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Valley Student Achieves Perfect ACT Score

GabrielMintzer-CampusGabriel L. Mintzer, the son of Michael Mintzer and Alla Mintzer-Zaprudsky of West Des Moines and a junior at Valley High School, earned a top composite score of 36 on the ACT test, according to ACT, Inc. This is the highest score possible on the college readiness exam.

Mintzer is one of only 14 students statewide to achieve this distinction during the 2014-15 academic year. The national number of students earning a composite score of 36 varies from year to year, but roughly one-tenth of one percent receive a top score.

The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science. Each test is scored on a scale of 1-36, and a student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores.

At 22.2, Iowa has the second-highest average ACT composite score in the nation among states that test a majority of their graduating seniors. The national average is 21.0. Valley High School’s average composite score exceeds both state and national averages at 24.2. This is based on the scores of all graduating seniors in 2014-15, which is the most recent data.

Mintzer is the co-founder and co-director of the Des Moines Student-to-Student Speaker Series, which provides students with monthly lectures given by STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) professionals. Mintzer is a member of the Valley High School science and knowledge bowl teams, and the Central Academy mathematics team. He is also a member of Valley High School’s National Honor Society chapter.


Valley High School Presents “The Crucible”


Valley High School’s Theatre Department presents Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” a fictional retelling of the Salem Witch Trials, as its fall play.

Directed by Valley drama teacher Stacy Hansen, “The Crucible” features seniors Masha Smirnova as Betty Parris, Matthew Hrdlicka as Reverend Samuel Parris, Pearl Tate as Tituba, and Lily DeTaeye as Abigail Williams. Valley High School and Valley Southwoods Freshman High School students and staff make up the rest of the cast, crew and musicians, with seniors Kathryn Catellier as head stage manager, Grant Hillenbrand as head production assistant, Cody Thompson as master carpenter, and Sam Berry as master electrician. Senior Curtis Craven is featured as a drummer, and senior Olympia Manning will be performing as a violinist.

Performances are at 7 p.m. on Nov. 6 and Nov. 7, and at 3 p.m. on Nov. 8, in the Staplin Performing Arts Center, Valley High School, 3650 Woodland Ave., West Des Moines. Tickets are $7 and $10, and can purchased through MIDWESTIX at or by calling 515-244-2771.

This play is presented through special arrangement with the Dramatists Play Service, Inc., in New York. Don’t miss out on your chance to see it!

Full Cast and Crew List



Valley High School Community Forum Oct. 27

Valley High School will hold its fifth community forum on racism and acceptance at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27. The forum will be held in the Media Center at Valley, 3650 Woodland Avenue, in West Des Moines.

Building administrators will provide information about the school’s ongoing efforts to increase acceptance of all individuals and combat racism in our community and schools. They will update attendees on an equity study Iowa State University is conducting with Valley and will gather input on this work.

For more information, please call Valley High School at 633-4000.


2016-17 School Calendar Public Hearing Oct. 26

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Staplin Performing Arts Center Dedication Nov. 12

UPDATE, Nov. 17, 2015: The Staplin Performing Arts Center was dedicated on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Below is a video of the full ceremony.


From Oct. 14, 2015: Join the West Des Moines Community Schools for a celebration of the arts as our community dedicates the Staplin Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12. This event is free and open to the public.

The dedication honors Dr. Phyllis Staplin, who served as a district curriculum director for 33 years and provided enduring support to every facet of the district’s fine arts program.

The evening will feature a student art exhibit, a youth dance showcase, and performances by Valley band, drama, orchestra, and vocal students.



Fall Band Concert Features Pieces by Barber, Shostakovich

The Valley High School Band Department presents the 2015 Fall Concert at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at the Staplin Performing Arts Center. This event is free and open to the public.

The Valley Symphony Band, under the direction of Josh Waymire, will feature “Ride” by Samuel Hazo, “Sure on the Shining Night” by Samuel Barber, and “Festive Overture” by Dimitri Shostakovich. Concert Ensemble, under the direction of Greg Simmons, will perform “Summer in Central Park” by Frank Bencriscutto, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” arranged by Steve Rouse, and “Novo Lenio,” also by Samuel Hazo.

