District News

DeMicco Selected for National Teacher Leadership Initiative

West Des Moines Community Schools K–6 Professional Development/Curriculum Facilitator (PD/CF) Julie DeMicco has a passion for literacy that has been the theme of her career as an educator. She is now furthering that interest as a participant in the National Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI), a program sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA), the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ), and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Julie DeMicco, West Des Moines Community Schools K–6 Professional Development/Curriculum Facilitator for literacy and social studies.

Julie DeMicco, West Des Moines Community Schools K–6 PD/CF for literacy and social studies.

The three organizations announced the TLI in early January 2014. The goal of the program is to “develop a new generation of leaders within the teaching profession,” using teacher-leaders to advance the field.

“The initiative will call on the voices and expertise of accomplished teachers,” CTQ CEO Barnett Berry said in the announcement. “It’s time to blur the lines of distinction between those who teach in schools and those who lead them.”

The program originally included just 150 educators from Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Mississippi. A September 2014 expansion added more participants and states, an updated curriculum, and capstone experiences.

DeMicco was accepted in October 2014. She had just started her WDMCS position as PD/CF for literacy and social studies. Other than being a building representative with the West Des Moines Education Association, DeMicco had never had a prominent leadership role, choosing to lead through her actions instead.

“Leadership competencies that we studied early on have definitely pushed my thinking because I wasn’t in a leadership role before,” DeMicco said. “Just the networking I’m experiencing through this is teaching me so much.”

DeMicco is currently working on her capstone experience. Capstone experiences allow teacher leaders to demonstrate the concepts and skills they have learned, while addressing the “leadership challenge” they selected. True to form, DeMicco chose to focus on literacy for her capstone project.

Originally from Chicago, DeMicco earned her bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University. She started with the West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) as a first-grade teacher in 1990, then earned a master’s degree in reading from Drake University. She held a reading resource position at Phenix Elementary and later completed her reading recovery training. As a reading recovery teacher, she helped the lowest-performing first-grade readers in one-on-one sessions. She continued to advance literacy in the district by teaching reading at Stilwell and Indian Hills junior high schools and Fairmeadows Elementary.

DeMicco’s PD/CF position is part of the new Teacher Leadership program. Her job, so far, has been to facilitate and improve existing literacy programs. She also organized elementary reading visits for Read Across America Week, a combination of Read Across America Day—the March 2 celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday—and World Read Aloud Day.

“It’s really always evolving,” DeMicco said. “The things I do day to day are always changing, which is interesting to see.”

DeMicco’s dedication to literacy led her to different positions in the district, at Grandview College, and with the Iowa Area Education Agencies. Two different teacher leader experiences are now strengthening her focus on leadership. She hopes to stay involved with the TLI and is enjoying developing the PD/CF position, but DeMicco’s true leadership has always come from her actions. Her actions still demonstrate the same passion for literacy she has always had.

“My hope is that we will not only graduate kids who can read, but love to read and want to read and are truly lifelong readers,” DeMicco said.

Life in the WDMCS 4/6/15

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.


The WDMCS Extended Learning Program put on its annual World of Choices Day on Friday, April 3, at the Learning Resource Center. Community professionals were featured as speakers in different sessions throughout the day. They presented to groups of students about their careers, then answered questions the students had. Some of the careers featured were agricultural engineer, author, city planner, judge, meteorologist, musician, and doctor. Dr. Erika Cook, director of ELP and Valley High School associate principal, welcomed students in the morning and demonstrated introductions and thanking the speakers with student volunteers.

Teams of students from WDMCS elementary schools competed at the annual Spanish Quiz Bowl on Thursday, March 26. The elementary Spanish teachers invited 12 non-native Spanish speakers who have a good attitude and work ethic to represent their schools at the quiz bowl. Students who are native speakers were also invited to assist at the quiz bowl.

Crossroads Elementary Spanish Quiz Bowl participants were (in alphabetical order): Ivy Adix, Erin Baedke, Quinn Emison Clair, Isabella Dobrinov, Michell Macias, Anya Mukraj, Oliver Parizek, Will Pixley, Kenyan Smith, Isaac Ullested, Noal Van Waus, and Christina Yu.

Hillside Elementary participants were (in alphabetical order): Alyssa Ashmore, Juliana Bempah, CJ Brobst, Lauren Gilmore, Mason Mitchell, Gaige Pickett, Emmerson Porter, Kendric Santos-Briggs, Jayden Sisney, Makayla Stone, Mya Sturdevant, and Luke Weeklund, with student leader Alondra Berber.

The Clive, Crestview, Fairmeadows, Jordan Creek, Western Hills, and Westridge student participants are listed with their photos below.

Clive Elementary

Clive Elementary School’s 73rd Street Singers performed their spring concert at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, and at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 26. The students were excited to perform the songs and choreography they had learned for their families and friends. Songs ranged from upbeat jazz to current pop songs, and included four songs from the Broadway musical, “The Lion King.”

Crestview Elementary

Fourth-grade students from Crestview Elementary School visited the Iowa Hall of Pride on Friday, March 6. They learned about famous Iowans by listening to information and music, reading, and playing games. Students most enjoyed viewing the trophies that would be handed out to teams for the Iowa Girl’s High School State Basketball Tournament. The students also saw a performance at the Des Moines Civic Center. “Scrap Art Music,” a musical group from Vancouver, Canada, used instruments invented from scrap materials to perform original works.

Crossroads Elementary

Two students from Crossroads Park Elementary won the Iowa Firefighters Association Statewide Fire Prevention Program poster contest. Students in third through fifth grades are annually invited to create posters centered on the National Fire Protections Association’s yearly slogan. Entries are judged by the local community’s fire department, and one winner from each grade is sent to the state contest.

