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Articles in District News

Iowa Teacher of the Year: Aileen Sullivan

Aileen Sullivan, a veteran chemistry teacher at Ames High, was named the 2018 Iowa Teacher of the Year by Governor Kim Reynolds at a surprise event that was also attended by Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise.

Sullivan has taught at Ames High School since 1996 and is known for challenging her students, her colleagues, and herself to grow and improve. Superintendent Dr. Tim Taylor hired Sullivan in 1996 and dubbed her a “kid magnet.” She has “that hidden ability to understand and relate to young people that draws them in and allows her to push them to their potential.”

Sullivan, along with her husband Joel Sullivan, who nominated Aileen and is also a teacher at Ames High, found out that she was selected as the Teacher of the Year two months prior to the event and was embargoed from discussing it. “When I nominated her, my goal was for her to get the recognition she deserves as a teacher and leader in our district. None of what she does is very public and few people realize how hard she works and how dedicated she is to improving her craft and helping students.”

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Rev’n for Seven: Girls Swimming and Diving Win 7th State Championship

The Ames High Girls Swimming and Diving team were Rev’n for Seven as they entered the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) State Championships. The two day event was held in Marshalltown on November 3-4, and the Little Cyclones entered with an undefeated season with several contenders looking to dethrone Ames as the top program in the state.

This year’s team had the responsibility of carrying history into the State Meet. Since 2010, the Little Cyclones have won 6 state titles, with their only loss coming at the State Meet in 2014 where they were runner up to Pleasant Valley. Since that time, the Little Cyclones have forged ahead with a new winning streak and their eye on a seventh state championship.

Friday night consisted of the diving event where Ames qualified 3 divers in the top 10. The team was led by Jayna Misra, who entered the competition with the second highest qualifying total. After her second of 11 dives, Jayna took the lead and never looked back. Her combined score of 542.45 was the second highest total since 1967 and 57 points better than the runner up finisher. Senior Kaylee Clendenen had her best meet of the year, finishing 6th. The 33 team points earned during the diving portion got Ames off to an early lead in the team competition.

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Enrollment in Ames Up Big this for the 2017-2018 School Year

Certified Enrollment Up in Ames

Certified enrollment across the state was finalized in November, and the Ames Community School District is +112 students from a year ago. The certified enrollment for the 2017-18 school year at the Ames CSD is 4,300. This is the largest jump in enrollment since 1991, and a spike upward from what has been a downward trend over the past decade.

Open Enrollment numbers are also up for the school year. Ames open enrolls 470 students from 19 surrounding districts, while 188 students from within Ames enroll out. This is a net of +282. For a historical perspective, the 2011 certified enrollment showed 196 Ames students open enrolling out of the district while 226 neighboring students were opening enrolling in, for a net of +30 students. Subgroup data shows that resident students attending our schools is up, as is our pre-school program enrollment.

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The Future of Ames High: An Overview of Whether to Build New, Renovate, or Do Nothing

Next spring, the Ames community has a big decision to make regarding what to do with the high school. Do we build a new one? Renovate? “Do Nothing?”

It’s a complex issue with a lot of things to consider, but we hope to explain many of the questions we’ve been hearing to keep you informed.

Why do we need a new high school? Where will we build it? We’ll do a quick study on school finances, looking at how much each option will cost and how that decision will impact taxpayers. Finally, how will this decision benefit students? Because after all, schools are for kids.

Current State

Initially built in 1960, our current building as it stands today has 15 additions and 13 elevation changes. The first addition was put on in 1962, offices were added in 1963, the pool in 1965, and then a gymnasium was added on in 1966.

When Haila Architecture did their Phase 1 study, they found that with the exception of the pool and a few other areas, the overall exterior structure is actually okay. It’s the interior that’s becoming more of a functional challenge. Some of the major concerns cited in the Phase 1 study include the circulation of students within the building, accessibility, along with security features.

Hallways within the high school are tight and with the many additions, it is not laid out efficiently. Although the building is ADA compliant as far as accessibility, if you’ve ever been in the high school, you know it can be difficult to get around, especially in the fine arts wing. Additionally, the building has far too many exterior doors and lacks some of the security features that our new building have.

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ESL Bookland Night at Ames Public Library

ESL Bookland Night

ESL Bookland Night took place at the Ames Public Library on October 13, 2017, and was organized in collaboration with the Ames Community School District (ACSD), the Ames Public Library, and the Future Teachers – Future Leaders Learning Community at Iowa State University. The event was a great social function for students and families who have English as their second language and an opportunity to distribute books to families to support literacy.

The after-hours event saw 141 attendees (ESL students and family members) and approximately 40 ISU students who assisted with the activities. In total, approximately 200 individuals including Ames Public Library, ISU, and ACSD staff were in attendance. Shaeley Santiago, K-12 ESL TOSA / Instructional Coach for the ACSD, said “It wouldn’t have been possible without each of our ESL teachers handing out invitations and encouraging students to attend, and volunteers arranging their Friday evening so they could be there, too.”

