District News

Free Back-to-School and Sports Physicals Available

Des Moines University is offering free back-to-school and sports physicals. Students entering grades pre-K–12 who are in need of physicals and do not have an established medical provider can received physicals, dental screenings, and immunizations as needed during two different sessions.

Services will be provided from 4–8 p.m. on Thursday, July 30, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, July 31, at the Children & Family Urban Movement Future Site, 1600 6th Ave., Des Moines, along the DART Local Route 15.

Students arriving without parents should bring a signed consent form with them. Participants will also receive a lunch bag with healthy snacks. Details and registration are provided online.

WDMCS Honored for Excellence in Financial Reporting

Image source: http://www.asbointl.org/

Image source: http://www.asbointl.org/

The West Des Moines Community Schools has received the Association of School Business Officials International’s (ASBO) Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting award for having met or exceeded the program’s high standards for financial reporting and accountability. The award, which is the 30th consecutive the district has received, was awarded for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014.

The WDMCS Business Services Department oversees a $154 million budget, working with representatives of the community and staff to ensure our funding supports student learning. The Certificate of Excellence award confirms the district’s commitment to financial accountability and transparency.

For more information on WDMCS Finance and Facilities, visit http://www.wdmcs.org/departments/facilities-and-finance/. Information on the Certificate of Excellence award can be found on ASBO’s website at www.asbointl.org/COE.

District Welcomes New Administrators

The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) have approved several new administrators for the 2015-16 school year. The new school administrators are for Valley High School, Jordan Creek Elementary, Westridge Elementary, Western Hills Elementary, Crossroads Park Elementary, and Hillside Elementary.

Erica Whittle is New Valley High School Associate Principal


Erica Whittle is the new associate principal of Valley High School, joining current associate principals David Maxwell and David Perrigo and the rest of the building staff.

Whittle was previously an instructional coach for technology integration in the Dallas Center-Grimes Community School District, where she served for five years. She also served as an eighth- and ninth-grade math and science teacher at the junior high and high school levels in the Dallas Center-Grimes district.

She received a master’s degree in technology integration from Graceland University and a bachelor’s degree in math and science education from Northwest Missouri State University. Whittle is completing her specialist degree from Drake University in education leadership.

Paul Wenger is New Jordan Creek Elementary Principal

PaulWenger-editedPaul Wenger is the Jordan Creek Elementary principal.

Wenger was previously an 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.

Nathan Ballagh is New Westridge Elementary Principal

ballaghn.jpgNathan Ballagh is the new Westridge Elementary principal.

Ballagh previously served at the Southeast Polk School district, where he worked for 11 years as an educator and administrator, most recently as junior high school administrator.

He 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 postgraduate at UNI, working to obtain his superintendent’s license.

George Panosh is New Western Hills Elementary Principal

GeorgePanoshGeorge Panosh is 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.

Tamara Tjeerdsma is New Jordan Creek, Westridge Assistant Principal


WDMCS teacher Tamara Tjeerdsma is the assistant principal at Jordan Creek and Westridge Elementary schools.

Tjeerdsma 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.

New Elementary Principal Assignments

Two veteran elementary school leaders have new principal roles in the district for the 2015-16 school year. The new school assignments will be for Crossroads Park and Hillside elementaries.

Dr. Robert Davis, former Hillside Elementary principal, is the principal of Crossroads Park Elementary. Graham Jones, former principal at Jordan Creek Elementary, is the Hillside Elementary principal.

How to Access Email

Over the holiday weekend, the district migrated out existing email from Microsoft Exchange/Outlook over to Google mail. The following information provides instructions on how to access email. 

File Petitions for School Board July 6-30

The school board represents the parents and citizens of our community. In the West Des Moines Community Schools, school board members are elected at-large, or represent the entire school district. They receive no compensation for their service.

Community Education Music Programs Inspire Students

It takes commitment to master a musical instrument, and there is no denying that many West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) students have the drive to do so. Valley High School orchestra and vocal music students recently performed at Carnegie Hall, and 38 WDMCS students earned seats in the 2014-15 Iowa All-State Music Festival. For many students, those successes started with one of three programs from WDMCS Community Education’s Summer of Learning.

Offered each summer for more than 20 years, Band Bash, Summer Strings, and Jazz Jam each provide instrumental music students with a place to advance their skills in the areas they are so passionate about.


Tuba students from Band Bash.

“My favorite part of teaching Band Bash is being able to work with the kids in a fun, no-pressure situation where most of the kids really want to be there,” WDMCS band teacher and Band Bash instructor Jon Lewis said. “We always have a lot of fun making music.”

The students’ love for music shows during each program’s rehearsal. They are attentive and engaged, reflecting the instructors’ enthusiasm. The groups are audibly excited when they are told to take out certain pieces of music. Students silently practice their parts while other sections rehearse, bows resting in the crooks of their elbows or fingers moving on silent trumpet keys.

Band Bash is a two-week program taught by Lewis and fellow WDMCS teacher Jake Strachan. It includes a rehearsal band, as well as private lessons. Private piano lessons with Courtney Copic were added for the first time this summer. The Summer Strings program is taught by WDMCS orchestra teachers Matt Meyer, Curtis Barr, Jeanne Caldwell, Abby Meyer, and Anne-Marie Webster. Private strings lessons this year are taught by Zo Manfredi, an adjunct instructor at Drake University.


Matt Meyer works with Summer Strings students.

The groups learn several pieces at a fast pace, but they always rise to the challenge. The rapid growth seen is partially due to the wide range of ages in each group. Band Bash is available to students in grades 6–12, and Summer Strings program has offerings for students entering grades 5–9.

“It is a great opportunity for our younger students to see what they can accomplish if they continue in our program and work hard,” Matt Meyer said. “It is also a good time for our older students to serve as role models for the younger kids and reflect on where they’ve been ability-wise on their instruments and how much they’ve improved and grown over the years.”

Both instructors agree the daily contact with students is also a factor, since students do not get instrumental music time every day during the school year. Students in the programs rehearse every day, and some take part in musicianship classes and sectional rehearsals.

The third program takes a more specific approach. Jazz Jam, hosted at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School this year, is for students who have an interest in jazz music. WDMCS band teacher Greg Simmons teaches the four-day Jazz Jam workshop, which introduces students entering grades 7-9 to different jazz styles, from blues to Latin and rock.


Jazz Jam students rehearse together.

“Band during the school year focuses on the large ensemble with a tiny amount of improvisation experience in jazz band,” Simmons explained. “Jazz Jam is designed to improve the individual student’s improvisation skills.”

Simmons then uses those skills to build students’ confidence. Each student plays solos in the pieces the group learns. Simmons said his favorite part of teaching the program is watching students’ performance ability grow during the workshop.

Confidence is just one of the things students gain from these WDMCS Community Education programs, and students recognize the value. The opportunity to develop their skills, while also meeting new friends with similar interests and fostering that all-important inner drive, is too much for many students to resist — not that anyone wants them to.

“It amazes me how many kids in our program want to spend every morning during the first two weeks of summer vacation playing their instruments,” Matt Meyer said.