Ashlynn Neppl won the West Des Moines Fire Department contest for fifth grade, and Elizabeth Schultz won both the West Des Moines and state contests for third grade. Both students received a certificate and will have the opportunity to take a ride on a West Des Moines fire truck. Schultz also won $100 and will be honored at an awards luncheon at the fire station.

Jordan Creek Elementary 

Jordan Creek Elementary second-grade Spanish students invited kindergarten classes to experience part of their unit on oceans. The second-graders read a short book about ocean animals in small groups, then performed a song routine at the end of class. It was a good chance for the kindergarten students to find out what Spanish class will be like when it starts in first grade, and an opportunity for the second-graders to share their Spanish knowledge. Both groups got to learn more about the ocean, which they had studied during the school year.

Third-grade students from Jordan Creek visited the Des Moines Civic Center for a special performance in February. The “Sofrito” performance used music and storytelling to bring Latin culture and imagery to life. As the Hispanic population continues to grow, students are realizing the importance of learning Spanish, and they are enjoying the opportunities to develop their skills at different events in the community.

Jordan Creek students and staff all participated in Autism Awareness Day on April 2. They wore blue shirts to show support as they learned about autism from the Jordan Creek Special Education teachers and the AEA.

Valley High School

Valley High School’s technical theater class, taught by Stacy Hansen, put on a costume style show at 9:15 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. on Friday, April 3, and at 11 a.m. on Monday, April 6, outside the Valley cafeteria. Students designed and made costumes for different play characters out of trash bags and other scraps for their portfolios. For the style show, each student read a short description of the costume they designed and the play that inspired it before modeling the costume for other students on a “red carpet.”

One of Valley High School’s robotics teams, the Borderline Obsessed Technicians (Team BOT), traveled to Iowa City to participate in the 2014-15 IA FTC State Championship Tournament on Friday and Saturday, March 6-7 (http://www.usfirst.org/). The team, sponsored by Karl Goldsmith, a Valley teacher, built a robot, programmed for both autonomous and manual control, then competed in a pre-designed competition developed by US FIRST. In addition, the team raised their own funds and performed outreach to spread the ideas of STEM. The team raised nearly $8,000 to offset the cost of more intricate materials required for the robot. Team members include Ian Adams, Grant Gullickson, Sunita Kolareth, Michael Litscher, Charlie Napier, Kellen O’Connor, Ojas Pradhan, Ryan Thompson, and Arun Velamuri.

Valley’s robotics program began three years ago, and the team has experienced tremendous growth over the years. They became more organized, and they established plans for developing the program. By this year, the team developed a business plan before the season started and designated three main groups to facilitate the project: programmers, engineers, and outreach. Each student worked primarily on their individual roles, but also helped to troubleshoot other parts of the process. The programmers learned a new program on their own. The engineers developed prototype parts using CAD software, tested the prototypes, and thought of potential flaws before placing the final design on the robot. The outreach team contacted local businesses and schools to help raise nearly $8,000 and conducted demonstrations for several elementary groups.

Highlights for Team BOT include qualifying for the State Competition in Iowa City and serving as ambassadors for US FIRST at the Super-Regional competition, March 26-28, 2015. The US FIRST organization selected Team BOT as ambassadors because the team embodies everything a US FIRST team should represent: professionalism, problem solving, and creative thinking.


WDMCS Graduation Rate Second Among Ten Largest Iowa Districts

West Des Moines Community Schools has the second highest four-year graduation rate of the ten largest school districts in Iowa.


The WDMCS four-year graduation rate has risen to 92.9 percent, according to data released today by the Iowa Department of Education. The rate rose 2.35 percent from 90.55 percent in 2012-13 and 0.73 percent from 92.17 percent in 2010. The Iowa four-year graduation rate is 90.5 percent after rising continuously for four years

WDMCS also exceeded state rates in the following student subgroup categories: English Language Learners, Individualized Education Program, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, White, Female, and Male.

The WDMCS five-year graduation rate is 91.65 percent for the Class of 2014. The five-year graduation rate reflects students who were part of a graduating class but took an extra year to complete high school. They include students with disabilities and students in at-risk programs. The Iowa five-year graduation rate is 90.23 percent.

The WDMCS 9-12 dropout rate for 2013-14 was 2.43 percent. The rate reflects the percentage of students in grades 9-12 who drop out of school during a single year. The Iowa 9-12 dropout rate for 2013-14 is 2.7 percent.

For a more detailed report, visit the Iowa Department of Education website at https://www.educateiowa.gov/.

Start Date Update from April 1, 2015

A new bill setting August 23 as the first day of school for Iowa districts is headed to Governor Branstad’s desk to be signed into law. Media reports indicate that the governor is planning to sign the bill.

However, the state has not made a decision about the West Des Moines Community Schools’ request to start school on August 12. The state originally said that it would make a decision by April 15.

The district has three proposed school start dates: August 12, August 24, and August 30. The district’s current Board-approved start date is August 12, which was proposed after the district gathered input from the community about the 2015-16 school calendar. This option requires that the Iowa Department of Education approve a request to waive state law that currently states schools must start classes during the week of September 1.

The district proposed the August 24 and August 30 dates after school districts across the state were notified in December that the Iowa Department of Education would stop granting routine waivers to the school start date law. Public hearings on the two additional options were held on February 23. The School Board would need to approve one of the two dates before the district could set either one as the official start date.

The district will continue to provide updates about the start date as it receives information from the state.