filling out forms. If a student does not register prior to the event, they are still welcome to attend and register at the beginning of the event.

Valley Musician Chosen for Grammy Camp


A Valley senior will be in the midst of the glitz and glamour of the Grammy Awards while he participates in concerts and instructional sessions through an elite program for young jazz musicians.

Jared Freiburg is the only Iowa teen selected for this year’s Grammy Camp —­ Jazz Session, which will draw 32 students from across the country to Los Angeles the first week of February. Freiburg, one of two tenors in the camp’s jazz choir, completed a series of vocal performances and transcription exercises over two months to audition for the program.

Freiburg decided it would be a great challenge to try out for the camp. “I thought, well, it’s a longshot but if I don’t try, I’ll never know,” he said.

Freiburg learned of his selection in November, when he got a call verifying his contact information and then a package arrived full of sheet music and other material he must master before he arrives in Los Angeles Jan. 30. He is required to submit vocal tracks for critique every week until he leaves for camp.

The students in the jazz choir, combo and band will have only two days to rehearse together and Freiburg expects “they’ll come with their game faces on.” He wants to be ready.

“Right now it’s putting in the hard work so I can have the fun later,” he said.

The young musicians will perform at several venues, including a pre-Grammys celebration for the nominees and the award show’s after-party. Freiburg and the other teens will also be in the audience at the Feb. 8 award show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

While Freiburg acknowledged camp members will surely be seated toward the back of the auditorium, he’s still excited to see so many bold-faced names from the music industry. “It will be an experience to go to the Grammys and be in that room.”

Students will jam with several professional jazz musicians and record some tracks at Capitol Studios in Hollywood. Country performer/songwriter Hunter Hayes will rehearse with the group and perform with them during a Feb. 4 concert.

Along with sharpening his skills and meeting other young jazz fans from across the country, the camp will also give Freiburg a chance to meet representatives from several college-level jazz programs. A number of university music schools will offer scholarships to students chosen for the camp.

Freiburg has not yet selected a college but knows he wants to focus on jazz vocals. He first learned of the complexities of jazz from his grandfather, who played in bands as a young man and taught Freiburg to read and play music.

Freiburg took piano lessons for several years and later picked up the guitar. He now learns new music by ear and teaches himself to play, improvising and making the melody his own. He enjoys playing at the downtown farmers market and at area retirement facilities and assisted living centers.

Growing up listening to Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and other crooners not only sparked Freiburg’s interest in jazz but flavored his musical tastes for life.

He doesn’t listen to anything that came out after 1989, Freiburg said, instead focusing on tunes from the 1940s to 1970s, including some ’50s rock in his jazzed-up playlist. “I’ve always liked the old stuff,” he said.

UPDATED: 2015-16 Elementary Principal Assignments

This news item has been updated and is current as of July 20, 2015.

The West Des Moines Community Schools is pleased to announce new elementary principal assignments for the 2015-16 school year. The new school assignments will be for Crossroads Park, Hillside, Jordan Creek, Westridge, and Western Hills.

“Each of our elementary principals are proven educational leaders who hire and develop excellent teachers and partner with parents to build school communities focused on student achievement,” said Superintendent Dr. Lisa Remy. “This is an opportunity to share their leadership skills within the district and to further strengthen our district as a whole.”

The principals have all started work in their new positions. Information about the principals and the schools follow.

Crossroads Park Elementary
Dr. Robert Davis, current principal of Hillside Elementary, will become the principal of Crossroads Park Elementary. Crossroad Park, located at 1050 50th Street in West Des Moines, serves approximately 560 students in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. Davis will replace Britt Cameron, who is retiring June 30, 2015. Davis began working in the district in 1991 and has served as elementary principal at Crestview, Rex Mathes, Clegg Park, and Hillside.

Hillside Elementary
Graham Jones, current principal at Jordan Creek Elementary, will become the principal of Hillside Elementary. Hillside Elementary, located at 713 8th Street in West Des Moines, serves approximately 580 students in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. Jones started working in the district in 2001 and has served as an elementary teacher, assistant principal of Jordan Creek Elementary, curriculum director, and principal at Jordan Creek Elementary.

Jordan Creek Elementary
Paul Wenger has been approved as the principal of Jordan Creek Elementary. He currently serves as elementary principal at Edgewood-Colesburg Community School District. He also serves as vice president of the School Administrators of Iowa and has been a principal mentor, legislative committee member, and Iowa Leadership Academy Steering Committee member. Wenger has implemented professional learning communities, statewide voluntary preschool programming, and multi-tiered systems of supports for students. He received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and physical education from Wartburg College and his master’s degree in educational leadership from Iowa State University.

Westridge Elementary

Nathan Ballagh has been approved as the new Westridge Elementary principal. He is currently working at the Southeast Polk School district, where he has served for 11 years as an educator and administrator; most recently as junior high school administrator. Ballagh earned bachelor’s degrees in history and education and a master’s degree in pre-K–12 principalship from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). He is continuing his post-graduate at UNI, working to obtain his superintendent’s license.

