New schools, teachers, administrators and curriculum changes will greet students this year at schools in the Waukee and West Des Moines school districts.
Classes in the Waukee Community School District begin Aug. 14, with an estimated enrollment of 8,000-plus students.
There will be about 40 new teachers along with several new administrators. The administrators are:
Scott Shumaker, principal, Woodland Hills Elementary
Kimberly Wolf, assistant principal, Maple Grove and Shuler elementary schools
Clint Prohaska, assistant principal, Eason and Walnut Hills elementary schools
Stephanie Guiter, assistant principal, Brookview and Woodland Hills elementary schools
Two big events this year are the opening of the new Woodland Hills Elementary and reopening of the 1917 facility, now named Vince Meyer Learning Center.
“The biggest impact on the district is that it eases some of the crowded classrooms at Brookview, Maple Grove and Waukee elementaries,” says David Wilkerson, Superintendent of the Waukee Community School District. “And when you do that, it just creates a better learning environment for kids, a less hectic environment at the school and better working conditions for staff members.”
For the most part, section sizes at Woodland Hills, Maple Grove and Brookview elementaries are expected to be 19 to 25 students, Wilkerson says.
Woodland Hills, located at 1120 S. 95th St. in West Des Moines, is a pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade building, and will serve approximately 450 students.
The total cost of Woodland Hills was about $16 million. This is the school district’s seventh elementary school.
“We’re excited to open a new facility and welcome new students to the district, and we are ready to put kids in the building,” Wilkerson says.
The Vince Meyer Learning Center will serve fifth-grade students from Waukee Elementary. About 95 to 100 students will be attending the center, located at 430 Ashworth Drive in Waukee. The total cost of the renovation project was about $3 million.
The district is opening the center in the hopes of alleviating some of the congestion at Waukee Elementary.
“We would anticipate that Waukee Elementary fifth-graders will go there until elementary No. 8 opens,” he says. Voters will decide in February 2014 whether to approve a bond referendum for an eighth elementary school. If passed, the school would open in 2016, Wilkerson says.
If there are overcrowding issues at Shuler, Eason or Walnut Hills elementary schools before then, Wilkerson says, Vince Meyer will be able to take on some students.
There were also plans to begin construction this summer, at the end of July, on Timberline, a new eighth- and ninth-grade building. The school, which will accommodate about 1,000 students, will be located on the west side of LA Grant Parkway, across from South Middle School. The estimated cost of the project is about $25 million, and work is slated to be completed in July 2015.
School tax levy rate drops
The Waukee Community School District is lowering its school tax levy rate for the second year in a row, going from $17.61 to $16.57.
One of the main reasons for the drop is the district’s increasing property valuation. According to the district, on average, the district has seen 5 percent growth annually.
Several components make up the tax rate, including funds for: salaries and benefits; supplies; textbooks; gas for buses; support for instruction in the classroom; worker compensation; property and casualty insurance; early retirements and more.
New instructional coaches, email addresses
There are two new instructional coaches: Mark Stallman at Waukee High School and Jill Kasparbauer at Prairieview. This is the first year instructional coaches will be at the high school level, says Nicole Lawrence, communications coordinator for Waukee schools.
“They guide teachers in their daily work and best practices, and they have an expertise in data-driven decision-making,” Lawrence says. “Their goal is to increase teachers’ use of instructional skills and strategies to increase student skills and achievement.”
Also, all email addresses have transitioned from waukee.k12.ia.us to waukeeschools.org.
Construction continues at WDM’s Valley High School
This summer saw work being done on phases two and three of a construction project at Valley High School.
Phase two involved the addition of a new parking lot with 90 to 100 stalls in the far southeast corner of the campus, says Jim Mollison, principal at Valley. The lot will be open for the fall. The rest of the parking lots will be done next summer.
Phase three includes a new auditorium, which will seat approximately 1,000 to 1,100 people. Its features will include an orchestra pit, sound shell and electronic-raised lift in the stage. The auditorium is about one-third of the way done, Mollison says. The goal is to have it complete by Oct. 1, 2014.
Performances will be off-site for the year because of the auditorium construction. Norwalk, Waukee and Hoyt Sherman Place will be hosting some of the performances.
Mollison says other improvements include: renovations to all the rooms in the east wing of the building; turning the old auditorium into orchestra, vocal and drama classrooms; renovations of some P.E. classroom areas; locker room touch-ups; and improvements to the building’s air conditioning system.
The total cost of the project is $67.2 million.
A new superintendent, reading curriculum and more in WDM schools
The first day for West Des Moines Community Schools is Aug. 20, with an estimated enrollment of about 8,860.
The district is welcoming approximately 40 new teachers this year, in addition to a few new administrators. The administrators are:
• Carol Seid, interim associate superintendent of human resources
• Nancy Moorhead, interim principal, Fairmeadows Elementary
Eric Boyle, associate principal, Stilwell Junior High
•Lisa Remy, interim superintendent
Remy hired as interim superintendent
Lisa Remy is West Des Moines schools’ interim superintendent this year, moving from her position as associate superintendent of human resources.
Remy says the first challenge of the district this year is balancing the budget. That will involve collecting data, including student enrollment numbers and the district’s finances at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, she says. Another consideration will be that the district received one-time state funding of a little more than $1 million for the 2013-2014 school year.
Remy says they will have to wait to see all of the information before looking at possible budget reductions.
Secondly, they must continue to look at student achievement. That will mean digging into the data to look at different subgroups of students, to make sure all students are growing and reaching levels of proficiency or beyond.
Her main goal this year is to increase communication and transparency, and to work on building trust among administrators, staff, the community, families and the district’s board of education to ensure that they are all working together to do what’s best for students, Remy says.
New K-6 reading curriculum
Elementary students will be using new reading materials this year, following months of research by district administrators and a committee of 30 teachers.
This will be a “more well-rounded literacy program than what we’ve had in the past,” Remy says, adding that the materials are aligned with the Iowa Core, which are state standards for Iowa’s K-12 students.
There will be a wide variety of books available that target students’ individual needs.
“You’ll see more differentiation,” Remy says. “While everyone is learning the same skill, they’ll be learning it in different ways.”
She adds that the materials will be focused on the building of and rules associated with words, including topics such as suffixes and prefixes.
Kids will also be expected to read more nonfiction, she says, as a way to help prepare them for the different types of reading material they’ll come across in the future.
A change in third to sixth grades will be that students will be working in more small groups at their reading level.
Getting independent practice through these small groups or by working alone is one of three important aspects of the curriculum, Remy says. The other two are teachers modeling reading behaviors for students and guided practice with the whole class.
Newly formed district-wide committee tackles bullying
A district-wide bullying prevention committee was formed in spring 2012, and much of the past year has been spent on planning how to effectively address the issue, Remy says. The group is looking at areas including staff professional development, curriculum, and getting parents and the community engaged.
The committee chose to focus first on seventh- through 12th-grades, which did not have as organized an approach as the lower grades in covering bullying prevention material. Junior high through high-schoolers will be seeing new curriculum this year, and there will also be professional development for staff in kindergarten through 12th-grade.
That training will include a visit by author Rosalind Wiseman. Wiseman wrote “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” the book that became the basis for the movie “Mean Girls.”
An Oct. 13 presentation by Wiseman for parents and the community is planned, with a session for staff on Oct. 14, Remy says.