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Articles from March 2015

School pantries help students meet basic needs

Access to personal hygiene products, clothing and food is so basic to most people’s routines, they may take it for granted. For students living with financial or housing instability, however, staple items can be hard to procure. The Ames Community School District unveiled an innovative solution this month by opening Student Pantries at Ames Middle School and Ames High School.

District Homeless Liaison Sipele Quezada gave intern Jenna Lincoln, a senior at Iowa State University majoring in child adult and family services, the task of getting the pantries up and running.

“We were excited to announce the opening of the pantries because they’re available to any student in the District who has need,” Quezada said.

Lincoln said personal hygiene products and school supplies are the most sought-after items so far, because they’re high on the list of priorities for all students.


Intern Jenna Lincoln adjusts the clothing rack at the Ames Middle School student pantry. Pantries opened at the high school and middle school this month to help students who need access to personal hygiene products, food, clothing and school supplies.

“It’s important for middle and high school students to be as well-groomed and fitted for school as their peers,” she said. “The pantries give them quick access and a bit of privacy in choosing items.”

Students may also collect non-perishable food items and even diapers to take home to their families, Lincoln said, thanks to generous donors such as Food Banks of Iowa, Duck Worth Wearing and The Loft.

A classroom that was formerly a computer lab hosts the pantry at the middle school, although the high school pantry is in a much smaller space due to the temporary constraints of construction in the school’s administrative wing.

“Both pantries look nice and they function well, thanks to lots of hard work by volunteers,” Lincoln said.

The Ames Middle School Builders Club and Cornerstone Church helped organize the middle school pantry, she said, and Ames High School’s Students Helping End Poverty and Hunger (SHEPH) Club helped set up the high school pantry.

The middle school pantry is open Tuesdays during lunch hours and 3:15-4 p.m. Thursdays. The middle school pantry is open during lunch hours and 3:05-4 p.m. Wednesdays.



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Ames School District takes registration online

AMES–Web-based technology is allowing the Ames Community School District to retire the form-laden registration packets families of Ames students are accustomed to receiving in the mail each year. Registration for students attending Ames Schools for the 2015-16 school year will be online and nearly paperless, thanks to a process the District designed with its student information system, Infinite Campus.

Registrar Barbara Peterson said the online system replaces numerous forms that were cumbersome for parents to fill out by hand and that required hours of data entry for District personnel.

Kindergarten Registration
The online registration process begins with Kindergarten Registration, scheduled at Northwood Preschool Center,  9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, April 1,  and  2 to 7 p.m., Thursday, April 2.
In order to enroll students for kindergarten, parents must attend one of the kindergarten registration sessions and bring the required identification documents, Peterson said.

“We’ll have a bank of computers for parents to use to complete the online registration, and we’ve enlisted help from staff and Family Ambassadors,” she  said.


Registrar Barbara Peterson is ready to assist in using the District’s new online student registration system.

If parents choose to complete the online registration at home after attending one of the kindergarten registration sessions, they may do so using the link provided in their information folder.

Registration for returning students
Information explaining the online registration process will come home with currently-enrolled students May 1, Information Manager Cathy Fitzgerald said.

“We’re sending home information explaining how parents can access the link to the registration system in their Infinite Campus Parent Portal inbox and find the links on the Registrar’s webpage to online forms they must complete,” Fitzgerald said.

Parents and guardians who have questions may contact Registrar Barbara Peterson by phone: 515-268-6605 or by email:

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District receives Teacher Leadership and Compensation Grant

AMES–Ames Community School District was among the school districts selected in December to launch local teacher leadership plans through Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System.

Associate Superintendent Mandy Ross said staff in Ames is cheering the Iowa Department of Education’s announcement.

“Ames has been ahead of the state’s education reform in providing instruction that meets students’ individual needs and in creating ways for teachers to collaborate,” Ross said. “This grant gives us more resources and opportunities to support taking our vision and goals to the next level.”

In its press release, the Iowa Department of Education described the Teacher Leadership and Compensation System as a “centerpiece of the state’s landmark education reform package passed by the Legislature in 2013,” designed to tap into the expertise of top teachers to improve classroom instruction, raise student achievement, attract and retain more effective teachers by enhancing career opportunities, and pay stipends for taking on extra responsibilities.

Ross said besides articulating their vision and goals for the teacher leadership and compensation plan, districts’ applications were required to address “must-haves,” such as setting a rigorous selection process for leadership roles and a minimum teacher salary of $33,500, and improving entry into the profession through efforts that include mentoring new teachers.

