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Back to school

Posted August 20, 2014 in Windsor Heights

Summer’s come and gone.

That means it’s back to school for many Windsor Heights families. Students attending Des Moines Public Schools or West Des Moines Community Schools will be seeing some new faces, programs, facilities and more. Here’s what to expect:

Des Moines Public Schools
Last year’s student enrollment was about 32,400, and the district anticipates seeing some gains again this school year. About 200 new teachers will be on staff, and 14 schools will have new principals. They are:
Barb Adams, Findley Elementary School
Rob Burnett, Walnut Street School
Jill Burnett-Requist, Carver Community School
Kristy Fitzgerald, Phillips Traditional School
Cindy Flesch, Hoover High School
Jessica Gogerty, director of Central Academy
David Johns, Meredith Middle School
Craig Leager, Goodrell Middle School
Shelly Pospeshil, Lovejoy Elementary School
Laurel Prior-Sweet, Monroe Elementary School
Traci Shipley, River Woods Elementary School
Dawn Stahly, Callanan Middle School
Bill Szakacs, South Union Elementary School
Cindy Wissler, Jackson Elementary School
Also, two current administrators are stepping into new roles:
Holly Crandell, interim chief academic officer
Matt Smith, interim chief schools officer

Get information on your phone
A new smartphone app for the district is debuting this school year, says Phil Roeder, director of communications and public affairs for Des Moines Public Schools. Information on the district’s website will be now be available on people’s phones, including events calendars, directories, a breakfast and lunch menu with nutritional information and school finder program.

The app will be available for iPhone and Android.

Change in bell times
Bell times at 19 elementary schools will change by 10 minutes. Instead of school starting at 8:35 a.m., it will begin at 8:45 a.m. Instead of school ending at 3:20 p.m., it will end at 3:30 p.m. On Wednesdays, early out will be at 2 p.m.

The district says it’s a move that will increase the efficiency of its transportation efforts, improve student safety and save $125,000 annually by taking seven buses off the route.
• The schools affected are:
• Brubaker Elementary
• Cattell Elementary
• Findley Elementary
• Garton Elementary
• Hillis Elementary
• Jackson Elementary
• Lovejoy Elementary
• Madison Elementary
• Monroe Elementary
• Moulton Elementary
• Morris Elementary
• Perkins Elementary
• Pleasant Hill Elementary
• River Woods Elementary
• Samuelson Elementary
• Studebaker Elementary
• Windsor Elementary
• Woodlawn Education Center
• Wright Elementary

District expands free meal program
A total of 35 schools and three early learning centers will now offer free breakfast and lunch to all students.

The district had already been offering meals at no cost to all students in 13 schools. The program is being expanded to include the following schools:
• Brubaker Elementary
• Callanan Middle School
• Cattell Elementary
• Garton Elementary
• Hoyt Middle School
• Jackson Elementary
• Madison Elementary
• McCombs Middle School
• McKee Education Center
• Meredith Middle School
• Mitchell Early Learning Center
• Morris Elementary
• North High School
• Oak Park Elementary
• Park Avenue Elementary
• River Woods Elementary
• Samuelson Elementary
• Scavo High School
• Smouse Opportunity School
• South Union Elementary
• Stowe Elementary
• Studebaker Elementary
• Weeks Middle School
• Windsor Elementary
• Woodlawn Education Center

The program, called the Community Eligibility Provision, is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

New education center opens
The new Jesse Franklin Taylor Education Center at Casady in Des Moines is opening its doors this school year.

Olivia and Rylan Fife are looking forward to going back to school. The siblings attend Cowles Montessori School in Windsor Heights. Rylan is going to be a third grader; Olivia is going to be a fourth grader. Photo by Dawn Sagario Pauls.

Olivia and Rylan Fife are looking forward to going back to school. The siblings attend Cowles Montessori School in Windsor Heights. Rylan is going to be a third grader; Olivia is going to be a fourth grader. Photo by Dawn Sagario Pauls.

The facility, located at 1801 16th St., will house new preschool classrooms and also serve as the new location for the district’s middle school alternative program. The building replaced the Casady Alternative Center.

The center expands the district’s preschool offerings and will serve about 250 preschool students, Roeder says. Windsor Heights residents may apply to have their child attend.

Taylor, who died in 2012 at the age of 87, was raised in Des Moines and attended Des Moines Public Schools. A resident of the Mondamin Presidential neighborhood, Taylor was a World War II veteran who was involved with many community boards and commissions, and was also a lifelong member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

New Advanced Placement offerings
Four new Advanced Placement courses will be offered at Central Academy this year: AP art history, AP computer science, AP microeconomics and AP Spanish literature.

