District News

beBetter Health Begins October 1, 2015

WDMCS is launching the 2015-16 Wellness Program tomorrow Oct. 1, 2015. This year will bring exciting new programs and challenges, and even more on-site wellness activities.

New for the 2015-16 WDMCS Wellness Program, employees who complete the requirements of the program will receive cash! Cash incentives will be issued and taxed in the June 6, 2016 paycheck. All employees on the WDMCS health plan are eligible to earn up to $275. The first challenge of the year will begin Oct. 19. Register for the No Gym, No Problem Challenge beginning Oct. 1. This challenge encourages you to spend four weeks jump-starting your muscle training by focusing on each of the important muscle groups using convenient, inexpensive exercises.

Everyone can benefit from these routines, whether you are a beginner or a workout regular. Complete the program requirements to earn 100 Wellness Points.

beBetter Health

Life in the WDMCS 09/28/2015

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.


David J. Brown, Liz Cox, Melinda Dunnwald, and Jill Caton Johnson, Ph.D., have officially been elected to the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education.

The Polk County Auditor’s Office conducted the official vote canvass on Friday, Sept. 11, and the elected Board members were sworn into office Monday, Sept. 21.

Crestview School of Inquiry

Crestview School of Inquiry preschool students have been studying trees this year. As part of the unit, students have been discovering different parts of the trees and outside and studying them.

Valley High School

Journalists from 20 countries visited a Valley High School Advanced Placement (AP) World History class on Friday, Sept. 25. They visited Iowa as part of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, which brings professionals who have been identified as having contributed to the progress of their field to the U.S. Each reporter met with students in two AP World History classes taught by Kelsey Hudson and two American Heritage classes taught by Greg Hudson and Cameron Gale.  The reporters were from Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, China, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Italy, Nigeria, Paraguay, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Taiwan, Tunisia, and Turkey.

Valley Hosts International Journalists

news_VHS_InternationalJournalists3Valley High School sophomore Jade Miller has yet to travel the world, but she and other social studies students recently experienced international relations when journalists from 20 countries visited her Advanced Placement (AP) World History class.

“It was cool to learn about where they come from and the politics of their country,” Miller said.

The journalists visited Iowa as part of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, which brings professionals who have been identified as having contributed to the progress of their field to the U.S.

news_VHS_InternationalJournalists5The reporters were from Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, China, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Italy, Nigeria, Paraguay, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Taiwan, Tunisia, and Turkey.

The goal of the visit was to learn more about the
U.S. political system and highlight the significance of a free and independent press to the democratic process. During their three-week visit, the journalists visited several states and the District of Columbia.

They also wanted to visit with students here in Iowa to get their perspective of life in America and its political system.

news_VHS_InternationalJournalists4After arriving at Valley, each reporter met with two to three students in two AP World History classes taught by Kelsey Hudson and two American Heritage classes taught by Greg Hudson and Cameron Gale.

The conversations between the teenagers and veteran reporters covered topics ranging from the prevalence of Starbucks and McDonalds in America to international politics and the current U.S. presidential candidate campaigns.

news_VHS_InternationalJournalists6“It was good to hear that high school sophomores can be interested in global issues,” said Serkan Demirtas, Ankara Bureau Chief of the Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.

Kelsey Hudson isn’t surprised by her students’ interest. “Global
understanding is the goal of the course, which is an elective,” she said. “But to have a global influence like these conversations is amazing.”

Dunnwald Earns Governor’s Volunteer Award


Dunnwald receives her award from Governor Terry Branstad.

Melinda Dunnwald volunteered 193 hours at Jordan Creek Elementary and Stilwell Junior High during the 2014-15 school year. She helped with activities including the Jordan Creek Kids Care Club, Backpack Buddies, and the Stilwell drama productions. Dunnwald also volunteers with organizations including West Des Moines Human Services, Joppa Outreach, and the Puppy Jake Foundation. Dunnwald has more than fulfilled the requirements for the district’s Silver Cord volunteer award, but she is not a student. Dunnwald is a district parent.

Dunnwald, who was recently elected to the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education, does not have a main volunteer project or cause. She prefers to follow community needs. She will check different Internet resources, look up national observances to find time-sensitive needs, and cold-call organizations to see what they need help with most. The research takes time, and she did recognize that not every family can commit the amount of time hers does to volunteering. She recommends starting small.

