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Articles from August 2016

“Set to Go” video celebrates Ames Schools

“Looking back I know we’ve come so far

But we’re the kind that have to raise the bar

I know it won’t be fast or for the faint of heart

But you and I can make it if we only start

And never part.”

These lyrics form the heart of an original song inspired by Ames students that’s part of a video project unveiled at this year’s District Staff Kick-off Assembly.

Producer Ali Locker, whose day job is Director of Teaching and Learning at Waukee Community School District, said that even though she’s been through tough lessons in life and learning before, the experience of working with Ames students, educators and families reminded her why she’s so passionate about education.

“I was reminded of why we started this in the first place….the students,” Locker said. “Because of the things that they bring out in us, each and every day, when we are willing to listen.”

Locker said life has taught her, no matter what she’d doing, to help herself and others walk through fear, ambiguity, self­-doubt, judgment, vulnerability and challenge.

“But what I have learned is that you have to walk through these things in order to discover courage, resiliency, self­-reflection, originality, authenticity and contribution,” she said. “I never expected that this summer with this project would shake me in the ways that it has. 

In June, Locker with some of the directors in the District and learned about our dedication to the heart of each of our students.

 “I heard about your commitment to the Ames community,” she said. “I heard about your newly renovated buildings and new access to technology. I was so excited to collaborate to see what we could create and how we could celebrate all of the amazingness that is the Ames Community School District.”

Locker’s crew started working on a song and planning for a video, and things began clicking away slowly, but surely.

“And then, by mid­summer there were about a thousand roadblocks,” she said. “Not only had I miscommunicated some important steps, every day that I had cleared to do video shots, it was terribly gray and rainy. I had this thing so far off the rails, I wasn’t sure I could get it back on.” 

Despite her experience, wisdom and skills, Locker said she began doubting “every single thing I had done up until that point.”

“I started to worry about judgment of the final product and was scared to death of trying to figure out how to make it all happen.” And then she got a message from our students.

“I had a phone conversation with two of your high school students, Lucy and Andrew,” she said. And they said, ‘We believe in this. Just believe in us.'”

And after that, Locker spoke to the grandparents of one of elementary students who came to the recording studio to sing.

“They shook my hand and told me that their granddaughter’s smile and confidence has grown through her involvement in the project,” she said.

“And then I showed up to Edwards Elementary on the day that class lists were posted. I spoke to several of your families and told them about the work we were doing, asked them to be on video and they responded with a huge ‘Yes’.”

Locker said, with her new inspiration, everyone found a way.

(Northwood Principal) Brandon Schrauth and  (Mitchell Principal) Justin Jeffs stood shoulder­-to­-shoulder with me during the last month of this project and rallied some amazing troops,” she said.

Locker said it mattered a lot to her crew that they create something original that was completely written and designed for Ames.

“We decided to work with an amazing singer­-songwriter from Des Moines named Jerry Lorenson,” she said. I … told him to work on a song that was uplifting and energetic and that could kick­start the school year. I told him to put students at the heart of the lyrics. He came back 3 weeks later with this chorus, which he said he wrote from the voice of the student speaking to a teacher. And I said, ‘yes.’ And production began.”

Without further ado, this is “Set to Go”, featuring Jerry Lorenson. And more importantly, featuring our students, our teachers and our district.

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New Visitor Management System in place at Ames Schools

To enhance safety for students and staff, the Ames Community School District will begin using the Raptor Visitor Management System in all of its schools at the start of the 2016-17 school year.

Raptor is a web-based software application that provides an effective, efficient method for tracking visitors and managing access to Ames schools. Raptor replaces paper-based visitor logs, allowing schools to produce visitor badges, to monitor volunteer hours, and to electronically check all visitors against public databases.

We welcome visitors to our schools. Our goal for these safeguards is to keep our learning environment and school community as secure as possible.  When visitors enter a school during school hours and desire access beyond the front office, they will be asked to present a valid state-issued ID. This procedure includes all visitors coming for school activities, such as kindergarten glimpses, during the hours school is in session. On the first visit to the school, the visitor’s ID will be scanned into the system and checked against a database. The process is quick and efficient. Once entry is approved, Raptor will produce a badge that identifies the visitor, the date, and the purpose of the visit.

