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Articles from August 2017

Ames High Junior Performs at Prestigious Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Julie-Michelle Manohar, a 16-year-old junior from Ames High School, recently performed at the world-renowned Sydney Opera House as part of the prestigious 2017 High School Honors Performance Series (HPS) honor choir. The HPS program provides a selective learning and performance opportunity to qualified high school musicians who are invited to apply after being nominated by music teachers/directors familiar with their accomplishments. Students are accepted after a review by the Honors Selection Board based on their talent and achievements demonstrated in the application and audition recording.

Julie-Michelle (pictured right) auditioned and was selected to sing Soprano-1. HPS processed 18,000 nominations this year for their various programs at the Carnegie Hall and Sydney Opera House. According to the director, Nancy Richardson, 750 of these nominations were for the 2017 High School HPS at the Sydney Opera House of which only 150 were selected- 80 for the HPS choir, and 70 for the HPS orchestra. This was an international program; performers arrived from 44 states within the United States, Guam, several provinces of Canada, Australia, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Korea.

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Back to School Message from Superintendent Dr. Tim Taylor

August 23rd is the start of school for the Ames Public School system. It will mark the 156th year of public education, dating all the way back to 1862 when Hoggart’s School first opened. Since that time, we’ve become the #1 public school system in the state and we’ve held that ranking for some time. Niche ranked us #1 in academic opportunities, #1 in clubs and activities for our kids, and #1 in college preparation. I think the message here is that quality staff, quality programs, and most importantly, quality students provide for the highest quality of education, and that’s what you’ll get in Ames.

For the 400+ pre-kindergarten through kindergarten students, who are beginning their educational experience, our principals have put together a really tremendous orientation program that includes opportunities to get into the building and get set up before the education begins.

On the other end of the spectrum, for the high school seniors, this is going to be the fastest school year in your life. You’ll be going from the first day of school on August 23rd, and then in the blink of an eye, it will be commencement.

Another important message is that if you’re new to Ames, you’ve made the smart choice. Amazing Starts Here as we provide an amazing education for all of our kids. Ready, get set, go. Classes start on August 23rd.

As a reminder, start times for the first day of school are as follows:

  • Elementary schools start at 8:25 with an early dismissal at 2:05
  • Middle School start at 8:00, dismiss at 3:15
  • High School start at 7:50, dismiss at 3:05
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Ames CSD Ranked #1 again by Niche

Niche Ranks Ames #1

On August 7, Niche released their 2018 K-12 Rankings of the best schools in the country. For the fifth 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 third 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 2018 rankings.

The Niche 2018 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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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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A Guide to Understanding the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL)

What is the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy?

The Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL), pronounced “pepple” in school jargon, is one of the most important sources of revenue for public school systems. It is a voter-approved tax of $1.34/$1,000 on property valuation of home and commercial property owners. For the Ames Community School District, this combined with a board approved option creates about $4 million annually.

What can the money be used for?

The $4 million are categorical funds that can only be used for specific purposes as it relates to building and grounds upkeep and repairs, new construction, technology (our 1:1 program for computers in every student’s hands), and equipment such as vehicles, maintenance equipment, furniture, and even large musical instruments for the band and orchestra program. The money cannot be used to pay teacher salaries, to fund student programs, or pay for utilities.

Why is it important?

Without the PPEL funds, many things that keep the District running would need to be paid for out of the District’s general fund, which also covers teacher salaries and programs for kids. Those are the things that are essential to educating students! It would mean making decisions to reduce staff and student programs by $4 million each year to take care of our physical plant and equipment needs.

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New Chromebooks Support 1:1 Computer Initiative

Acer Chromebook

Shipments of new Acer Chromebooks started pouring into the District Office at the end of July, continuing the Ames Community School District’s commitment to its 1:1 computer initiative that began in 2013. The goals of the initiative are wide ranging, and has a huge impact no students within the classroom and beyond. Students learn 21st Century skills, are able to create and collaborate using digital tools, and teachers are able to personalized learning centered around the individual needs of their students.

One of the most significant aspects of the 1:1 initiative is that eliminates the digital divide by putting a computer in every student’s hands. Technology Director, Karl Hehr, has led the 1:1 initiative and sees it as a game changer in the Ames School District. “We can put a device in every student’s hands, regardless of their background, and give them access to learning beyond the classroom. They are then able to explore passions on their own, and this has created areas where students can become lifelong learners.”

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