Board Overview

  • The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education is here to serve you and govern the school district. The school board is made up of seven individuals representing the families and citizens of our community.

    • The members are elected at-large by residents of our district community.
    • They receive no compensation for their service.
    • Each school board member is elected for a term of four years. Terms are staggered to ensure continuity of leadership.
    • Elections are held bi-annually in odd-numbered years on the second Tuesday in September.
  • Jen Ulie-Wells President Jennifer Ulie-Wells, Ph.D.

    Phone 515-240-5471 | Email

    Jennifer Ulie-Wells is executive director of Please Pass the Love, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing school-based mental health supports. She is an adjunct professor of education at Drake University and previously taught special education at Western Hills Elementary, Hillside Elementary, and Indian Hills Junior High. Ulie-Wells holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in special education from Drake University. She received a doctoral degree in education, social justice, and infant and youth mental health from Iowa State University. Ulie-Wells has two children: Mia is a senior at Valley High School, and Riley is a freshman at Valley Southwoods.

    She is a leader of the Iowa School Mental Health Alliance (ISMHA) and a member of the National School Mental Health State Summit, Alliance for Family, School, and Community Partnerships (AFSCP) Member, and the Iowa Department of Public Health Suicide Prevention Task Force. She has served on a variety of committees and coalitions for the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Department of Public Health, Trauma Stakeholders group, Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Community Doers Advisory Council, Youth Violence Prevention Task Force, former member of Dream to Teach Advisory Board, former board member of Greater Des Moines NAMI. She has been awarded national and state awards for her work with school and youth mental health.

    Elected: September 2017
    Term Expires: November 2021

    Lonnie Dafney Vice President Lonnie Dafney

    Phone 515-225-7033 | Email:

    Lonnette Dafney is the Assistant Vice-President-Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion at EMC Insurance Companies in Des Moines. She is a 16-year resident of West Des Moines and the proud mother of two amazing young men who graduated from WDMCS in 2013 and 2015, Darrin and Dominique. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business management administration from William Penn University. She was awarded the Wells Fargo Volunteer Service Award and is involved with or supports many organizations including the Isiserettes, West Des Moines Human Rights Commission (Commissioner),
    West Des Moines Historical Society (Board of Directors), Dress for Success Des Moines (Board of Directors), United Way of Central Iowa Women United (Advisory Committee/Engagement Chair), and the One Economy Employment Group Chair (Director’s Council). She is also a member of The Links, Inc.

    Elected: November 2019
    Term Expires: November 2023

    Elizabeth Brennan Elizabeth Brennan

    Phone 515-222-6920 | Email

    Elizabeth Brennan is a preschool teacher at Montessori Children’s House in West Des Moines. She graduated from Valley High School and St. Olaf College. She earned her elementary teaching degree, with an English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement, from the University of Iowa and her International Diploma in early childhood Montessori teaching from the Montessori Centre International in London. Brennan and her husband, Scott, have two children: Lexi graduated from Valley High School in 2014, and Joe graduated from Valley High School in 2016. She also current serves on the Heartland AEA board the Iowa Association of School Board board.

    Elected: September 2009
    Term Expires: November 2021

    Jill Johnson Jill Caton Johnson, Ph.D.

    Phone 515-271-3992 | Email

    Jill Caton Johnson, Ph.D., is a professor of education and director of off-campus teaching and learning programs at Drake University. She is a former fourth-grade teacher at Crestview Elementary in the West Des Moines Community Schools. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and her master’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Iowa, and her doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction, literacy education from the University of Minnesota. She and her husband, Tom, have two children: Jack is a freshman at The University of Iowa and CJ is a senior at Valley High School.

    Elected: September 2015
    Term Expires: November 2023

    Liz Cox Liz Cox

    Phone 515-360-7473 | Email

    Liz Cox is the CEO of Polk County Health Services. This organization provides mental health services along with assistance to families with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Cox was the former executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Dakota and is a graduate of the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business where she completed the executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. She and Tom Cox are the parents of three children who all graduated from Valley High School. Megan is a 2014 graduate, Emma is a 2016 graduate, and Sam is a 2017 graduate. She has been active with the Boy Scouts of America’s Mid-Iowa Council, the Rotary Club of Des Moines A.M., and the Great Outdoors Foundation. Cox is also a graduate of the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce Leadership Academy.

    Elected: September 2015
    Term Expires: November 2023

    Jeff Hicks Jeff Hicks

    Phone 515-991-8890 | Email

    Jeff Hicks is an assistant general counsel for Principal Financial Group. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran who served as an intelligence officer and attained the rank of Captain. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Maryland, and a law degree from Drake University. He is involved with and supports United Way, the YMCA, and Iowa Legal Aid. He and his wife, Kim, have two children: Hailey, a sophomore at Valley High School and Logan, an eighth-grader at Stilwell Junior High School.

    Elected: November 2019
    Term Expires: November 2023

    Vicky Poole Vicky Poole, Ed.D.

    Phone 515-240-2707 | Email

    Vicky Poole, Ed.D., is retired from the West Des Moines Community Schools, where she served as principal of Valley High School (2000–11) and as associate principal (1996–2000). She holds a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Northern Iowa, a master’s degree in counseling education from Northwest Missouri State University, and a doctorate in educational leadership from Drake University. She enjoyed many years of teaching chemistry and physics and serving as counselor to thousands of students. Poole and her husband, Jim (deceased), have two adult children: Jodi (Matthew) Bybee and Dr. James (Meredith) Poole, D.O., and six grandchildren. Poole served on a wide variety of school district committees while at Valley High School. Her community experience includes serving on the Clive Board of Adjustment, Clive Public Art Advisory Commission, Clive Citizen Review Committee, Simpson College Education Advisory Committee, and West Des Moines Leadership Academy Board. She also served as a Hy-Vee Education Foundation Scholarship Adjudicator. She currently serves on the West Des Moines Community Schools Foundation. During her tenure at Valley High School, Poole received The Leadership in Diversity Award from the Chinese Association of Iowa.

    Elected: September 2013
    Term Expires: November 2021

  • Board Secretary

    Peggy Epstein


    Learn more about school board elections.

  • Contacting Board Members

    If you wish to communicate with a Board member:

    All regular board meetings include an open forum. Individuals can either sign up the night of the Board meeting or email Peggy Epstein, board secretary, to be included on the list of individuals to speak. During open forum, each speaker must state their name and address and has up to five minutes to speak. Due to open meeting laws, the Board will listen but is unable to respond.

    When regular Board meetings are held virtually, open forum comments can be emailed to Peggy Epstein, board secretary. She will provide printed copies to Board members.

    You can also email the entire Board, but board president will respond to any emails on behalf of the entire board.

Last Modified on January 26, 2021