The system maintains a record of visitors whose IDs are scanned into the system. On subsequent visits, visitors will provide their ID, but it will not be necessary for school staff to scan it. Staff will log them into the system and produce a visitor’s badge.

Staff will hold visitors’ IDs in the office for the duration of the visit. Visitors must return to the office at the end of their visit to turn in their badge, retrieve their ID and be logged out of the system.

It is important to note that the Raptor system only scans the visitor’s name, date of birth and photo for comparison with a national database of registered sex offenders. It does not gather any additional visitor data from the driver’s license nor is the system connected to any other system such as the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If a visitor does not have identification, administrators have the discretion to allow the visitor access to the building, but the visitor will be escorted by a school staff member.

A visitor’s badge will not be necessary for those who visit our schools simply to drop off an item in the office or pick up paperwork. Adults picking up students from the school office during the school day may be asked to present an ID but will not require a visitor’s badge. Students will be allowed to leave school only with a parent or guardian, a person on record as an emergency contact, or with another adult for whom the parent or guardian provides verified permission.

If you are interested in learning more about the Raptor Visitor Management System, please visit the Raptor Technologies website.

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Students’ service project meets back-to-school needs for peers

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Ainsley Jurgens, age 12 and entering seventh grade, attended a class on poverty at Super Summer last year. She hasn’t been able to shake what she learned about the struggles facing students her own age, right here in Ames.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about what it might be like for the first day of school for students who don’t have what they need,” she said.

Ainsley is part of a group called Kids on a Mission that spent much of the summer developing a service project with the help of First United Methodist Church. Too young to venture on the church’s mission project to Appalachia, the students, ranging from ages 8 to 14, decided to focus their efforts on helping children closer to home.

They raised about $1,000 and collected donations of school supplies, new shoes, clothing, hygiene items, snacks, and vouchers for hair cuts, physicals and eye exams. They hosted a Back-to-School giveaway Monday, Aug. 15, and plan to donate the funds they raised to help families with rent, utilities, and other needs.

Lane Sullivan, who’s 13 and also entering seventh grade, says he understands how privileged he is to have everything he needs. He says in order for change to happen that benefits people in need, children like him should learn that “we don’t live in a perfect world.”

“You know how some people view the world as a glass half empty, and others view it as a glass half full?” he said. “I think the glass is half full, but my friends and I want to go beyond that. We want to help the glass fill up.”

The students plan to keep their inventory of donations built up through a Birthday Club, said Kids on a Mission Coordinator Nicole Smith.

The students developed a calendar for donations, and instead of asking for presents during their birthday month, the students will ask for items suggested for that month.

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Ames High School Girls swim team garners national award

The The National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA) has named the Ames High School Girls Swim team No. 1 in the nation in its class for its All America Award. NISCA is a professional organization that supports High School coaches of all aquatic sports and is dedicated to coaches’ education and athlete recognition through its All America programs.

For team member Grace Snyder, the award was an unexpected bonus following a perfect regular season and a fifth state title in six years.

“We weren’t expecting this award, so we were shocked and excited,” said Snyder, who’s starting her senior year. “There’s a big range of schools in our class. We were especially proud of our academic showing.”

Coach Dan Flannery said he was more proud of his state championship team’s collective GPA than its meet record.

“The National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA) gave us a “Gold” standard for our collective GPA of 3.89,” he said.

Snyder credits the Ames Community School District for helping students at every level with “the skills and character they need to study, do their classwork, prepare for college and life.” She says the District builds students’ intrinsic motivation and all the teachers and coaches are supportive.

Flannery said he recognizes the girls; unselfish attitudes and work ethic that add up to success.

