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Valley Team Wins Iowa Knowledge Bowl Championship

One of two teams from Valley High School won the Iowa Knowledge Bowl Championship on Oct. 30, 2015. The team — made up of junior students Jacob Bedia, Cayden Codel, Chris Loyd, Gabriel Mintzer, and Aidan Morrow — defeated 11 other qualifying teams to take first place.

The team qualified through an online exam earlier in October. For the final rounds, they answered general knowledge questions in eight rounds of competition: one written round and seven oral rounds. Up to five students could participate in the written round, which consisted of 50 questions in 30 minutes. Four team members answered 22 questions in 15 minutes for the oral rounds.

The three highest-scoring teams at the end of eight rounds advanced to compete in the live championship round, which consisted of 40 oral questions.

Valley High School teacher Nathan Speichinger is the sponsor and coach for both Valley High School knowledge bowl teams. The team members each won a three-credit fee waiver for Des Moines Area Community College, as well as a team trophy and ribbons.

Shubham Tayal, Linh Tran, Joe Swanson, Jack Kinseth, and Varun Myneni made up the other Valley knowledge bowl team.


Both Valley knowledge bowl teams. Not pictured: Aidan Morrow. (Photo source: Nate Speichinger)


Valley Dance Team Regional Hip-Hop Champions

VHS-DanceTeam2The Valley High School varsity dance team earned first place in the hip-hop category at the Universal Dance Association (UDA) Iowa Dance Challenge on Saturday, Nov. 14, making them regional hip-hop champions in the UDA varsity category.

The hip-hop routine was one of two the Valley varsity dance team performed at the competition. They earned second place with their jazz routine. The Valley junior varsity dance team competed as well, earning second place with both their jazz and pom routines.

Five sophomore soloists from the team also performed at the competition. Ellie Willse earned first place, Allison Hutchinson took second place, Haley Buchanan placed third, Camryn Cline earned fifth place, and Gracie Bach took sixth place.

The Valley High School dance team competes across the country each year, representing the district at national competitions. The 2015-16 team is made up of 20 auditioned dancers and is coached by Nicole Barreca and Lyndsay Gold. In addition to competitions, the dance team performs at Valley High School football and basketball games, local parades, and school functions.



WDMCS Choirs Collaborate with Musicians for Winter Concerts

vhs-show-choir-1415West Des Moines Community Schools vocal music ensembles will feature district musicians in four concerts from Dec. 14–17. The concerts will showcase seasonal and traditional pieces, and popular songs from Broadway and the radio. All concerts are free and open to the public, and will be held in the Staplin Performing Arts Center at Valley High School, 3650 Woodland Ave., West Des Moines

The Stilwell Junior High seventh-grade choirs will present their Winter Concert at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 14. The treble clef choir, bass choir and a combined choir will all perform. Musical selections include “Winter Wonderland” as arranged by Joyce Eilers Bacak, Israeli folk song “Hava Hallelujah” and “Hooked on a Feeling,” the Blue Swede song recently heard in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” film.

The Stilwell Junior High eighth-grade vocal music concert will follow at 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 14. The treble clef, bass clef and combined choirs will perform. Selections include “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” featuring student instrumentalists, a medley from Disney’s “Newsies” and “Silent Night” as arranged by pop a cappella group Pentatonix.

The Valley High School and Valley Southwoods Freshman High School choirs will perform their concert at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 15. Valley’s Concert Choir, A Cappella Choir, Select Treble Clef Choir and combined choir will all perform, as well as the Treble Clef and Bass Clef choirs from Valley Southwoods. Song selections include “Piae Cantones” featuring percussion from Valley band students and “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen. Valley band student will be featured during “Gloria, Movement I” by John Rutter.

Valley Singers and Southwoods Singers, the auditioned show choirs, will also perform. Southwoods Singers will sing three pieces including “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” arranged by Jay Rouse and featuring WDMCS orchestra teacher and Des Moines Symphony member Michele Senger on cello. Valley Singers will perform “This House of Peace” accompanied by Valley orchestra students. This piece was commissioned in 2008 to celebrate the grand opening of the Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, Oregon. The text was drawn from quotes from Sacred Heart caregivers and patients and their families.

Indian Hills Junior High will present its Winter Choir Concert at 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 17. The seventh-grade choir, eighth-grade choir, treble clef choir and bass clef choir will be performing. Selections include “Yo Le Canto,” “Seize the Day,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

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Crestview School of Inquiry Power Restored

UPDATE, 11:42 a.m.: Power has been restored at Crestview School of Inquiry!

11:15 a.m.: Crestview School of Inquiry is currently experiencing a power outage. MidAmerican Energy has been contacted, and backup lights are being used. Phones at the school are currently working, but may not continue to work.  Updates can be found here on the district website and on the Crestview School of Inquiry Facebook page.


WDMCS Band and Orchestra Concerts Celebrate the Season

Detail Performing Arts CenterThree seasonal concerts from West Des Moines Community Schools ensembles herald the beginning of the winter season. The concerts will feature seasonal and popular pieces, as well as band and orchestra favorites. All concerts are free and open to the public. All but the Stilwell concert will be held in the Staplin Performing Arts Center at Valley High School, 3650 Woodland Ave., West Des Moines

The Stilwell Junior High orchestra and the junior high chamber orchestra will perform their Winter Concert at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8, in the Stilwell auditorium. Stilwell’s orchestra is the largest in the school’s history, with 108 members. The orchestra will perform “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from “The Nutcracker Suite” and several popular tunes, including “Stand by Me,” originally performed by Ben E. King. The chamber orchestra, a select group of students from Stilwell and Indian Hills junior high schools, will perform “Allegretto” from “The Creatures of Prometheus” by Ludwig van Beethoven and “Viva Violas!” by Richard Meyer, which will highlight the viola section.

