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Valley Students Perform in Inaugural “Opera Project” Production

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Valley High School student musicians are participating in The Opera Project DSM’s inaugural performance, a community-based production of Giacomo Puccini’s “Suor Angelica.” The West Des Moines Community Schools will host the “Suor Angelica” performances in the Staplin Performing Arts Center, 3650 Woodland Ave., West Des Moines. Performances on March 4 and March 5 begin at 8 p.m. The March 6 performance begins at 6 p.m. All performances are open to the public and free of charge.

The Valley Chamber Orchestra will be featured as the string section for the opera’s orchestra, and select students from the Valley band program will perform on oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trombone, and percussion. A member of the Valley vocal department is also performing. The performance is an inviting introduction to opera; it is only 75 minutes long and will feature English supertitles above the stage. One-third of Puccini’s famed “Triptych” collection, “Suor Angelica” features themes of acceptance and forgiveness, and is set in a convent.

This production provides West Des Moines Community Schools students with an opportunity to work with college-level musicians and three professional vocalists: Leyla Martinucci, Margaret Newcomb and Shannon Roberts. The production will be conducted by Maestro Stefano Vignati, a world-renowned conductor and founder of the Italian American Opera Foundation and the International Lyric Academy in Viterbo, Italy.

Vignati is also co-founder of The Des Moines Opera Project, a new initiative aiming to empower the Des Moines community with an appreciation for opera. It was founded in 2015 by Vignati and local vocal instructor Gloria Olson.

Please join us for The Opera Project DSM’s inaugural performances of “Suor Angelica.”


“Buck Wilder” Author Visits Crestview School of Inquiry

BuckWilder3Tim Smith, author of the Buck Wilder series, visited Crestview School of Inquiry on Feb. 22.

“See this eraser? It’s your best friend!” he told students as he talked about the importance of revising their work.  “You don’t have to be the best in your class, but if you want to publish books, or be a great cook, accomplished musician, or basketball player, you need to be the one who tries the hardest.”

Smith went on to explain he was not the top student in school, but when he worked hard, he was able to meet goals he had for himself.

Smith has written books on fishing, boating, camping and animal wisdom along with paperback chapter books about ants, bees, fish and other aspects of nature. Smith’s books not only make kids laugh, but are designed to inspire kids to set goals for themselves, as well as make informed decisions to preserve our natural resources.


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Valley Hosts #UniteIowa Dialogue March 3

Valley High School invites all WDMCS families to attend the second dialogue for #UniteIowa on Race, the series of forums co-sponsored by Drake University and the Des Moines Register. The session will take place from 6:30-9 p.m., Thursday, March 3, in the Valley High School Media Center

This forum, “Clashmates: Race in Schools,” will look at race education issues in area high schools and efforts by students, teachers, and administrators to bring about racial equity and inclusion in the classroom and school community. The #UniteIowa series is built around “Talking with the Enemy: Dialogue in a Polarized Age,” a First Year Seminar class at Drake. Students in the class have helped to plan and promote the events while studying race in the class.

The event will feature several key participants whose work or experience centers on race issues as they pertain to schools: students Julio Sanchez and Jamie Jordan; pastor, civil rights activist, and former WDMCS Board of Education member Milton Cole-Duvall; 2015 Iowa Teacher of the year Clemencia Spizzirri; and Urban Arts Coordinator for the Des Moines Public Schools Emily Lang. Attendees will have the chance to listen the key participants and reflect and discuss in various small groups. Participants will be re-grouped twice to expose each attendee to many different points of view.

Dr. Carol Spaulding-Kruse, who teaches English and the “Talking with the Enemy” course at Drake, will facilitate the discussion. She will ask attendees to consider ways they can serve as agents in their own schools and communities.

Find out more about #UniteIowa and upcoming forums.

Register for the Event

Visit the Event Facebook Page



Sixth-Grade Students Teach Technology, Learn Leadership

When West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) sixth-grade teacher Aaron Witt assigned his students classroom leadership roles, he never expected they would end up talking to the Iowa governor’s office or working with the world’s first $9 computer.

Inspired by the Leader in Me student leadership development model, he had each student fill out a survey at the beginning of the school year about their interests.



Six Valley Students Named National Merit Scholarship Finalists

Valley High School seniors Andrew Austin, Joseph Brennan, Haley Gion, Alexa Kort, Quinn Nolin, and Samuel Throm have been named National Merit Scholar Finalists.

Of the 1.5 million original entrants, only about 15,000 qualify as National Merit Scholar Finalists. These students are now in competition with students nationwide to become National Merit scholars, earning $2,500 scholarships. Approximately 7,400 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million will be awarded this spring. About half of all finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.