The Valley High School band program has distinguished itself at numerous local, regional and national events. Students may participate in any number of individual and small group music opportunities, including the IHSMA All-State Band, SCIBA Honor Band, Drake Honor Band, Perry Band Olympics and the IHSMA Solo and Ensemble Festival.

At the West Des Moines Community Schools, all students can begin taking band as early as fifth grade. All fifth-grade students are introduced to band instruments through a presentation by elementary band instructors. The potential band students have an opportunity to try out several instrument options. Weekly half-hour lessons are available during the school day with large group rehearsals during the noon hour in fifth grade and before school in sixth grade.



Band, Choir Collaborate for Fall Concert

The Valley Southwoods Freshman High School Vocal Music and Band Departments will present their 2015 Fall Concert at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at the Staplin Performing Arts Center. This event is free and open to the public.

The Valley Southwoods chamber choir, Southwoods Singers, will perform songs from the OPUS Honor Choir, including “Ubi Caritas” by Richard Kidd; “Gift to be Simple,” arranged by Bob Chilcott; and a selection from “Three Songs from a Shropshire Lad” by Rhobert Rhein. The choir will be under the direction of Southwoods choir director Heather Nail and student teacher Chloe Peterson. The freshman concert band, under new band director Samantha Beeman, will highlight the Halloween season with “Abracadabra” by Frank Ticheli, as well as the programmatic piece “Mt. Everest,” and “Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite,” Karl King’s well-known circus march.

The Valley Southwoods Freshman High School band program has distinguished itself at local, regional, and national events. Students may participate in various individual and small group music opportunities. The vocal music department offer a wide range of experiences for students interested in vocal music. The Valley Southwoods choirs are Treble Clef, Bass Clef, and the Valley Southwoods Singers. Each ensemble presents three to four concerts a year. The choirs also attend state and regional festivals and contests, and have opportunities to perform nationally and internationally.


Valley Students Earn Top AP Awards

Recent Valley High School graduate Ojas Pradhan was named a State AP Scholar, making him one of two top Advanced Placement Program® (AP) students in the state. The College Board also recognized 181 other Valley High School students for their high achievement through AP courses and on AP Exams taken in May 2015. The following Valley students were named AP Scholars for 2015:

1 State AP Scholar (one male and one female student in each U.S. state and the District of Columbia with scores of 3 or higher on the greatest number of AP Exams, and then the highest average score [at least 3.5] on all AP Exams taken): Ojas Pradhan

Pradhan graduated from Valley High School in May 2015. He was a 2015 National Merit Scholarship finalist, student body president, captain of the Valley swim team, and a student panelist during a Valley community forum on race relations. Pradhan was also one of 10 Iowa students named to the Des Moines Register’s All-State Academic Team in 2015 and honored as a National AP Scholar in 2014.

10 National AP Scholars (students in the United States who receive an average score of at least 4 on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams): Suryatej Akavaram, Aaron Buelow, Alexis Faust, Lawrence Feng, Haley Gion, Sunita Kolareth, Michael Litscher, Kellen O’Connor, Ojas Pradhan, Rishi Shah

57 AP Scholars with Distinction (Granted to students who receive an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams): Abid Kaamil, Suryatej Akavaram, Hanna Anderson, Julia Anderson, Keara Anonson, Mason Berg, Joseph Brennan, Robert Bruinekool, Aaron Buelow, Victoria Cassady, Julian Castillo, Jacquelyne Chu, Nolan Dahm, Keaton Denker, Camryn Dreyer, Ethan Eiler, Alexis Faust, Lawrence Feng, Liam Fultz, Katie Galles, Haley Gion, Zachary Graves, Alina Husain, Alexander Johnson, Philip Kiely, Elsa Klein, Sunita Kolareth, Alexa Kort, Isaac Kuennen, Michael Libin, Dani Lipman, Michael Litscher, Savannah Mendenhall, Gabriel Mintzer, Charles Napier, Quinn Nolin, Kellen O’Connor, Jack Ohringer, Jared Paine, Lauren Pfeil, Ojas Pradhan, Danielle Reyes, Gregory Rinn, Anja Schepp, Gina Scorpiniti, Risha Shah, William Sipfle, Alissa Smith, Megan Smith, Benjamin Swanson, Ryan Thompson, Samuel Throm, Arun Velamuri, Ravjot Virdi, Satya Yaramati, Samantha York, Brianne Zbylicki

