District News

Life in the WDMCS 3/21/2016

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 School of Inquiry
Crestview School of Inquiry’s Tiger Choir performed their spring concert on March 1. The highlight was a medley of songs from the Broadway musical “Newsies”!

Crossroads Park Elementary
The Crossroads Park Elementary fifth- and sixth-grade chorus performed at Farm Bureau on March 9.

Crossroads Park Elementary English as a Second Language teachers hosted a Crafting Hour for students, where they created stuffed owls.

Hillside Elementary
First-grade students at Hillside Elementary are learning about geometry. They used straws and string to create different shapes and explore geometry basics.

Westridge Elementary
Westridge Elementary fifth-graders set up a wax museum on March 7, with each student representing a historical figure they had researched. Families and community members learned about a wide range of important people from Rosa Parks and Neil Armstrong to Gandhi and J.K. Rowling.

Valley High School
The Valley High School boys’ basketball team defeated Iowa City West 46-39 to become the 2016 Iowa Class 4A Champions on March 12. They celebrated their successful season in the Valley Field House after the game.

Severe Weather Awareness Week

March 21-25 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa.

Quick Weather Tips

  • Each school conducts regular tornado drills with students.
  • Review the “drop and tuck” procedure with your child at home.

Watch v. Warning

  • A watch indicates that a particular weather hazard is possible.
  • A warning indicates that a weather hazard is imminent or has been reported.

For more information about our safety practices, check your school handbook, available on your school’s website.

        Tips Printable                          en español


Iowa Teacher of the Year Nominations Due April 25

Thousands of talented Iowa educators lead and inspire their students, but only one is chosen annually as the Iowa Teacher of the Year. The annual award is an opportunity to recognize an exceptional Iowa teacher who is helping to redefine education. Anyone can nominate a teacher who is making a difference.

The deadline to nominate the 2017 Iowa Teacher of the Year is April 25. Nomination forms can be found on the Iowa Department of Education’s website.

The Teacher of the Year serves as an ambassador to education and as a liaison to primary and secondary schools, higher education, and organizations across the state.

Tamara Tjeerdsma, now assistant principal at Jordan Creek and Westridge elementary schools, was a finalist for the award in 2015. Valley Southwoods Freshman High School teacher Wade Petersen was a finalist for the award in 2016.

The 2017 Teacher of the Year will be announced this fall. The annual program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature.

Author to Give Slam-Dunking Poetry Presentation in West Des Moines

Alexander_Headshot2Just in time for the NCAA March Madness Final Four games, the West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) will host Kwame Alexander, author of the “The Crossover,” a novel about a teenage basketball player. Alexander will give a public reading and sign copies of his novel-in-verse at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 31 at the Staplin Performing Arts Center, Valley High School, 3650 Woodland Ave. in West Des Moines. This event is free and open to the public.

Alexander will also meet with West Des Moines Community Schools students from across the district on Friday, April 1.

Alexander is a poet, educator, and author of 21 books, including “The Crossover,” which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, and many other awards.

His other works include the award-winning children’s picture book “Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band,” recently optioned as a children’s television show, and the Junior Library Selection, “He Said She Said,” a YA novel.

wdmcs_reads_crossover_book_coverIn “The Crossover,” Alexander uses basketball as a hook to get young readers to read poetry. He believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his Book-in-a-Day literacy program, which has created more than 3,000 student authors at 69 schools across the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. A regular speaker and workshop presenter at conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love.

“The Crossover” is the inaugural selection of WDMCS Reads, a community reading program sponsored by the West Des Moines Community Schools. WDMCS Reads celebrates the “community” in the school district’s name by inviting the students and residents of West Des Moines, Clive, Urbandale and Windsor Heights to read and discuss the same book.

To learn more about WDMCS Reads and explore community-building ideas related to the program, visit www.wdmcs.org/wdmcs-reads/.

To learn more about Kwame Alexander, visit KwameAlexander.com.

See the event on Facebook

Valley Boy’s Basketball Team 2016 Class 4A Champions

Congratulations to Coach B.J. Windhorst and the Valley Boys’ Basketball team, the 2016 Iowa Class 4A Champions! The team bested Iowa City West 46-39 to take the title. Join the team for a celebration in the Valley Field House tonight!

Local Writers Win the WDMCS Reads Poetry Writing Contest

The West Des Moines Public Library and the West Des Moines Community Schools are excited to announce the winners of the WDMCS Reads Poetry Writing Contest.

The poetry contest is part of WDMCS Reads, reading initiative that invites residents our community to read and discuss the same book.

The winners of the poetry contest are:

  • Annabelle Penar, a student at Western Hills Elementary, is the winner of the kindergarten through third-grade category.
  • Luke Nelson, a student at Western Hills Elementary, is the winner of the fourth- through sixth-grade category.
  • Sydney Pearl, a student at Stilwell Junior High, is the winner of the seventh-eighth grade category.
  • Abby Ringgenberg,  a student at Valley Southwoods, is the winner of the ninth-grade category.
  • Isabella Avila, a student at Valley High School, is the winner of the 10th- through 12th-grade category.
  • Pamela Thomason of West Des Moines is the winner of the adult category.

