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Middle School News

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut

Owais Samman, an 8th grader at Ames Middle School, may not be able to read with his eyes shut, but he sure can make Dr. Seuss’ classic children’s book fun to read. He debuted his rap of I Can Read with My Eyes Shut at the AMS Talent Show in December after entering the contest initially as a joke between his friends. After comtemplating other books such as Llama Llama Red Pajama, he settled this one and impressed the rest of the middle school student body.

You can watch Oswain rap Dr. Seuss on our YouTube Channel.

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App Smash: Descriptive Papers w/ Green Screen Video

App Smash

Ames Middle School 6th grade literacy teacher Drew DeJong is using the idea of “app smashing” to increase student engagement. App smashing is the process of using multiple apps to create projects or complete tasks. It is a great way to provide students with creative and inspired ways to showcase their learning, and it allows teachers a great way to assess their understanding and skills.

A recent project in DeJong’s class had students write descriptive papers about their favorite place in the world. The quick 300-400 word piece was looking for sensory writing from the students. “I wanted them to really describe their favorite place,” said DeJong. “What does it look like? Smell like? My goal was that the students would show us where they were at.”

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Critical Consciousness: Year Two

Critical Consciousness

Understanding and developing tools to address oppression, implicit bias, and deficit thinking are at the heart of what Drs. Daniel Spikes and Katy Swalwell are hoping to accomplish as they enter their second of three years of critical consciousness training with Ames CSD staff. This year, the work is expanding beyond principals and including instructional coaches and other staff in each building. Next year, administrators, under the guidance of Spikes and Swalwell, will roll out the training to all staff.

In the training, Spikes and Swalwell define a critically conscious person as one who is able to reflect on and take action in the world in order to make it more equitable and just. To make that academic definition more applicable to everyday life, it’s being able to recognize when inequity exists and knowing what steps to take that help address the issue.

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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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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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Welcome Back Message from Superintendent Risner

Welcome Back Graphic

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.

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Ames CSD Ranked Best District in the State for 6th Consecutive Year by Niche

Niche Graphic for Blog

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.

https://www.niche.com/k12/rankings/methodology/

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The Future of Ames High: Programming Phase

Future of Ames High Programming Phase

Since the April bond referendum vote, OPN Architects has been busy in the “programming phase” of the high school project. They have been meeting with various stakeholders that include the school board, administrators, teachers, and students to provide input on common design features, and to offer a platform where these groups can weigh in on their wants and needs.   

In May, a small group of administrators and board members who are a part of the steering committee traveled with OPN to visit seven high schools in Minnesota that were identified as having some unique features that would be incorporated in Ames. Director of Facilities and Maintenance Gerry Peters said, “We learned about how other schools and districts approached teaching and learning, as well as some of their experiences, during construction. In addition to experiencing the building layouts, spaces and features, the tour guides shared their challenges, likes, and dislikes about the construction result.” OPN received reactions from our group to the buildings size and layout, as well as feedback and observations.

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Jenny Risner named the Next Superintendent of Ames Community Schools

New Superintendent (Jenny)

 

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.

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