37 AP Scholars with Honor (Granted to students who receive an average score of at least 3.25 on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams): Andrew Austin, Emma Avdic, Jacob Bedia, Alejandro Buentello, Michael Carroll, Bailey Cook, Victoria Cunningham, Kathryn Daft, Collin Franzen, Michael Gerot, Benjamin Hendel, Emma Carolyn Kazeze, Madelyn Lemons, Mary Lowe, Brandon Luong, Rachel Matera, Connor Nealon, Nicole Nucaro, Isabelle Pierotti-May, John Rafferty, Elizabeth Reed, Bradley Rhein, Jake Rodgers, Aimee Rodin, Daniel Savage, Adam Shepherd, Bridget Shoemaker, Abigail Smith, Caroline Stump, Nolan Underwood, John Vincent, Mackenzie Vos, Liuchang Wang, Cooper Warner, Elizabeth Watson, Michael Welch, Benjamin Wiese

89 AP Scholars (Granted to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams): Marisa Anfinson, Elizabeth Ash, Claudia Athens, Nicholas Behrends, Brandon Blythe, Ann Braverman, Dinka Brdar, Jessica Brown, Hannah Burke, Emily Carr, Cayden Codel, Collin Coffey, Lauren Conte, Susannah Crichton, Rachel Cron, John Danos, Anna Davidson, Hunter Feldman, Trent Gilbert, Jeffrey Goetz, Ann Gould, Edi Gracanin, Joseph Grasso, Melissa Grinvalds, Brian Gu, Grant Gullickson, Ashley Hambrick, Nicholas Hawkins, Grant Hillenbrand, Sean Hilzendeger, Jacob Hoyng, Abdul-Badi Issa, Abdul-Hadi Issa, Jack Jaros, Sofia Jordan, Lanee Jung, Allison Kacer, Kaylee Kirpes, Chase Koschmeder, Benjamin Kruse, Ian Ksiazek, Kelly Lee, Maria Lind, William Lounsbury, Clara Lyden, John Mahoney, Olympia Manning, Paige Marshal, Evan McKinney, Alexandria McNunn, Cody Motz, Margaret Mungai, Hira Mustafa, Joseph Nobis, Erin Nubel, Jason Nye, Clara Ortgies, Maxson Pauley, Katelyn Paulsen, Kayla Phalen, Lauren Phalen, Joseph Reck, Rhea Reddy, Colton Redford, Jessa Rhea, Noah Ridgway, Gabriel Rumsey, Luke Rustin, Jordan Samuel, Abigail Sheppmann, Sophia Seltz, Dominique Senteza, Sonya Shah, Sydney Sheffield, Trystin Shoesmith, Ashlyn Shumaker, Travis Smith, Grady Stein, Michael Stevens, Devkeshan Thaker, Ramya Vemulapalli, Matthew Watson, Braden Weiser, Calvin Whitaker, Rachel Wilkens, Tyler Wirta, William Wood, Matthew Yeates, Annie Zhang

The College Board also named the West Des Moines Community Schools District to the Annual AP District Honor Roll for the second consecutive year. The honor recognizes districts that increase access to AP courses for a broader number of students, while also maintaining or improving the rate at which their AP students earn scores of 3 or higher on the AP Exam. Inclusion this year was based on AP data from 2012-2014 and the following criteria, from the College Board:

  • Increased participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts, and at least 11 percent in small districts;
  • Increased or maintained the percentage of exams taken by African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students, and;
  • Improved performance levels when comparing the percentage of students in 2014 scoring a 3 or higher to those in 2012, unless the district has already attained a performance level at which more than 70 percent of its AP students are scoring a 3 or higher.

The Advanced Placement Program® (AP) provides opportunities for students to experience college-level courses while in high school. Valley High School offers more than 20 Advanced Placement courses. Enrollment in these courses has grown by 50 percent in the past three years, with students taking 723 AP Exams in 2011 and 1,195 AP Exams in 2015.