The additions are in response to significant increases in the district in participation in the college-level classes. Enrollment has quadrupled over the past few years, Roeder says.

AP courses are also offered at all five Des Moines high schools: East, Hoover, Lincoln, North and Roosevelt.

West Des Moines Community Schools
Student enrollment this year is estimated to be about 9,100.  There are 27 new, full-time equivalent teaching positions this year, and a number of administrative changes. They include:

Drea Bocook, new principal, Clive Elementary
Eric Boyle, new principal, Stilwell Junior High
Kerry Ketcham, new director of special education
Tim Miller, new principal, Valley High School
David Perrigo, new associate principal, Valley High School
Brandon Pierce, new principal, Fairmeadows Elementary
Carol Seid, new associate superintendent of human resources
Zac Sinram,  new assistant principal, Indian Hills Junior High

Performing Arts Center upgrades
The Valley High School Performing Arts Center is expected to be completed in mid-October. It features nearly 1,200 seats and includes state-of-the art sound and lighting systems, an orchestra pit, an orchestra shell and full fly loft for stage productions. The cost of the Performing Arts Center is $15 million, and is part of a three-phase renovation project at the high school with a total cost of $65 million.

Teacher leadership system
One of the significant changes this year is the district’s new teacher leadership system. West Des Moines Community Schools is one of 39 school districts chosen in the state to be the first to launch such a system.

Teachers will have greater opportunities for professional growth, leadership and collaboration with colleagues, says West Des Moines Community Schools Superintendent Lisa Remy. Students will be the ones who benefit most from having teacher leaders in the schools.

The state’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System offers teachers leadership opportunities and higher pay for taking on extra responsibilities. The goal is for all school districts to be voluntarily participating by the 2016-17 school year.

The new Jesse Franklin Taylor Education Center at Casady, located at 1801 16th St., opens this school year. The facility, part of Des Moines Public Schools, will house preschool classes and the district’s middle school alternative program. The building replaced the Casady Alternative Center. Photo by Dawn Sagario Pauls.

The new Jesse Franklin Taylor Education Center at Casady, located at 1801 16th St., opens this school year. The facility, part of Des Moines Public Schools, will house preschool classes and the district’s middle school alternative program. The building replaced the Casady Alternative Center. Photo by Dawn Sagario Pauls.

The West Des Moines school district applied for and received a Teacher Leadership and Compensation grant, securing $2.8 million annually to be used for the district’s teacher leadership system.

This school year, there are 27 teacher leader positions. Remy says these roles include:

Professional development/curriculum facilitators, who assist with professional development planning and implementation.

Instructional coaches, who help teachers to increase student achievement by using evidence-based instructional practices and strategies.

Mentor teachers, who support new teachers.

Demonstration teachers, who open their classrooms for other teachers to observe lessons, lesson planning, etc.

Learning supports and family school engagement coordinators, who help craft ways to engage families for students’ academic success.

Also, the district’s board of education approved a strategic plan for the district in June. It outlines four areas of focus for the next five years, which Remy explains:

Culture for learning
This includes more personalization in learning for kids, which could include online classes, project-based learning and working with the community to make learning relevant. Parent engagement and expanding the opportunity for internships will also be addressed.

Professional learning
They are in the process of implementing Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, district-wide, Remy says. As part of these PLCs, groups of teachers meet at certain times with a specific agenda, whether it’s to learn something together or to analyze student data.

The Valley High School Performing Arts Center is expected to be completed in mid-October. It features nearly 1,200 seats and includes state-of-the art sound and lighting systems, an orchestra pit, an orchestra shell and full fly loft for stage productions. The cost of the Performing Arts Center is $15 million, and is part of a three-phase renovation project at the high school with a total cost of $65 million. Photo submitted.

The Valley High School Performing Arts Center is expected to be completed in mid-October. It features nearly 1,200 seats and includes state-of-the art sound and lighting systems, an orchestra pit, an orchestra shell and full fly loft for stage productions. The cost of the Performing Arts Center is $15 million, and is part of a three-phase renovation project at the high school with a total cost of $65 million. Photo submitted.

“It’s really a more intentional way of collaborating,” she says.

Teaching for learning
The focus is to ensure that students are staying on track with the Iowa Core, which are state standards for Iowa’s K-12 students.

Remy says this includes more formative assessments to help them know how kids are progressing and having all students read on grade level by third grade. Today’s kids also learn differently, Remy says, so they’ll be looking at providing different types  of learning options including online or “blended learning,” which could involve a mix of online instruction and face-to-face time with a teacher.

Systemness
This involves making sure that resources are being allocated to the district’s goals, and that the district’s goals are in line with the community’s needs.

They are also looking at ways to get feedback from the district’s graduates.

“Really, the focus is to improve student achievement,” Remy says.





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