“Teachers are trying to help our students for the common good, so parents can start in the home and the classroom,” Dunnwald said. “Start with your own child.”


Dunnwald’s daughter cleaning a school with her friends.

Dunnwald’s children were part of the Jordan Creek Kids Care Club and other service projects in elementary school, and they volunteer with Dunnwald outside of school at places likes Meals from the Heartland. They may be champion volunteers now, but she taught them about volunteering through household chores — things as small as doing the dishes. By guiding her children to see how those small actions impacted the family, she turned chores into acts of service. When they were ready to expand outside of their home, she started with their school.

“Every school has a way to get involved,” she said. She added, “Talk to parent groups, guidance counselors, and the secretaries. They all know the needs in the school because they see it firsthand.”


Dunnwald’s son and his friends at the Heart Connection drive.

The family reflects on its volunteer work now the same way it reflected on chores when the children were younger. She still has to give her children the occasional nudge, but they love experiences where they can interact with people, do something active, and see the impact they are having.

“I don’t want to force them to do anything. That’s my big goal, is that they want to and don’t ‘have’ to,” Dunnwald explained. “They feel so good after they help others that they want to do more.”

Dunnwald encourages families to view volunteering as an opportunity to meet new people, socialize, and do something together. Families should play to their strengths. Some will find it easier to commit to one passion project, while others will want to try different things.

Dunnwald received the Governor’s Volunteer Award for her service this year. She was nominated by Barb Tigges, the Jordan Creek Elementary school counselor. Tigges has worked closely with Dunnwald, especially through the Jordan Creek Kids Care Club.


Dunnwald with her family.

“Melinda is quick to roll up her sleeves and help out on a moment’s notice for any need that may arise and always does it with a cheerful smile that radiates sunshine to all who are blessed to know her,” Tigges said in her nomination letter. “She is a true joy-maker, and is very worthy of being recognized by the Governor for this prestigious honor.”

Dunnwald was honored to receive the award, but quick to point out that it was non-competitive and that she was one of many recipients. For her, volunteering is not anything outstanding; it is more like a way of life.

“It was Barb’s way to say thank you to me,” Dunnwald said. “It’s nice to be honored, but I don’t need the recognition. It’s more fulfilling than anything I’ve ever done.”

No matter how each family approaches volunteering and engagement, for Dunnwald, the most important part is helping others and teaching her children to see value in that. Personally, she sees the value in all types of family engagement, from checking over homework to volunteering almost 200 hours each year. Dunnwald is a stand-out when it comes to family engagement and volunteering, but she is quick to remind people there is no “right way” to volunteer.

Please note: This article was written in July 2015, then held until after the school board election to avoid influencing voters. Dunnwald was elected to the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education in September 2015. She will be sworn into office Monday, Sept. 21, 2015.

What Do They Do? Teacher Training Day Explained

PD-2014-1Monday, Sept. 21, will be a day off for students, but teachers across the district will be hard at work. The day will provide teachers extended time to:

  • analyze current student work and assessments,
  • identify the needs of individual students, and
  • share ideas and strategies across grade levels or subject areas to help students grow academically.

They will do this work in professional learning communities, or PLCs, which are small groups structured around three key ideas — “Learning for All,” “A Culture of Collaboration,” and “Results Oriented.”

The district will also offer training for elementary teachers on science curriculum. District and community experts will lead breakout sessions for secondary teachers on topics such as:

  • Culturally Responsive Teaching
  • Working with Refugee and Immigrant Students and Families: Mini-Panel Discussion
  • Youth Mental Health
  • Growing Gifts and Talents
  • Working with LGBTQ Youth and Families: Mini Panel Presentation and Discussion

PD-2014-2Teachers will be able to put their day-long learning directly into action when students come back to school on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

“The greatest impact we can have as a learning organization is to provide our educators with choices through PLCs and learning offerings focused on our diverse learners,” said West Des Moines Community Schools Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Dr. Laurene Lanich.

Plan ahead!