Tamara Tjeerdsma, currently a sixth-grade teacher at Crossroads Park Elementary, has been approved as the assistant principal at Jordan Creek and Westridge Elementary Schools. Tjeerdsma has taught elementary school for 18 years, 10 of those years in the WDMCS district. She has served on many district-level committees, including the recent boundary study, district board policy committee, and the Iowa Sustaining Parent Involvement Network (ISPIN). Tjeerdsma was a finalist for the 2015 Iowa Teacher of the Year award from the Iowa Department of Education. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and social studies from Northwest Missouri State University and her master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Iowa State University.

Western Hills Elementary

George Panosh has been approved as the new principal of Western Hills Elementary. Panosh was previously an assistant principal and activities director at Berg Middle School in Newton. He also served as a Technology Integration Coach in the Linn-Mar Community School District in Marion. He received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Coe College, a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from George Washington university, and a master’s degree in e-learning and technology from Concordia University. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in education through Concordia University.


Valley Team is Regional Science Bowl Champ

Photo courtesy of Ames Laboratory

Valley High School was named regional champion at the Jan. 24 Ames Laboratory/Iowa State University Regional High School Science Bowl.

This was the second time in four years that Valley’s team won the regional event. These students will compete at the National Science Bowl this spring in Washington, D.C.

The following people are pictured in the photo to the left: (front row, left to right) Students Ryan Thompson, Charles Napier, Gabriel Mintzer; (back row) Coach Nate Speichinger, students Sunita Kolareth and Arun Velamuri, and Ames Laboratory Director Adam Schwartz.

Read more about the science bowl here.

Valley Preps for State Speech Finals

Valley High School will host about 2,000 student performers Feb. 7 as part of the Iowa High School Speech Association’s State Large Group contest.

Students from roughly 100 districts in the association’s southwest region will compete at Valley. Other state contests will be held at Sioux City East, Cedar Rapids Washington, and Decorah.

The public is invited to Valley’s new auditorium to enjoy the students’ state entries, which include theatrical and media-related performances in several categories: one-act play, readers theatre, choral reading, ensemble acting, group mime, solo mime, TV news, radio news, short film, musical theatre, and group improvisational acting. Performances will begin at 8 a.m. and continue until around 5:30 p.m. Admission is a suggested donation of $3.

Valley High School Drama Boosters will offer food concessions for performers and audience members throughout the day. About 150 additional volunteers will also help with the event. More adult volunteers are needed; for more information or to sign up, email hansens@wdmcs.org.

Life in the WDMCS 01/27/15

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.

Crestview Elementary

A Polk County conservationist visited kindergarten to teach the students about animal tracks. The children are learning new skills through games that are part of the Everyday Math curriculum.

Jordan Creek Elementary

The second-grade students at Jordan Creek have enjoyed studying about the ocean this month.  The students learned the zones of the ocean, tides, coral reefs, food chains, and the effects of pollution. The students also researched one ocean animal and created a report and ocean visual that shares where the ocean animal lives, what it eats, how it defends itself, and other interesting facts. The students will have a walk-through museum with Jordan Creek students and staff.

Sophomore Arjun Ganga Attends World Food Prize Global Youth Institute

Arjun photoThe spirit and determination of Rwanda’s people inspired a Valley student to research practices to benefit banana farmers in the previously war-torn country.

Sophomore Arjun Ganga was one of 160 teens from around the world selected to attend the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines based on his research. Ganga interacted with several internationally renowned World Food Prize Laureates and leaders in food, agriculture, and international development at the Oct. 18-20 event.

“It was a great and unique experience to attend the Global Youth Institute along with the giants of the agriculture field,” he said. “I made a lot of great friends and got to listen to many influential and accomplished people. I could not believe I had this opportunity as a high school student.”

Ganga was selected for the honor after participating in the Iowa Youth Institute in March.Participation in the Iowa program, which drew more than 230 students, included writing a paper on a critical food-security issue in a developing country.

His research was selected as a top entry at the state event, qualifying him to attend the Global Youth Institute. The work is now available online.

The 20th anniversary of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1993-94 was in the public eye during the time Ganga was selecting a topic for his paper. With the help of Valley science teacher Brant Reif, Ganga studied how the once-warring tribes in Rwanda have made peace and are working together to improve the country’s economy.

Improved farming practices would not only provide more food, Ganga said, but protect the land for future generations.

“I learned that genetic mutation and more hygienically efficient practices are within reach, and that there are countless, cost-efficient ways to prevent food insecurity in Rwanda,” he said.

“Farming of bananas, done the right way, could reduce malnutrition and prevent soil erosion. I found this very interesting because I thought hunger was a large and expensive issue to tackle, but really, it is very plausible to confront.”

Reif teaches two classes at Valley related to the issues Ganga researched for this project. Plant Science, a one-semester course, discusses how to feed a growing world population while protecting the environment. Students seeking further enrichment may consider AP Environmental Science, a year-long course on sustainability that touches on agricultural practices. Biology and chemistry are prerequisites for the AP course.