School Board Approves Cost-Saving Measures, District Remains Leader in World Language Offerings

Tonight, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education approved reducing district spending by $530,114 from its $150 million operating budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, as state funding for education continues to lag behind the actual cost of providing services and programming for students.

The largest savings of $197,000 comes from adjusting Foreign Languages in the Elementary School (FLES) from a kindergarten through sixth-grade program to a fourth- through sixth-grade program. An adjustment to this program was first proposed through community feedback during the district’s budgeting process two years ago and was again proposed this year by a Budget Advisory Committee, whose members represented parents/community members, students, and employees.

The adjustment provides additional time for reading instruction, which will assist in the district’s efforts to have all students proficient in reading by the end of third grade as required by state law.

The School Board amended the administration’s recommendation to eliminate Japanese courses for the 2016-17 school year saving $38,600. Instead, the Board approved phasing out the program by not offering Japanese I in 2016-17, saving approximately $9,500 next year.

The full list of cost-saving measures and descriptions are below.

The WDMCS remains a leading district in the state in world language offerings, providing our students an edge in today’s global economy. With the exception of the Des Moines school district, the WDMCS remains the only public school district in the metro area to offer any world language instruction before sixth grade. In addition, it continues to have one of the largest selections of world language courses in the metro area.

The district will continue to work with local legislators on the School Board-approved legislative priorities, which include providing adequate funding to better reflect actual cost increases in delivering education services experienced by school districts.

For past budget-related news, please visit


Approved Budget Reductions for Fiscal Year 2016-17 (Dec. 21, 2015)

1. Eliminate 360 feedback

  • Estimated Savings: $10,500
  • Details: The 360 Feedback is an HR-related tool through which employees receive confidential, anonymous feedback from the people who work around them, such as peers, managers, and direct reports. Iowa law requires teachers receive some type of feedback and a less expensive feedback tool would be sought.

2. Reduce China trip expenses

  • Estimated Savings: $70,000
  • Details: The district hosts visitors from a sister-school in Shijiazhuang, China and sends students and staff to China. The budgeted costs go toward hosting activities and pays for staff travel.

3. Eliminate printed school district activity calendar.

  • Estimated Savings: $7,000
  • Details: The printed activities calendar is currently provided to district parents and staff free of charge. The estimated savings is from printing costs only. All information is available online in the district’s online calendar. Possible options are to charge for the calendar.

4. Reduce printing budgets districtwide

  • Estimated Savings: $30,000
  • Details: The estimated savings is based on reduced printing budgets across the district.

5. Eliminate Gallup Teacher Insight screening tool & replace with Teacher Fit

  • Estimated Savings: $16,700
  • Details: Gallup Teacher Insight is an online assessment used as part of the application process. Teacher Fit and Job Fit are similar application process tools.

6. Pilot holding meetings after school hours. Hourly pay in lieu of a substitute teacher

  • Estimated Savings: $2,000
  • Details: There are meetings held during the school day in the district that teachers attend. When this occurs, a substitute teacher must be hired to cover classes. This option proposes holding one of these meetings after school outside the contracted hours and paying teachers an hourly amount to attend. This would be a pilot program.

7. Eliminate Des Moines Art Center Scholarships

  • Estimated Savings: $6,707
  • Details: The district provides funds for approximately 50 students to attend classes at the Des Moines Art Center during the summer.

8. Restructure Valley High School security contract

  • Estimated Savings: $20,682
  • Details: Valley High School currently contracts with the Conley Group for four security guards. This revised proposal keeps Conley security services, but at a reduced price. The restructured contract would save the district $20,682, which is an additional savings of $282 compared to the original proposed option.

9. Reduce summer days at secondary level – Flat percentage (10% = $4,600, exclusive of Counselors, non-categorical funds)

  • Estimated Savings: $4,600
  • Details: There are approximately eight certified staff members who work additional days in the summer due to position duties and who are paid for those days.

10. Phase out Japanese language program by not offering Japanese I in 2016-17.

  • Estimated Savings: Approximately $9,500
  • Details: Valley Southwoods Freshman High School offers Japanese I and Valley High School offers Japanese I, II, III, and IV as full-year elective courses. Japanese is one of six world languages offered at Valley. With this phase out, the number of world languages offered remains one of the largest in the Des Moines-metro area.

11. Eliminate 1st through 3rd grade FLES. Keep FLES in 4th through 6th grades.

  • Estimated Savings: $197,000
  • Details: The district’s current Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES) program provides Spanish instruction for 60 minutes each week in grades one-six. This proposal would continue to offer 60 minutes of Spanish instruction each week in grades four-six. This would allow the district to provide additional time for reading instruction, which will assist in our efforts to have all students proficient in reading by the end of third grade as required by state law. The district would remain one of the few in the state to offer a world language at the elementary level.

12. Eliminate 3-year-old general education preschool

  • Estimated Savings: $120,000
  • Details: The district currently offers 3-year-old general education preschool at a subsidized cost to parents. This option would eliminate the 3-year-old general education preschool. The proposal would allow the district to expand the number of four-year-old preschoolers served, generating state funding. This option maintains current preschool teacher positions.

13. Eliminate Hanover Research contract

  • Estimated Savings: $35,425
  • Details:  The district has contracted with Hanover Research for the past four years to assist the administration with conducting research, administering surveys, and evaluating programs to determine effectiveness.

Estimated Total Savings: $530,114