Make sure to place the upcoming professional development dates on your calendar. School will not be held on these days:

  • January 18, 2016
  • February 26, 2016
  • April 29, 2016


School Board Members Take Oath of Office

​​The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education will hold​ ​a reception for school board members, and its annual and ​organizational ​meetings on​ ​Monday, Sept. 2​1 in the Community Room at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines. These meetings are open to the public.

The reception will honor school board members concluding their terms of service and those beginning new terms and will start at 6:30 p.m. The annual meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m., with the organizational meeting directly following. At the organizational meeting, new board members ​Liz Cox, Melinda Dunnwald, and Jill Caton Johnson, Ph.D., and re‐elected member ​David J. Brown will take the oath of office. In addition, the board will elect a president and vice president for the 201​5‐1​6 year.


Annual Meeting Agenda

I. Call to Order

II. Roll Call

III. Open Forum

IV. Consent Agenda

A. Consent – Minutes

B. Consent – Personnel

C. Consent – Bills for Payment

D. Consent -​​ Donations

E. Consent – Student Trip Request

F. Consent – Student Trip Request

G. Consent – Student Trip Request

H. Consent – Student Trip Request

I. Consent – Student Trip Request

J. Consent – Student Trip Request

K. Consent – Student Trip Request

V. Superintendent’s Report

VI. Board Members’ Reports

VII. Open Enrollment

VIII. 2015-16 Title I Grant Application

IX. Early Retirement

X. Contracts

A. Student Teaching and Practicum Agreement for Northwestern College


C. Midwest Tix

D. Valley United Methodist Church

E. Iowa Department of Public Safety – DCI

F. Solution Tree

XI. Fiscal Year 2015 SBRC Allowable Growth Requests

A. ELL Deficit

B. Special Education Deficit

XII. Annual Settlement Depository Bank Balances

XIII. Financial Report – June 2015

XIV. Bills for Payment – Competitive Edge

XV. Abstract of Votes

XVI. Request for Closed Session – Iowa Code 21.5 (c)

XVII. Request to Reconvene Open Session

XVIII. Request Motion for Item Discussed in Closed Session

XIX. Adjournment

​Organizational Meeting Agenda

I. Call to Order

II. Roll Call

III. Oath of Office – Newly & Re-elected Board Members

IV. Elect School Board President

V. Elect School Board Vice President

VI. Open Forum

VII. Appoint IASB Delegate Assembly Representative

VIII. Resolution of Certification AEA Director District 9

IX. Appoint School Community Network Representative(s)

X. Appoint West Des Moines Community Schools Foundation Representative(s)

XI. Adjournment​​

All About Homecoming 2015

Homecoming 2015: September 28–October 3

Homecoming festivities start next week and include many districtwide activities for our schools, WDMCS families, and the entire community. This year’s Homecoming theme is “Under the Big Top.”


Main events include:

Tuesday, Sept. 29: Powder Puff Football, 7 p.m., Valley Stadium

Thursday, Oct. 1: Homecoming Parade, 5:45 p.m., starts at Valley Southwoods; Tiger Carnival and $5 Barbecue, 6:15 p.m., Valley Stadium (rain location: Valley Southwoods)

Homecoming Parade Registration (due Thursday, Sept. 24)

Homecoming Parade Route Map (UPDATED to show Fuller Road start location)


Friday, Oct. 2: Homecoming Football Game vs. Council Bluffs Lincoln, 7 p.m., Valley Stadium

Saturday, Oct. 3: Homecoming Dance, 8-11 p.m., Iowa Fairgrounds Varied Industries Building (Attire: No hats, chains, canes, athletic wear, or costumes.)


Some Valley High School-specific events are: 

Download the Poster

Dress-up Days

  • Monday: America Day (Wear stars, stripes, etc.)
  • Tuesday: Twin Day (Grab a friend and pretend to be twins for the day by dressing alike.)
  • Wednesday: Color Wars (Reminder: Seniors wear blue, juniors wear red, sophomores wear green, freshman wear yellow, and staff wear purple.)
  • Thursday: Throwback Day (Find some retro threads and throw it back to different eras of fashion.)
  • Friday: Tiger Spirit Day (Wear tiger spirit wear to get ready for the Homecoming football game.)