“The first thought that comes to mind is that all of our girls are willing to sacrifice for the good of the group rather than the individual,” he said.  “Everyone works so hard and has individual goals, but our Ames kids are unselfish when it comes to making the team better. Many sacrifices have been made over the years and sometimes it’s the little things that make the greater difference.”

Watch this site for the published rankings, which will be posted soon.

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Ames High School Girls swim team garners national award

The The National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA) has named the Ames High School Girls Swim team No. 1 in the nation in its class for its All America Award. NISCA is a professional organization that supports High School coaches of all aquatic sports and is dedicated to coaches’ education and athlete recognition through its All America programs.

For team member Grace Snyder, the award was an unexpected bonus following a perfect regular season and a fifth state title in six years.

“We weren’t expecting this award, so we were shocked and excited,” said Snyder, who’s starting her senior year. “There’s a big range of schools in our class. We were especially proud of our academic showing.”

Coach Dan Flannery said he was more proud of his state championship team’s collective GPA than its meet record.

“The National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA) gave us a “Gold” standard for our collective GPA of 3.89,” he said.

Snyder credits the Ames Community School District for helping students at every level with “the skills and character they need to study, do their classwork, prepare for college and life.” She says the District builds students’ intrinsic motivation and all the teachers and coaches are supportive.

Flannery said he recognizes the girls; unselfish attitudes and work ethic that add up to success.

“The first thought that comes to mind is that all of our girls are willing to sacrifice for the good of the group rather than the individual,” he said.  “Everyone works so hard and has individual goals, but our Ames kids are unselfish when it comes to making the team better. Many sacrifices have been made over the years and sometimes it’s the little things that make the greater difference.”

Watch this site for the published rankings, which will be posted soon.

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Aug. 12 – Focus on the impact of teaching

As mentioned on the July 16 blog post, members of the Curriculum & Instruction Team, along with board members from the Teaching & Learning Committee, attended the Visible Learning for Literacy Institute in Washington DC. The key element of the Institute was Fisher & Frey’s classroom application of John Hattie’s synthesis of meta-analyses to determine what works best in the classroom.

The day was built around the book, Visible Learning for Literacy (2016), which was a collaborative effort between Hattie, Fisher, and Frey.

Hattie started the day making the point that, “We work in a profession where everything works. The problem is that it almost de-professionalized us.” Instead, he encouraged educators to stop asking what works, and start asking what works best.

Hattie also told the audience to “move the debate away from how we teach,  to the impact of your teaching. Know your impact: collective teacher efficacy—all teachers focused on impact.”

Based on Hattie’s research, Fisher & Frey spent a good deal of the day sharing specific high-yield strategies. Those included vocabulary strategies, modeling word solving and comprehension, close reading, to mention a few. The right approach, at the right time, for the right type of learning was the bottom line.

Hattie finished by challenging us to, “know thy impact”. This is the final chapter in the Visible Learning for Literacy book, which will become a key area for study and application among the C&I Team this year. Our goal will be to determine the application on a wider basis in the District.

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Fellows and Sawyer Schools announce ribbon cuttings & open houses

Fellows and Sawyer Elementary Schools are celebrating the opening of their completed buildings with ribbon cuttings, open houses with guided tours, and back-to-school orientations for their school communities on Thursday, Aug. 18. The ribbon cuttings are scheduled an hour apart to allow the public to attend both.

Fellows, which is a newly constructed building located at 1235 20th St., will hold its ribbon cutting at 5 p.m. Guided tours will start after the ribbon cutting with the last tour offered about 6:45 p.m. Parking is not yet available at Fellows. Those unable to walk to the school should park at Ames High School. Shuttles will run each way every 15 minutes between 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.fellowsbanner4

Sawyer, which is a renovated building located at 4316 Ontario St., will hold its ribbon cutting at 6 p.m. Guided tours will start after the ribbon cutting with the last tour offered about 6:45 p.m.Sawyerbanner2

On the organized tours the public will learn about the instruction opportunities the new and renovated buildings are designed to support, gain a deeper understanding of our education strategies, and experience the value of the investment the community made in supporting the $55 million bond referendum in 2012.

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