Fellows Elementary News
My transition to the Ames Community School District has been a wonderful experience and living in the Ames community has given me an opportunity to explore all the incredible things this community has to offer. Since my move late June, my calendar has been full of meetings with individual staff and board members, parents, community groups, and community and state leaders in an effort to better understand where we should focus our efforts. These meetings have opened my eyes to the pride that exists within; from the facility upgrades, student activities, staff development opportunities, to the passion and commitment from outstanding educators that serve our community. There is a deep desire from our staff and community to provide unique opportunities for our students.
Shortly after my arrival, I was able to spend some focused time with our administrative team discussing our “why” both individually as well as our district as a whole. One thing that became clear to me was their passion for students while encouraging and supporting every student’s journey. We also discussed areas that need attention in their buildings and at the district level. I can assure you, we all feel a sense of urgency and are committed to building a collaborative environment.
As we begin the year, there is work to be done and with that work will come change. Change takes courage and honesty. I can promise you that I will provide both. On this journey, I will need your support and willingness to embrace a new leadership style. I will be honest and transparent and you will begin to hear us grapple with some difficult topics at the board, district, and building levels. I will work to communicate and be transparent with our work, and together we will address the areas that need to be addressed. It is an exciting time for Ames Community School District and I am honored to be serving as your leader and thankful to call this my home.
Niche recently released their 2019 K-12 Rankings of the best schools in the country. For the sixth consecutive year, the Ames Community School District has been ranked as the #1 district in the State of Iowa, with Ames High School also receiving the #1 ranking for the fourth year in a row.
The Ames CSD earned this ranking through key factors such as strength of academics, quality of teachers, school resources, as well as student and parent reviews. The statistical data used in this ranking was obtained from the U.S. Department of Education and then analyzed by Niche’s team of data scientists to create the 2019 rankings.
The Niche 2019 K-12 Rankings are based on rigorous analysis of academics and student life data along with test scores, college data, and ratings collected from millions of Niche users. Their wide-ranging data allows them to provide a comprehensive suite of rankings across all school types.
Thank you to our students and staff for continuing to make the Ames Community School District the best in the state. We’re very proud of our long tradition of excellence, and we’re confident that the upcoming school year will continue that tradition.
Learn more about the methodology of the Niche rankings on their website.
Starting this school year, we are adjusting arrival and dismissal services at all of our elementary schools. Safety and security are of utmost importance to us, and to ensure safety, we are making adjustments to our arrival times as follows:
- 8:05-8:25 breakfast
- 8:10 doors unlock and classrooms open
- 8:25 instruction begins
ACPC, who operates the before and after school program in our building, has communicated to us that they are able to expand enrollment. As a District, we are unable to provide supervision prior to 8:05 and after 3:30. Therefore, students arriving before or after those times will be enrolled with ACPC and will be billed the daily rate. We understand that this may be a change from last year, and we are committed to working with you to explore child care options. If you have specific questions or concerns about this policy, please reach out to your building office personnel.
If you are interested in ACPC care, more information can be found on their website:
The Ames Community School Board is excited to announce Jenny Risner as the next Superintendent of the Ames Community School District. Jenny stood out of an applicant pool of 69 individuals from across the country after participating in two rounds of interviews with the school board and a variety of representative groups that included teachers, community leaders, former board members, parents, and District staff.
Ms. Risner currently serves as the Superintendent of Ocean Beach School District in Long Beach, Washington where she has been the superintendent for the past four years. Ms. Risner has been an educator for over 20 years and has served as a director of student services, director of special education, secondary principal, assistant principal, instructional coach, and elementary and middle school teacher. She received her superintendent credentials in 2013 from Washington State University, where she also received her MA in Education Administration in 2001. …
For the third year, members of the Healthiest Ames Board of Directors, in collaboration with other community partners, spent a morning at each Ames elementary school bringing a message of bike safety to third graders and providing bike helmets. The program ran from Monday, April 2 through Friday, April 6, and included visits to Meeker, Edwards, Sawyer, Mitchell and Fellows Elementary Schools.