The winners will receive a book by Newbery Medal-winning author Kwame Alexander courtesy of the West Des Moines Public Library. They will also have the opportunity to meet with Mr. Alexander during his visit to West Des Moines on March 31, 2016. Mr. Alexander’s book “The Crossover” is the inaugural selection for WDMCS Reads, and he will give a public reading and presentation at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, at the Staplin Performing Arts Center, Valley High School, 3650 Woodland Ave., in West Des Moines.

For more information about WDMCS Reads and the West Des Moines Community Schools, please visit www.wdmcs.org/wdmcs-reads. For more information about the West Des Moines Public Library, please visit www.wdmlibrary.org.


Fruit Smoothies, Freshly Baked Muffins, and Prizes Served Up March 7-10

WDMCS students can enjoy fruit smoothies and freshly baked muffins, win prizes, and celebrate the most important meal of the day at breakfast parties March 7-10.

Life in the WDMCS 3/7/2016

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 Learning Academy
Clive Learning Academy kindergartners got creative with paintbrushes to kick off March. They used materials like feathers, sponges, and pipe cleaners to make their own versions of the paintbrush, then tested their new inventions.

Hillside Elementary
The week of Feb. 29-March 4, students at Hillside Elementary celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday by participating in a variety of fun literacy activities. Students wrote Dr. Seuss-inspired pieces, read Dr. Seuss books together, and had the opportunity to dress up like their favorite Dr. Seuss characters.

Walnut Creek Campus
Students from Walnut Creek Campus participated in the Junior Achievement Stock Market Challenge on March 1. Each team competed to accumulate the highest possible net worth in their investment portfolio at the close of trading, with 60 seconds representing one day of trading in the stock market simulator. The Walnut Creek team at one point reached second place and got some valuable hands-on experience with the stock market simulation


New Payment System Online Today!

The new WDMCS Online Payment system is available today for families. The new online system is designed to provide a safe, convenient way to pay school fees, transportation fees, and add money to your child’s nutrition account.

To use the new system, please make sure you have an Infinite Campus account. If you don’t have an account or are unsure, please contact your child’s school and the office staff will be happy to help you.

Click here for a list of school phone numbers

The new online payment system allows you to see school fees or fines and transportation fees that may be due.

To check nutrition account balances, view purchases, set restrictions, or set up low balance reminders, please visit the Nutrition Department’s ParentOnline system. You can also download the ParentOnline app through the iTunes app store or Google Play.  You may then add money to your child’s nutrition account through WDMCS Online Payments.

Click here for WDMCS Online Payments

If you have questions about WDMCS Online Payments, balances, transaction fees, or other account-related questions, please call 633-5000 and ask for the Business Services Department.

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding the Teenage Brain, Part II

Understanding the Teenage Brain, Part II: Tips for Connecting with Your Teenager

The first part of our “Understanding the Teenage Brain” series emphasized the importance of connecting with your teenage child. When a family is connected, a teenager can safely experiment with autonomy and try new things. That experimentation is an important part of teenagers becoming successful, independent adults.

As all parents and guardians know, building and maintaining a relationship with a teenager can be easier said than done. We talked about ways adults can reach teens with Valley High School counselor Karla Hardy; district teacher-leader Carrie Jacobs; and two representatives from the Youth Justice Initiative’s Resiliency Project, Ashlee Swinton and Clarice Wireman.

Ten Tips for Connecting with Your Teenager

1. Believe in your family.

Our sources encouraged parents and guardians to be confident in their own skills. Hardy reminds parents and guardians that they are not defined by their children, and children are not defined by their actions. No one parents perfectly, and no one does it the exact same way. You have to find the right style for you and your family.

2. Foster the connection.

Make it a priority to keep the connection with your child healthy and open. Ways to do that include:

— Volunteering as a family. Service works gives families a common goal and a tie to the community.
— Family game night. Some research suggests playing rule-based games helps kids learn about boundaries, societal norms, and self-regulation. When the whole family plays, it is a great chance to bond and make positive memories.
— Have family dinner. This one can be hard to accomplish consistently. Do your best to make time for it, even just once a week. Try brunch or lunch on the weekends if that works better for your family’s schedule.

It is a great idea to build this connection early in your child’s life. Routines like cuddling at bedtime and reading are a good place to start. If you feel your family has lost its connection, there is always time to rebuild. Use these ideas, or look into family classes through the Youth Justice Initiative or Employee and Family Resources.

3. Hold on to your humanity.

As a parent, it is easy to start thinking you have to do it all and know it all without making mistakes. This is impossible, and teens will often see through the facade of perfection.

