Throm Receives Award; Valley Ranks in Top 10 of Iowa AP Index

Sam Throm with his teacher from Westridge Elementary, Nancy Foley, at the Belin-Blank Awards.

Valley Southwoods freshman Sam Throm was among the 490 students from Iowa and throughout the nation who were recently invited to be honored at The University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center’s Recognition Ceremony Oct. 7. Additionally, recognized students were given the opportunity to honor a teacher they credited for having a profound influence on their lives. Throm selected Nancy Foley, his teacher at Westridge Elementary, for this honor.

Also honored at this year’s ceremony were the Iowa schools that were ranked among the Top 25 of the Iowa AP Index. The index rating was calculated by dividing the number of AP exams taken by the number of students in the school’s graduating class. Valley High School, ranked ninth, was among the Top 10 of the Iowa AP Index for the fourth consecutive year. Continue reading

Features of the New District Website

We are a couple weeks away from the launch of the new district website and because I am not very good at waiting I thought I would give you a sneak peek of some features of the new site. As mentioned in a previous post during the planning process we surveyed students, parents, employees, and the community to gather data about their use of the current district  website, along with their likes and dislikes. The main objective was to create a website that is audience centric, has up-to-date information, and is easy to navigate. We are accomplishing this in several different ways, but a couple of the ways we are doing this is through the top and side navigation as seen here. Depending on what category you fall into you can go directly to “your” page and find the information that is relevant to you. The information that is provided on this page was decided after looking at Google analytics and user research.

Top Navigation

Another objective for the new site was to create an awareness of the happenings within our district. The main way that this is being done is through the news feed seen here. Up-to-date information and events will be announced on the home page along with press releases and happenings.

What's New NewsNews Full Page

A request that was mentioned in the survey over and over again was a more user online calendar system. The new site will have a very robust and user friendly online calendar system. You will now be able to have a more accurate calendar of the districts events year round. You will be able to search by month, day, activity and school. We will then carry this even one step further as we continue into phase two with the redesign of individual school websites. Each school will have a calendar on  their home pages which will include their own events.

Calendar on home page

The last item I am going to share today is the Staff Directory. This is something that I hear repeatedly, that people have a hard time using and finding the information they need in our current staff directory. Brian Abeling, Director of Technology worked closely with Flying Hippo Web Technologies to create, what we think, is a very useful and robust staff directory.

Staff Directory Search Box
I am looking forward to sharing the new and improved site with you in the next couple of weeks. We still have a lot of things to do in order to launch the new site so better get back to it!

Bowling Strikes an Interest with Caroline

Thanks to her teacher, Caroline Overstreet has found a newfound love of bowling and her mother is looking foward to taking Caroline and her sister, Lily, to the lanes this winter.

Special education teacher Jennifer Kopp finds much joy in seeing the progress her students at Westridge Elementary make in the classroom and out in the community. A recent bowling outing made her especially proud, seeing one of her fourth grade students with Autism enjoy a sport she previously found challenging to participating in.

Caroline Overstreet has been a student at Westridge since kindergarten. Kopp often takes her students on field trips into the community for them to practice the social skills they have been learning in class, but these field trips have been difficult for Caroline in the past.

“Caroline fares better in the community when she has a chance to become familiar with her environment,” explained her mom, Kristin Littlejohn. “The bowling outings have enabled her to expand her horizons and get comfortable with a new place that would typically be overwhelming to her.” Continue reading

Life in the WDMCS 10/8/12

Life in the WDMCS is a new weekly feature that will highlight what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Fairmeadows Elementary
Fairmeadows Elementary had eight students participate in the district’s annual Spanish Quiz Bowl at the Learning Resource Center. This quiz bowl is for students who speak Spanish at home, giving them a chance to celebrate their culture by playing authentic and academic games in Spanish.  They competed against teams from other schools around the district. The Fairmeadows teams were fourth graders Juan Jurado, Jonathan Rojas, Benjamin Díaz and James Beaty; and fifth graders Jimmy Alba, Neidy Penate-Estrada, Lily Garcia and Stephen Cruz.

 Hillside Elementary
Sixth graders at Hillside Elementary are working on pop profile self-portraits inspired by the artist Peter Max. The background of the drawings are filled with graphic lettering, symbols and patterns which represent each artist’s interests and personality. Students are mixing translucent watercolors for unique colors and areas of emphasis within original compositions. Pam Ballard has emailed the artist and will send photos of completed projects. The class is delighted to be working with a student teacher, Sarah Hutchinson, from Drake University. She is a practicing artist herself in the area of painting and printmaking. Hutchinson is introducing fourth grade classes to a narrative based perspective unit. The second grade classes have been printing colorful abstract compositions based upon the work of Wassily Kandinsky. Meanwhile, Hutchinson and the first grade classes have been creating patterned self-portraits inspired by the artist Gustav Klimt. Continue reading

Life in the WDMCS 10/1/12

Life in the WDMCS is a new weekly feature that will highlight what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Clive Elementary
Analyzing data…fun?  It is in one fifth grade classroom at Clive Elementary! Students used the Grab-It Gauge from the Everyday Mathematics curriculum and collected data on their reaction times.  Before starting the activity, they predicted which hand would have a quicker reaction time.  Then they experimented and recorded results in their journals. The class learned how to analyze data using median, mode and mean. They also found the class average reaction time for their left and right hands and concluded that this is a quick group of kids!  Fifth grade looks forward to using statistical landmarks again to help make sense of data in the world around us.