Academic records, school curriculum, test scores, an administrative recommendation, and information about activities and leadership, as well as an essay, are used in the judging process. Students will be notified starting in April if they have been selected as National Merit scholars.


Valley World Cultures Club Hosts Eighth Annual International Night


The World Cultures Club at Valley High School will host the Eighth Annual International Night from 5:30-8:15 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25, in the Valley cafeteria and auditorium.

The World Cultures Club started International Night as a way to promote cultural awareness in the community and raise money for charity. This year’s proceeds will benefit Mashal Model School in Bari Imam, Pakistan. The K–12 school provides free education to children in need and others who would otherwise not have the opportunity to seek education.

The event is open to the public and includes cultural performances, a talent show, and a fashion show that exhibits clothing from around the world. Performers will include a Chinese instrumental group, Valley’s mariachi band, several cultural dance groups, and other musicians and singers.  Ethnic foods will also be available to sample.

Admission is $3 for one person and $5 for two people.

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Valley Boys’ Swim Team Finishes Seventh at State Meet

Congratulations to the Valley Boys’ Swim Team for their seventh place finish at the state meet on Saturday, Feb. 13. The following swimmers represented Valley:

  • 200 Medley Relay: Andrew Rottinghaus, Erik Skoog, Gregg Lichincky, and Jacob Keller (11th)
  • 50 Freestyle: Beau Blazek (sixth) and Ethan Eiler (12th)
  • 100 Butterfly: Ethan Eiler (16th) and Gregg Lichinsky (21st)
  • 100 Freestyle: Carl Skoog (sixth) and Beau Blazek (ninth)
  • 500 Freestyle: Nick Johnson (17th) and Evan Porter (23rd)
  • 200 Freestyle Relay: Carl Skoog, Jacob Keller, Ethan Eiler, and Beau Blazek (fourth)
  • 100 Backstroke: Carl Skoog (ninth), Andrew Rottinghaus (13th), and Gregg Lichinsky (16th)
  • 400 Freestyle Relay: Carl Skoog, Jacob Keller, Ethan Eiler, and Beau Blazek (fifth)

Skoog, Keller, Eiler, and Blazek set a new school record with their performance in the 200-yard freestyle relay, also gaining automatic All-American status.


Sumo Bot Construction, Ages 8-15

scheme_0102Do you love to watch robo-warriors in action? This hands-on course will provide step-by-step instruction for building your own sumo bot from the supplied kit (no soldering necessary). Your bot will be “programmed” to battle other robots in the arena. You will learn how to control DC motors, bluetooth receivers, LEDs, infrared transmitters, and sonic range detectors. Parents are encouraged to become part of the learning experience, and can participate as an assistant. No special technical training or knowledge is required. Students must bring a laptop and the $30 material fee due to the instructor at the first class.

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 3/1-4/14, no class 3/15 & 3/17, 5-7 p.m., $59 plus $30 material fee due to the instructor. Indian Hills Junior High Media Center, #ADV62.


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Valley Singers Choir to Perform at Directors Conference

Valley High School’s premier choir, Valley Singers, will be performing at the 2016 North Central Division American Choral Directors Association (NC-ACDA) Conference on Feb. 19, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Valley Singers is one of 15 civic, adult, and children’s choirs to be invited to perform from the Midwest.

Valley Singers was selected for a solo concert performance, the highest honor, from more than 50 applicants. Invitation to perform at the convention is based on a choir program’s consistent quality across time. The rigorous application process includes audio submissions from the three previous school years.


The choir will be performing “Exultate Deo” by Alessandro Scarlatti, “Riu, Riu, Chiu” arranged by Richard Bjella, “I Gondilieri” by Gioachino Rossini, and “The Day is Done” by Stephen Paulus. They will also perform “This House of Peace” by Ralph Johnson, which was commissioned in 2008 to celebrate the grand opening of the Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, Oregon. Several Valley musicians will also be featured in the performance.

Valley Singers performs each year with some of the finest collegiate choirs from the Midwest. In addition to a rigorous local performance schedule, the 36-member ensemble has performed in many state and regional conventions in its 50-year history. The choir is directed by Valley vocal music teacher Ryan Deignan.

Students in the West Des Moines Community Schools can participate in choir starting in elementary school. The Valley High School choirs are directed by Ryan Deignan and Haley Gibbons. The vocal music department offers a wide range of experiences for students interested in vocal music. In addition to local concerts, the choirs also attend state and regional festivals and contests, and have opportunities to perform nationally and internationally.