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Northwood Preschool News

Executive Directors of Curriculum Announced

Executive Directors

The Ames Community School District is excited to announce Dr. Jeff Hawkins as the new Executive Director of Secondary Education, and Dr. Chad Dumas as Executive Director of Elementary Education. Both are new positions as part of a district office reorganization that will provide a more focused approach to aligning curriculum efforts across the District.

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Northwood: The Preschool Center where Amazing Begins!

Northwood Preschool Center

At Northwood Preschool Center, student inquiry drives instruction, creating an environment where learning possibilities never cease. Principal Kristin Barber, now in her second year at Northwood, said, “Students are in charge of their own learning. We have projects that are 6-8 weeks, but it’s not always about the content. It’s about allowing students to explore their own understanding and learn how to ask great questions.”

Northwood Preschool is a part of the free statewide voluntary preschool program that serves 4-year-olds and a separate grant that serves 3-year-olds. They also provide a half day early kindergarten program that meets kindergarten expectations. All teachers are dual certified, meaning that they can teach in both special and general education settings, making Northwood a full inclusion school. Barber says, “All students are immersed in the classroom experience, and this is incredibly valuable for their learning.”

Within any classroom at Northwood, you will see students interacting with each other in what looks like “play time” for the students. But what is happening, in reality, is project-based learning that incorporates play for students, hands-on learning, and reinforces peer to peer interactions in the process. This approach lays the groundwork for learning that has no bounds.

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Academic Calendar Updates 2019-2020

Calendar Updates 2019-2020 school year

Updates to the 2019-2020 school year calendar were approved by the Ames school board on Monday, February 25, 2019. A couple of the key updates include the start date and how professional development is organized at Ames Middle School and Ames High School.

Start date – School will officially begin on Friday, August 23, 2019 for most grades across the District. This includes 1st – 5th grade, as well as 6th and 9th graders, and all other students at the middle and high school who are new to the District. This start date aligns with other Districts across the state and is the first day that school can officially start according to state law. This is a change from the originally scheduled Monday, August 26 start date.

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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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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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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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