There will also be a Homecoming assembly and a DJ at lunch at Valley on Friday, Oct. 2.


Homecoming Court

Congratulations to the 2015 Homecoming Court!

Congratulations to the 2015 Homecoming Court!

The Homecoming Queen 2015 candidates are Lauren Blosser, Theresa Doheny, Samantha Ellis, Elizabeth Watson, and Paige Weiand. Homecoming King 2015 candidates are Trevor Fletcher, Harrison Schaeuble, Cory Schneider, Turner Scott, and Carlo Marble. Homecoming King and Queen will be crowned during halftime of the Valley vs. Hoover Homecoming football game on Friday.

Secondary Parent-Teacher Conference Tips

Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up at many of the WDMCS secondary schools. We talked to some district teacher-leaders to get the top tips for how to navigate your child’s conferences.

  1. Review your student’s grades on Infinite Campus ahead of time, so you have specific talking points and questions. You can even bring a printout for each class.
  2. Don’t forget to meet with your child’s entire team of teachers. Junior high team conferences may be in one location with elective teachers in another; make sure not to miss them. If you have questions, ask your student’s teachers.
  3. It is not required, but you are welcome to bring your student. This often helps prevent any confusion between the teacher, parent, and student, and it gives students a sense of positive ownership. If you are unsure if your student should attend, ask one of his or her teachers.

The most important thing parents and guardians can do is attend conferences. Watch for messages that explain the conference procedure, and note if you need to schedule any conferences in advance. If you have questions, email one of your student’s teachers.

What is the CogAT and Why Do We Take It?

Third-grade West Des Moines Community Schools students started taking the Cognitive Abilities Test, or CogAT, on Sept. 14, 2015. Sixth-grade students will take the test starting Sept. 28. We wanted to answer some common questions about the CogAT and help families feel more prepared to support their students during testing.

What Is the CogAT Test?

The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) is a group of ability tests that are used together to assess students’ abilities in reasoning and problem-solving using verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal (spatial) symbols. It was authored in 2001 by David F. Lohman and Elizabeth P. Hagen. The WDMCS currently uses CogAT Form 7.

How Can I Help My Child Prepare?

We talked to Dr. Kristine Milburn, the WDMCS ELP Professional Development/Curriculum Facilitator, about how students and families can prepare for the CogAT. Some things to remember:

  • The CogAT is a cognitive abilities test designed to test aptitude, or natural ability. There is no need to do extra preparation. Some teachers may provide practice tests in class the week before, and no other studying or preparation is necessary.
  • Make sure your child is well-rested and eats a good breakfast the day of the test.
  • If your child seems nervous about taking the CogAT, or testing in general, encourage confidence and provide some relaxation techniques they can use during the test. Go over these tips for dealing with test-stress from pbskids.org and the Jackson Public Schools with your child. The tips are student-friendly, and easy to understand and implement on test day.

How Do We Use the Results?

The test is primarily used to assess students’ reasoning abilities linked to academic success. When administered with The Iowa Tests, the CogAT can also provide predicted achievement scores. The data gathered from the tests inform instructional practices that best meet the needs of each student and expand educational opportunities for all students. Educators can use the Ability Profile Score to make important decisions about placing students in different learning programs such as the Extended Learning Program.

To learn more about teaching and learning in the WDMCS district, visit our ‘Academics’ pages.


School Board Reception Sept. 21

The Wes Des Moines Community School District will hold a reception on Monday, Sept. 21 from 6:30-7 p.m. honoring its school board members who are concluding their service and those who are beginning a new term. The reception will be held  at the Learning Resource Center (3550 Mills Civic Parkway) in West Des Moines and is open to the public.

The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education will welcome new members Liz Cox, Melinda Dunnwald, and  Dr. Jill Johnson. They will join the seven-member board, which will also include newly re-elected member David J. Brown and members Elizabeth Brennan, Tali Greenspon, and Dr. Vicky Poole.

H. Milton Cole-Duvall, Andi Lipman, and Dr. Kevin Carroll are concluding their terms on the school board. Cole-Duvall served the district for eight years, and Lipman and Carroll both served four years.

For more information about the school board, please visit www.wdmcs.org/district/our-school-board.