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Mitchell Elementary News

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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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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Elementary School Arrival/Dismissal Times

Elementary School Schedule

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:

http://www.acpc-childcare.org

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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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Ames Community Gives Free Bike Helmets to Every Third Grader

Bike Helmets Graphic

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. 

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Read-a-Thon Celebration

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.

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Little Cyclone Teacher Academy

Little Cyclone Teacher Academy for Blog

During the week of August 7-11, teachers from every building, 135 in total and nearly 40% of our teaching staff, voluntarily participated in the Little Cyclone Teacher Academy at the Ames High School. The week long Academy offered a variety of courses to teachers, allowing them to select from professional development opportunities that they would want to focus on. Examples of the courses included Differentiation for all Learners, Calibrating Conversations, Incorporating Technology into a Gradual Release of Responsibility, Advocacy: a Counter Narrative, Twice Exceptional Learners, and many more.

The courses were primarily led by Teacher Leaders in the District, a few administrators, along with Area Education Agency (AEA) staff. It was a great way for teachers to get back into the swing of things, collaborate with colleagues, and brainstorm about the upcoming school year. On Thursday of that week, the entire group participated in a PLC Workshop led by Jack Balderman from Solution Tree. He provided practical ways to effectively implement the professional learning community (PLC) process in their buildings, with a focus on developing strategies to make it as authentic and useful as possible.

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