“The grant will allow Ames to expand some existing positions, such as instructional coaches and teachers on special assignment,” Ross said. “The additional staff in these roles will increase our teachers’ access to job-embedded professional development, which has direct impact on quality instruction for students in our schools.”

The added teachers on special assignment will expedite updates to district curriculum in content areas that don’t always get the focus they need or deserve, she said.

“For example, art, music, and PE are integral parts of our education program, but don’t get attention from the state and federal governments like math and reading do,” Ross said.

The district will receive $1.3 million dollars for its teacher leadership plan, Ross said. Statewide, the state will spend nearly $50 million for the teacher leadership system in fiscal year 2015, an amount expected to reach about $150 million annually by fiscal year 2017.

The Iowa Department of Education press release said 170 state school districts serving a mix of urban, suburban and rural communities applied to join the teacher leadership system in the second round. Of those, 125 districts were chosen to put in place local plans—74 of them in the 2015-16 school year and another 51 in 2016-17.

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Fellows students sweep Cy off his feet with Read-a-thon results

Fellows Elementary School students read a total of 5,349 hours to raise more than $11,000 dollars from pledges in their third annual Read-a-thon in February. Iowa State University’s mascot Cy was among the city and school leaders who came to celebrate. As you can see, Cy was was swept off his feet by the students’ effort. He recovered to congratulate students, however.

Fellows staff and PTO leaders came up with the concept two years ago as alternative to traditional fundraisers. Since then, they’ve learned the event has the power to raise spirits, money and expectations for learning.

The idea has caught on at Mitchell and Edwards elementary schools, as well.




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Got grit? Sawyer students thrive with growth mindset

gritphotoAMES–Grit is the quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over long periods of time. Classroom counseling lessons devoted to building grit through a growth mindset are helping Sawyer Elementary School students, among other students in the Ames Community School District, to develop persistence, determination and resilience.

In the process, students, staff and families are kicking learning up a notch by turning what has traditionally been personal development into a cooperative mission.

For students like Logan Tegeler, 7; Achol Lual, 11; and DeAndre Isaac, 11, the growth mindset lessons provide tools to focus on the language they are using within their own mindsets, and, if necessary, to change it.

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Good-bye to Old Meeker is May 2

Meekergoodbye1AMES–The Meeker Elementary School building may be made of bricks and mortar, but it holds memories of formative events that extend for several generations. Meeker students, staff, alumni and friends will gather at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 2, to celebrate and honor the old building before its last school year ends.

Principal Steve Flynn said the building drew strong loyalty long before it was designated as a Blue Ribbon School in 2013.

“The school has always created a close community where students have thrived and launched a solid foundation for learning for the rest of their lives,” Flynn said.

The “Good-bye to Old Meeker” celebration is an open-house styled event and the public is encouraged to attend.

The building will be demolished during the summer of 2015. In August, staff and students will move into its new replacement, which has been built on the same campus.

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Ames students shine on international test

chemistry2014AMES —A cross-section of Ames High School sophomores and juniors has debunked the notion that all American students lag behind their international peers in terms of academic prowess. The randomly selected 15-year-olds in Ames who took the OECD test, an international test of science, mathematics and reading skills, scored toe-to-toe with global powerhouses like Singapore, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. Among international peers, only Shanghai’s scores surpassed Ames’ scores.

Ames School officials say they it was no surprise that Ames High School scores also outflanked those of five other high-performing Iowa high schools that partnered with the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council in 2014 to take the test. Historically, Ames’ schools score above the state averages on the Iowa Assessment, and Ames High School scores above the state average ACT test scores, according to Associate Superintendent Mandy Ross, who leads the district’s curriculum and instruction department.

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Mitchell students show off reading skills on National Read Across America Day

AMES–All across America on Monday, March 2, people young and old donned tall red-and-white striped hats, spiky blue wigs, or shirts that put stars on their bellies. They read aloud books written in rhymes, about fantastical creatures whose outlandish antics couched messages dealing with touchy social issues. Monday was the birthday of iconic children’s author and illustrator Dr. Seuss—a date appropriated by the National Education Association for National Read Across America Day.  The annual event is part of Read Across America, an initiative on reading that was created to “help create a nation of readers,” NEA’s website says .

Kindergarten students at Mitchell Elementary School didn’t need any hoopla to get excited about reading, however, teacher Charlyn Mason said.

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