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Darin Johnson receives Distinguished Service Award from ICTE

English Teacher Darin Johnson

On Friday, October 13th, 2017, Ames High School English teacher and department chair, Darin Johnson, was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the Iowa Council of Teachers of English (ICTE). It is the highest honor that the ICTE bestows once a year to a member who has displayed extraordinary service to promote and support English teachers in their own schools and throughout the state. Darin accepted the award, saying, “I can’t thank the ICTE community enough for the ways you have fed my heart and mind and – most importantly – have repeatedly asked me to share my voice. For this I am truly thankful, and I am truly humbled to receive this award. I thank you for helping me lift my voice.”

Darin has served as an English teacher at AHS for twenty five years. In that time, his primary focus has been on meet the needs of his students. As Erin Miller, ICTE President and former AHS English teacher, describes, “Darin’s continual drive to better his craft, dedication to building relationships with students, and willingness to be a constant innovator has made him an ideal role model for teachers in Ames and around the state.”

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Official Statement Relative to the AHS Band and Student Body

Student Section Band

From District, High School, and Board Leadership:

At every school board meeting, the mission statement of the Ames Community School District is read aloud. The moment is often overlooked and perceived as a formality before immediately moving on to official business. Let’s face it, these statements from all companies are word-smithed to be non-controversial and uniform in their meaning. They are great for websites but most of us never revisit them.

In the wake of social media chatter and conversations about our high school band, let’s take a moment to revisit the mission statement of the Ames Community School District. There is some profound meaning in it.

Our mission statement reads as follows:

The mission of the Ames Community Schools is to ensure that all learners develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and personal esteem necessary to grow in and shape a changing society.

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An Emphasis on Attendance

Attendance Graphic

Student attendance is an important predictor of success in the classroom. Only through attendance and class participation do students achieve the benefits of our education program within the Ames Community School District. Learning lost due to an absence can have a profound effect throughout the school year, and we are placing a greater emphasis on communicating absences with parents this school year.

Our previous attendance policy stated that communications would be sent home after 10 absences. The board supported a proactive approach to addressing chronic absenteeism and on August 21, revised the attendance policy to the following:

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New Fountas & Pinnell Reading Benchmarks

Fountas & Pinnell Graphic

What is the benchmarking assessment that my child takes?

Fountas & Pinnell have developed a Benchmarking Assessment System (BAS) in order to help teachers determine what reading skills your child has mastered and which she/he still needs to learn. In Ames, all K-5 students read aloud all or portions of a text and then engage in a comprehension conversation with the teacher to allow the teacher to better understand how to help the student in a variety of areas, including reading with accuracy and expression, and understanding the meaning of the text. This assessment is administered to all students twice per year.

Fountas & Pinnell have created a 3rd edition of the benchmarking materials which include revised rubrics, texts, teacher prompts, and online capabilities. ACSD purchased this 3rd edition for all elementary buildings as these improvements will allow teachers to more clearly target instruction with each student. Your child’s level may be lower than in the past as the 3rd edition materials are much more rigorous. This drop in levels has been predicted by the publisher and does not indicate that your child’s skills in reading have decreased.   

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Youth Diversity and Inclusion Summit

Youth Diversity and Inclusion Summit

On Friday, September 29, Ames High students participated in the inaugural Youth Diversity and Inclusion Summit, hosted by the Des Moines Public Schools and sponsored by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

The catalyst for the event arose out of a few incidents where a racial slur was used on the football field between a DMPS football team and a metro suburb. This incidents were not in isolation, but the Des Moines Public Schools wanted to use them as a way instigate productive change within the school systems.   

According to a DMPS press release, Roosevelt High School Principal Kevin Biggs was “instrumental in taking the lead in understanding something needed to be done on a larger scale to bring all groups together for the good of the cause.”

Ames High jumped on the opportunity to get students involved and sent 13 students to the summit. Throughout the day, student listened to keynote speakers and engage in discussions with students from other schools. Several Ames students spoke at the summit and talked about their personal experiences with bias as well as the consequences of not speaking out for what is right.

Ames High School Counselor Allison DeBlasi said “the first annual Youth Diversity and Inclusion Summit addresses challenging stereotypes and creating an environment where youth feel safe to speak up for what’s right.” Each attending school developed an action plan as a takeaway from the event, presented it to the group of 200 total students, and the implementation of this plan will be led by Ames High student leaders.

In addition to the Des Moines schools of East, Hoover, Lincoln, North, and Roosevelt High, other CIML-members schools who participated in the event included Ames, Ankeny Centennial, Marshalltown, Southeast Polk, Urbandale, Waukee, and West Des Moines Valley.

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