The project is a partnership between the Ames Police Department, Skunk River Cycles, Ames Bicycle Coalition, and Healthiest Ames. It is funded by the Mary Greeley Medical Foundation. Each program began at each school with a bike safety message from School Resource Office Nick Schieffer, followed by a bicycle helmet fitting for each third grader. Healthiest Ames volunteers checked each student’s helmet to ensure proper fit and optimal protection.
In total, 450 helmets were purchased thanks to the $3,600 Mary Greeley grant and $800 contributed by the Healthiest Ames.
Right before spring break, the 4th grade teachers at Fellows Elementary created STEM challenges for their students with hands-on activities that presented students with a “problem” to solve and limited resources.
Christy Franco said, “We decided to do the STEM challenges for several reasons. We know students learn best with hands-on exploration. For these activities, they must collaboratively come up with a plan, try it out, revise as needed, and test it. The STEM challenges allow our students to integrate scientific inquiry, technology, engineering, and math.”
All four teachers combined the approximately 100 fourth graders and split them up. “We wanted to make this large group feel like a community and we want students to have the opportunity to work in groups with others they don’t normally get to work with during the school day,” said Franco. …
In January, elementary schools across the District organized read-a-thon events in collaboration with their PTOs. “The goal is to get students to develop a passion for reading by specifically targeting time for reading outside of the classroom,” said Sue Lawler, principal at Sawyer Elementary.
A kick-off evening event often started the two- week book push in most schools. Sawyer Elementary invited parents to attend a family reading night themed “reading under the big top,” while Mitchell Elementary hosted a “book tasting” evening with parents. Once it began, families kept track of minutes read outside of the classroom and students received an incentive every time they read for those minutes.
The momentum continued throughout the read-a-thon to encourage students to read. Students at Mitchell Elementary made a fun video titled “Wild About Reading” to promote reading where students wore masks they made in class. The culimating read-a-thon event celebrated student reading. Students were cheered and given high fives as they filed into their gymnasiums for an assembly. At Sawyer Elementary, the guests of honor were Smyles from the Ames Public Library, and Cy from Iowa State University.
“We had an overwhelming majority of our students participate this year, and our total minutes continues to grow each year. Next year we want to look for more opportunities to get the kids excited about reading!” said Lawler.
The Three Little Pigs is fairy tale about three pigs who built three houses of different materials. A big bad wolf blows down the first two pigs‘ houses, made of straw and sticks respectively, but is unable to destroy the third pig’s house, which was made of bricks.
Fellows 2nd grade teachers Holly Shirbroun and Shena Crawford, and their classes, recently explored this story and added a STEM component to the unit. Students were asked to collaborate with each other and implement engineering strategies to create a house to surround a paper pig using only gumdrops and toothpicks. In teams of two, students collaborated with each other, and practiced engineering strategies that asked them to design a plan, implement that plan, and afterwards make decisions on how they could improve their structure. The project was also used as a way to introduce new math terms that students will be utilizing as the school year progresses.
The engagement of the students was high as they communicated with each other on how to build their structures. Students were given opportunities to share their “best practices” that they discovered with the rest of the class (hint: cut the gumdrops in half!). The highlight of the activity came when students were asked to test their building structure. Mrs. Shirbroun kept this component a secret from the students until it was time to unveil a hair dryer dressed as a big, bad wolf. Students were delighted by the wolf and held their toothpick structures up against the blowing wind. They were especially satisfied when their structure stood tall.
Although not all structures stood as a whole, the enthusiasm surrounding the project encouraged students to revisit their structure, design new, and build again so they can have a chance to test again the wolf.
Hurricane’s Harvey and Irma ravaged southern parts of the United States and Christy Franco’s 4th grade class at Fellows Elementary School followed the events closely as a part of their current events study.
The students began asking questions about what would happen with the schools in the area and were genuinely concerned about the welfare of the students and schools that were impacted by the storm and flooding.
Franco capitalized on their enthusiasm to help and began organizing the “Storm of Kindness” school supply campaign. She reached out to Principal Brandon Schrauth and Fellows PTO President Angie Weber to organize the drive.
Students made posters for the campaign and with the help of a local videography company and Fellows parent, Tom Haggas from Cheshire Moon Films, produced a video to highlight their efforts and to educate the community on how they can help. …