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Establishing Board Priorities

Establishing Board Priorities

Work session: September 26, 2018

On September 26, District administrators partnered with the board of directors during a work session to establish board priorities. Superintendent Risner said, “One of my first goals in joining the Ames Community School District was to bring our leaders together and identify what our purpose truly is. In other words, what is the reason we do what we do. During our toughest times, our purpose should be our foundation or anchor. My second important task was to establish clear priorities to guide our work, decision making, and allocation of resources.”

After many conversations, planning, and research, our administrators and board of directors took an important step and joined together to define our purpose and district priorities which you will see below. The opportunity provided the two groups to share and align visions from a philosophical and practical standpoint. The groups worked in breakout sessions to develop goals around five priorities sections. What they created was a living document that will evolve over time and become embedded in operational and educational practices.

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Reading Portraits

Reading Portraits

Genya Coffey and her 1st grade colleagues at Sawyer Elementary are taking time to teach students how to read portraits. “Reading portraits is a great introduction to several important first grade skills such as making careful observations and drawing inferences based on evidence. Using visual literacy makes these skills accessible to every student regardless of their current reading level.”

After comparing and contrasting dozens of portraits with partners and reflecting as a whole group, students constructed a working definition of portrait, then began considering where portraits can be found. Students discovered that they can be found just about anywhere. Next, students dug into identifying common elements that can be observed in portraits to help describe them.  

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All-State Music 2018

All State Music

On October 20, Iowa High School All State Music Festival Auditions were held across the state and Ames High had 32 students selected to participate in the prestigious event. The 2018 festival is celebrating its 72nd anniversary and will be held at Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa on November 16-17.

According to an all-state press release, only about 17% of students who audition are selected for all-state. Ames High has traditionally made a great showing at all-state, and last year qualified 28 students across all ensembles of band, orchestra, and choir.

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Ames High Career Fair 2018

AHS Career Fair

On Wednesday, October 10, the entire student body at Ames High participated in a full day career fair. This year’s event came on the heels of one held last academic school year in February 2018. Prior to that, it had been nearly 15 years since Ames High hosted a career fair.

This year’s event expanded on the efforts from last year, which only served the freshman class. The organizational team led by Ames High Business Teacher Vicki Hales, quickly realized that all students at Ames High would benefit from career exposure. “There are more and more students leaving Ames High without having a clear idea of what they want to do. Getting them more exposure to potential career opportunities that they can further explore is valuable as we better prepare them for what lies ahead.” Recent Iowa legislation also emphasizes the importance of providing all students with ongoing and meaningful experiences to explore career options and help them navigate these choices for their future.

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Running with Nigel

Running with Nigel

Jackie Baird runs with Nigel Flagge, a 7th grader at Ames Middle School, every day during the cross country season. She is an Educational Associate in her 3rd year in the District, and has worked with Nigel for the past two years during literacy class. Nigel’s father, Paul Flagge, describes his son as “gentle, loving, and sometimes very playful,” but also admits he is a little biased. “He fights very hard to learn and understand despite having a disability that affects his learning and understanding.”

Knowing how much Nigel loves to run, his teachers approached Carmen Flagge, his mother, with the idea of joining the cross country team. Jackie volunteered to be the person who runs with Nigel. “I am actually not an active runner. I tend to dislike running for the purpose of running,” said Jackie. “However, running with Nigel gives me a purpose.”

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Affirmation Stones at Meeker Elementary

Meeker Affirmation Stones

Students and families at Meeker Elementary recently had an opportunity to write empowering words on pre-painted rocks during their open house event. In total, about 150 affirmation stones were created that students could either take home as a personal reminder, or hide them around Ames.

“I was looking to increase interaction with students and their families during Open House — meet more parents, introduce myself and put faces to names, initiate positive relationships,” said Meeker Elementary School Counselor Kari Deal. Anyone who found a stone around Ames was encouraged to post a photo to Meeker’s Facebook page. Deal felt like this activity would also encourage interaction on our social media space.

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Amazing Grace Lemonade Race

Amazing Grace Lemonade Race Graphic

This story was originally published in Volume 4 of Amazing Magazine that you can download here.

When Grace McCunn was 10 years old, she passed out at school for the first time, seemingly for no reason. It’s a phone call that no parent ever wants to receive. Her mother, Mary Jane, raced to the school where she found Grace conscious and alert, and brought her to McFarland Clinic for evaluations. She said, “That night, they admitted her because they didn’t know what was happening. She was having chest pains at the time, so they kept her over night, but they just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her.”

The McCunn’s, who have some experience spending time in a hospital with their older daughter Sarah, reached out to Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines and the neurologist who treated her with migraines. Grace got admitted and the doctors at Blank immediately diagnosed her with Chronic Daily Migraines, the same as her sister. What they determined that worked for Sarah, did not for Grace. Mary Jane said, “With Grace, they gave her this new medicine and within 30 minutes she felt great. What it did was put Grace to sleep immediately. When she woke up, she was a new person.”

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Paul Gorski Talks Equity with Teachers

Paul Gorski Talks Equity with Teachers

On August 20, the Ames CSD held its annual “Kick-Off Breakfast” for all teachers and staff at Ames Middle School, with Paul Gorski serving as the keynote speaker. Gorski is the founder of Equity Literacy Institute and EdChange. He has 20 years of experience helping educators strengthen their equity efforts in classrooms, schools, and districts. He has published more than 70 articles and has written, co-written, or co-edited twelve books on various aspects of educational equity including Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap and Case Studies on Diversity and Social Justice Education.

Gorski was selected to keynote as a way to further deepen the District’s equity work that started last year with Dr. Katy Swalwell from Iowa State University, and Dr. Daniel Spikes. Their professional development with teachers will continue this year in the area of cultural competency. Talking about equity, or lack thereof, is a difficult topic for many people. “Equity is the process of wrestling with cognitive dissonance,” he said during his keynote, meaning that each individual must challenge what they hold as facts. According to Gorski, only then can we address equity.

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Little Cyclone Teacher Academy 2018

Little Cyclone Teacher Academy

The second annual Little Cyclone Teacher Academy (LCTA) took place from August 6-10 at Ames High School. Teacher on Special Assignment Lisa Clayberg, who is also the Teacher Leader Coordinator, said, “The idea originated last year from being able to provide in-house professional learning for our teacher leaders outside of contract time. However, we quickly realized that any educator could benefit from multiple learning opportunities.”

The LCTA quickly opened to all staff across the district, including administrators and Educational Assistants. This year, 30 different courses were offered to staff, up from 21 a year ago. The courses covered a range of topics that include understanding behaviors in the classroom, work based learning, dyslexia, assessing students with disabilities, and professional learning committees, among many others.

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Summit on School Climate and Culture

Summit on School Climate and Culture

On August 13 -14, over 50 Ames CSD staff attended the 3rd Annual Summit on School Climate and Culture. The event is put on by Des Moines Public Schools and “is designed help educators improve school climate and culture through professional development, skill building and application of best practices and research.” The event allows educators to “engage with leading experts in education and school improvement on how a positive school climate and culture is key to student, school and district improvements.”

Director of Student Services Dr. Anthony Jones, said, “The Summit is important for us because I believe the topics (Climate, Culture, Inclusion, and Equity) discussed there address a missing piece of professional learning for our district’s success.”

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