All West Des Moines Community Schools students can begin studying orchestral music as early as fourth grade. All students have the opportunity to participate in small group and large group lessons, with advanced groups becoming available in sixth grade. Students are taught using an adapted Suzuki method that encourages active engagement between students, parents and teachers. The district’s high school orchestra programs consistently receive superior ratings at regional contests and have performed nationally and internationally.

The Indian Hills Junior High seventh- and eighth-grade bands will present their Winter Concert at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8. Musical selections include patriotic pieces like “Americans We” by Henry Fillmore and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The bands will also perform season pieces including “Jingle Bell Rock” and Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” Audience members will have the chance to donate to West Des Moines families in need at the concert.

The Valley High School Concert Ensemble and Symphony Band will join with the Valley Southwoods Band for the Winter Concert at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10. Musical selections include “Lux Aurumque” by Eric Whitacre, “Nobles of the Mystic Shrine” by John Philip Sousa and “Celtic Carol” by Robert W. Smith. The concert will also feature percussion ensembles from the Valley High School bands.

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Comic Art and Visual Storytelling, Grades 4-6

Want to learn how to create your own comic book or graphic novel? This hands-on class uses demonstration and lots of hands-on training to teach the basics of the entire creative process. This process includes concept, page layout, various pencil and ink techniques, as well as digital art. Class taught by Will Richer.

Mondays, 11/30-12/14 from 4:30-6:30 p.m., $42. Valley Southwoods Freshman High School, Room 254, #ADV09.

Register Online

Download Flyer (pdf)

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Western Hills Presents the “Lion King Kids” Iowa Premiere

Western Hills Elementary Drama will present the premiere Iowa performance of “Lion King Kids,” an elementary school adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Performances will be at 7 p.m. on Nov. 20, 3 and 6 p.m. on Nov. 21, and 3 p.m. on Nov. 22, in the Western Hills Elementary Gym, 600 39th St., West Des Moines.

Western Hills is the first Iowa elementary school to secure rights to perform “Lion King Kids.” Multiple ensembles of students in grades 2-6 make up the 75-person cast. Community volunteers have provided support for the production, directed by district parent Jim Miller. Musical numbers in the adaptation include “Circle of Life,” “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” “Be Prepared,” and other favorites from the 1994 film and the musical, now in its 17th year on Broadway. The set centers on a climbable Pride Rock, and handcrafted costumes from Coal City Middle School in Coal City, Illinois, include body-size puppets, masks, headpieces, and stilts.

This production is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International. The performance is free and open to the public, but will accept free will donations.



Valley High School Hosting Iowa Supreme Court

Valley High School will host the Iowa Supreme Court on Monday, Nov. 16. The court will hear oral arguments starting at 7 p.m. in the Staplin Performing Arts Center at Valley High School, 3650 Woodland Avenue, West Des Moines.

The court will hear oral arguments for one case: State of Iowa v. Donald Benjamin Earl Reed, case no. 13-0988, from Black Hawk County District Court. The Iowa Supreme Court stated in a news release that, “Defendant Donald Reed seeks further review of an Iowa Court of Appeals decision affirming his convictions on a variety of drug-related charges and affirming the sentence of 100 years imposed on him that was enhanced by a prior juvenile adjudication. Issues before the Iowa Supreme Court include whether the evidence at trial was sufficient to support the convictions, whether trial counsel was ineffective, and whether the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Iowa Constitution affords defendant an individualized evidentiary sentencing hearing.”

An oral argument guide and case briefs can be found on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at

A reception with the Iowa Supreme Court justices will be sponsored by the Polk County Bar Association and take place in the Staplin Center lobby following the oral arguments. The oral arguments and reception are both open to the public.


Feed the POD for the Food Bank of Iowa

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34 Musicians Selected for Iowa All-State Music Festival

The Valley High School and Valley Southwoods Freshman High School fine arts departments will have 34 students participate in the Iowa All-State Music Festival at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21, at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.

All-state band members:
Clarinet — Bradley Qin
Trombone — Jacob Bedia, Joe Brennan
Alto Saxophone — Matt Nicholson
Euphonium — Samanthan Shea
Alternates — Julian Castillo, oboe; Mitchel Smith, tuba; Noah Welch, tenor saxophone

All-state choir members:
Soprano —Sarah Clarke, Sofi Mandil, Linda Tong, Elizabeth Watson
Alto — Izzy Keoppel, Clara Lyden, Maddy Swaim
Tenor — David Bone, Matthew Hrdlicka, Conlin Lane, Derek Lutt, Josh Miksch, Anthony Reno
Bass — Sam Galligan, Luke Rustin, Owen Snyder, Jack Wilson

All-state orchestra members:
Violin — Elizabeth Ash, Victoria Cassady, Olympia Manning, Guowei Qi, Joe Reck
Viola — Aleia Manning
Cello — Cayden Codel, Kate Jaros, Ben Wiese
Bass — Matt Christensen, Jacob Swanson
Harp — Corinne Watters
Alternate — Brian Gu, violin

Tickets to the Iowa All-State Music Festival concert are $20, with an $18 group rate for orders of 20 or more tickets. Tickets can be purchased at the Iowa State athletic ticket office or online at The concert will also be shown on Iowa Public Television at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 26, and at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 29. For more information on the Iowa All-State Music Festival, visit the IHSMA All-State website.

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