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Northwood Preschool News

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.

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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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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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Northwood Principal Kirstin Barber

NW Principal; Kristin Barber

On June 19, the School Board accepted the appointment of Kristin Barber as the new Principal at Northwood Preschool Center. Kristin graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education with an emphasis in special education, and began her career at the North Polk West Elementary School as a first and second grade teacher, then later as a Master Teacher / Instructional Coach in the district. While in that role, she completed her Masters in Education from Viterbo University with a Reading Endorsement and started to find a passion in educational leadership.

“As an instructional coach, I always wanted to find ways to impact more students, more staff, and more parents by ensuring that everyone has a voice. When you are an administrator or lead learner, you can put structures in place in a child’s education to make sure that we’re meeting all needs in all areas, whether that is through academics, language, socially-emotional, cognitive or physical.”

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Public Tours of AHS Scheduled

Public Tours of AHS Schedule 

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Good Afternoon, 
On behalf of the Ames School Board, I invite parents and community members to join us for informational meetings about the construction or renovation of Ames High School as well as tours of the Ames High campus. We are providing three different opportunities to accommodate everyone’s schedules: June 28, July 12, and July 19. Each meeting starts at 6:30 PM at the Ames High Cafeteria. 
On June 5, 2017, the Ames Board of Education recommended pursuing a referendum in April 2018 that would lead to the construction of a new high school building on the current AHS site. The Board’s recommendation was based on data review and results of a Phase I architectural study by Haila Architects of Ames. 
The District’s next task is to inform and stimulate community discussion and awareness and assess the community’s level of support for the Board’s recommendation. These meetings are intended to do just that and help answer questions from the public. 
While each meeting is designed to provide the same information, please feel welcome to join one or all of these meetings. I hope you can join us. 

Tim E. Taylor, Superintendent

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Northwood snack prices and policies announced

Northwood Preschool Center announces its policy for free and reduced-price snacks for children in care who are unable to pay the full price of meals served under the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Northwood Preschool Center serves nutritious snacks to students every day. Enrolled children in care may buy snacks for $.70. Enrolled children whose family income is at or below the Income Eligibility Guidelines in Figure 1 are eligible for either free snacks or reduced-prices snacks priced at $.15.

Income guidelines

Figure 1.

To apply for free or reduced-price snacks, families must complete an application available at Northwood Preschool Center, sign it and return it to Northwood Preschool Center as soon as possible. The application must contain all requested information in order for the child to receive reduced price or free snacks. If required information is missing from the application, the child will be denied snack benefits. Parents and guardians may call Northwood Preschool Center at 515-268-2470 if they need help with the form.

If you wish to file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online or at any USDA office, or write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form.  Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail:

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, | 1400 Independence Avenue, S. W., Washington D.C. 20250-9410 | fax: 202-690-7442 |email:

Northwood Preschool Center is an equal opportunity provider.

Iowa Nondiscrimination Statement

It is the policy of this Child Nutrition Provider not to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or religion in its programs, activities, or employment practices as required by the Iowa Code section 216.7and 216.9. If you have questions or grievances related to compliance with this policy by this CNP Provider, please contact the Iowa Civil Rights Commission: Grimes State Office Building |400 E. 14th St., Des Moines, IA 50319-1004 | 515-281-4121 or 800-457-4416.|website.

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Northwood students learn with musician Justin Roberts

AMES–For more than 20 years, two-time GRAMMY nominee Justin Roberts has been creating music helping families and children navigate the joys and sorrows of growing up. Roberts’ visit to Northwood Preschool Center Friday, Jan. 29 kept his young audience engaged and entertained while they practiced the essential elements of music learning.

Principal Brandon Schrauth said music learning is an important part of the preschool experience, and he invited Roberts because he is a master at integrating learning standards into his concerts.

A former preschool teacher, Roberts said the interactive aspects of his concerts naturally meet the learning goals for young children.

“It’s so important for children to experience music as part of their learning,” he said. “It helps with brain development and function, and supports and enriches foundational for concepts for math, science and language.”

Regardless of such empirical benefits, Roberts said, music is something people can enjoy and appreciate throughout their lives.

Hendrix Baumgartner, age 5, is on track for a lifetime of music enjoyment. He said he liked the concert from beginning to end.

“I learned my voice is an instrument I always have with me, and my hands are a drum,” he said. “I liked the last song best because we got to dance.”

The Iowa Learning Standards for music, rhythm and movement include:

  • Participation in a variety of musical and rhythmic experiences, including singing,dancing, listening, playing simple rhythmic and tonal instruments, and creating and singing chants, rhymes, and fingerplays from diverse cultures.
  • Demonstrating meaningful creative responses when listening to music to reflect the expressive elements of music.notices differences in pitch, rhythm, patterns, dynamics, tempo, and timbre.
  • Demonstrating an awareness of music as part of daily life indoors and outdoors.



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Northwood renews NAEYC accreditation with high marks

AMES–Northwood Preschool Center has attained renewed accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for its preschool programming for 3 and 4 year olds. The accreditation renewal process began in the spring of 2015 and culminated with a two-day site visit in the fall.

Northwood provides preschool programming under the guidelines of  Iowa’s Statewide Voluntary Preschool program.

Northwood Preschool Center Principal Brandon Schrauth said NAEYC assessors reviewed 417 criteria for evidence of program quality in classroom and program portfolios, staff certifications, and health and safety. They conducted nine random 60-minute classroom visits, observing for 188 criteria from 10 different standards.

Schrauth said a program must meet at least 70% of the criteria for each standard to achieve accreditation. The Northwood programs earned more than 100% on several standards, he said.

“Meeting standards at such a high level has a direct impact on student success,” Schrauth said. Northwood shined on the Relationships standard, for example, because staff demonstrated how it values staff relationships and relationships with students and families.

“Our staff forms relationships through powerful interactions that help us get to know each individual child and family’s interests, prior knowledge, and needs.” he said. “We also value each other as colleagues.”

Schrauth said the programs’ high scores on Assessment stem from strategies that staff identified to lead to better understanding of each individual child’s learning process.

“These assessments range from daily observations to more formal benchmarks,” he said. “At the heart of these assessments, we strive to document student learning to make their thinking visible. This leads to collaboration around what students are learning and what experiences we need to provide for them next.”

Schrauth said the accreditation experience was valuable for celebrating successes and reflecting on areas of focus for improvement.

“In the coming year, our staff will process the feedback that NAEYC provided to us, such as how we integrate the arts into our curriculum and support teacher professional development goals,” he said.  “This will be an integral part of our journey to further define the Northwood experience.”


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