“This generation has amazing soft skills,” Hardy said. “They have such an intuitive side, and they figure things out. We don’t need to hide from them.”

When appropriate, ask your kids what they would do in your shoes. Do not be afraid to tell them you feel unsure.

“Especially when you get to the teen years, it’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know,’” Jacobs said. “It makes you more human to them.”

4. Make expectations clear.

Teenagers and adults perceive things differently. Prevent conflicts by meeting as a family to set values and expectations.

“Make expectations clear and realistic,” Swinton said. “That realistic part is so important.”

She used the example of a clean bedroom. Saying “Clean your room” creates questions: When should it be cleaned? What does “clean” really mean? Instead, say, “Your cousin is staying over this weekend, so please clean your room by Friday night. It should be clean enough that your cousin can sleep on the floor.” You can also set clear lists of tasks, like picking up, making the bed, and doing the laundry.

Also make your expectations clear to other parents and guardians. Talk about your rules, their rules, and what your kids are doing at each house.

5. Tackle the tough topics.

Not all topics are easy to talk about. Conversations about sex, substances, and the future are all important, and all notorious for shutting kids down. The best way to get past their embarrassment is modeling nonchalance.

”If you act like you’re nervous, they’re going to be nervous,” Jacobs said. “They read you more than you think they do.”

After a good conversation, remind your child they can talk to you. Establish yourself as a judgment-free resource for them from the beginning. If you want, have the conversation while driving. Your kids will not be able to leave the conversation, but they also will not have to hold direct eye contact, which can be intimidating.

“Don’t underestimate the value of time in the car with your kids,” Wireman said. “Those are moments of connection if you don’t get caught up with being on the run.”

6. Listen.

There is a lot of guidance for parents on how to talk to their teens. Do not forget the importance of listening.

“What’s helped the most is acknowledging, ‘Yes, I see the struggle. I understand,’” Jacobs said. “Offer the logical here-and-now pieces when they start questioning the big concepts.”

Remember, heightened emotions make everything seem like life or death to your child. Something important to them, should be important to you. You may need to offer some perspective, but teens might reach the same conclusion on their own if you listen.

“When they feel that space clear, they’ll start to talk,” Hardy said. “They’ll want to fill that space.”

7. Balance responsibilities and boundaries.

Find a happy medium between total control and out of control. Teens are testing boundaries, and to some extent, that helps them.

“The whole purpose of this age is to start developing their own autonomy,” Jacobs explained. “It’s this constant push and pull between parent and child.”

Parents know that back and forth is exhausting, and it can be tempting to give in. However, having no structure and few rules can make it harder for teens to grow and learn about adult life safely.

“As they get older, it’s okay to give more and more responsibilities,” Wireman said. “There’s also a time when we have to set some boundaries and be consistent with them.”

8. Keep your cool.

It can be hard not to react in the moment, but it might save you an argument in the end. Don’t hesitate to “cool off” before talking.

“Kids read emotions a huge percent higher than what adults do,” Swinton said. “As an adult, I can filter through the emotion and read the message. Kids can’t do that.”

This means that, instead of hearing what an adult says, teens will hear anger or frustration. Do not deny your emotions, but set aside time to process them, then come back and discuss with your child.

Plan a simple catch-all response like, “I want to talk about this, but I can’t right now. Let’s talk about it in two hours.” You can also use some standard responses for frequently revisited topics. If you do take time to cool off, set a time frame for returning to the discussion. That way, the issue will not get lost in the shuffle.

9. Let your family move on.

If you do run into an issue, do not let it take over your family. Deal with it, then move forward. “Remind them: ‘You’re going to make mistakes and screw up, but it’s going to be okay,’” Jacobs said.

This does not mean letting things go. Teens need to understand consequences to become successful adults, so correct behaviors, but do not hang on to issues. Set and keep limits, but do not let times they are broken define your family. This will also help parents and guardians stay in a non-anxious state when interacting with teens.

“Parents who parent out of fear don’t get the results they want,” Wireman said.

10. It isn’t personal.

When it feels like your child is disobeying you on purpose or trying to hurt you, remember that many of those behaviors come from changes in the brain that have nothing to do with your parenting.

“We can talk to them about it all we want to, but they can’t learn it any faster,” Swinton said. No matter how many times you talk them through it, your teen will still be impulsive, emotional, adaptable, accepting, and risk-taking, until their brain develops fully.

Helpful Teenage Children Serving Food To Parents In KitchenAt the end of the day, it is all about helping your kids become successful adults, and the most important thing you can do is love and support them.

“We all want happy, content kids,” Wireman said. “You can’t shower too much love and care on them. People worry about spoiling kids, but you can’t spoil them with love.”


For more information on talking to your teen and connecting your family, check out these resources, which will be updated periodically:

Social Media Tips for Families

Youth Justice Initiative

Employee and Family Resources

The Age of Opportunity