Crossroads Park Elementary
One of the units fourth graders at Crossroads Park Elementary study is the Midwest region of the United States.  As an enhancement of that unit, students went on a field trip to Jester Park for a day of Native American and pioneer experiences.  The event is called Life on the Prairie and is sponsored by Polk County Conservation.  During the field trip, students learned what life was like on the prairie years ago when tall grass covered 85 percent of Iowa’s landscape.  Through various games and hands-on experiences, fourth graders also learned about Iowa’s natural history and the Native American cultures who once lived here. Continue reading

Valley High School Graduate Receives State AP Scholar Award

Scott Johnson, a 2012 graduate of Valley High School, has earned the College Board’s 2012 Iowa State Advanced Placement (AP) Scholar Award in recognition of his exceptional achievement on AP Exams taken in May. Johnson is currently a freshman at Harvard University.

The designation of State AP Scholar is granted to the 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.

Valley High School offers more than 20 Advanced Placement courses. AP provides students with the opportunity to earn college credit or advanced. Each exam is developed by a committee of college and university faculty and AP teachers. More than 3,800 colleges and universities annually receive AP scores.

Life in the WDMCS 9/24/12

Life in the WDMCS is a new weekly feature that will highlight what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Clive Elementary
The kindergarteners at Clive Elementary are off and running to a great school year! They have learned about being safe, respectful, responsible, and caring at school. There have been many opportunities for hands on learning experiences and activities. Students have really enjoyed using white boards to practice writing, pointers to read big books and lots of fun manipulatives like buttons and pattern blocks for math. Congratulations on the beginning of an awesome school year!

Crossroads Park Elementary
Crossroads Park Cougar Council and the Crossroads Park student body celebrated homecoming week with fun activities. The high light of the week was the student council decorating a float for the homecoming parade. The theme was Valleywood: A Premier at the Big Screen. Cougar Council always likes to include all of the students in building the float. This year the council voted to have each class make a star with all of the students’ and the teachers’ names on it. The Student Council and their parents also sold spirit wear to help students and families get into the mood of supporting the Valley Tigers. Continue reading

Valley Students Named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

Valley High School seniors Erica Becker, Eric Chen, Emma Lind, Michelle Rose, Tricia Shi and Alexander Zhou have been named National Merit Scholar Semifinalists.

These students will be in competition with students nationwide to become a National Merit Scholar, earning a $2,500 scholarship. National Merit Scholars are chosen based on abilities, skills and accomplishments. Academic records, school curriculum, test scores, an administrative recommendation, information about activities and leadership as well as an essay are used in the judging process.

Finalists will be announced in February and students will be notified in June if they have been selected as a National Merit Scholar.

Life in the WDMCS 9/17/12

Life in the WDMCS is a new weekly feature that will highlight what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Clive Elementary
What’s new in the library at Clive Elementary? There are so many new and wonderful things in the Clive library this year. Along with a new teacher librarian, Morgan Miller, the school’s library has new furniture, a new reading carpet, new shelving and many more things to come this year. Clive students will be coming once every other week for instructional time in the library. Signage will soon be posted in the library to make it easier to locate favorite books or subjects.

Crossroads Park Elementary
Crossroads Park Cougar Council has a few fun activities planned for Homecoming Week. The week will begin with sales of Valley attire. Crossroads Cougar Council will sell the gear to staff/students Monday thru Wednesday inside the front doors of Crossroads Park from 8:40-9 a.m. Each day of the week they will also celebrate with a dress-up day that follows the homecoming theme Valleywood: A Premiere at the Big Screen. The days are as follows: Monday – Dress like a Movie Star (boas, tiaras, etc.); Tuesday – Wear Sunglasses Day; Wednesday – Dress like a Rock Star/ Singer (jacket, necklace, microphone, etc.); Thursday – Dress like a character from Harry Potter, Twilight or Hunger Games; Friday – a Spirit Day, wear black and orange for the Tigers! Continue reading

WDMCS Board Approves Retirement Plan, Fresh Fruit Program and More

The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education held its annual meeting Sept. 10, 2012, and took the following action:

  • approved the proposed 2013-2014 Early Retirement Plan, which has no changes from the previous year’s plans, to allow eligible district staff to have the opportunity to plan further in advance when making a decision concerning retirement; Continue reading