Monday wasn’t a school day for students, as teachers and staff were having professional development sessions throughout the day, but at East High School it was an especially busy morning hosting the 2023 State of the Schools.

School district and community leaders arrived at the newly-christened Ruth Ann Gaines Auditorium for a presentation by School Board chair Teree Caldwell-Johnson and interim Superintendent Matt Smith. The program included a look back at recent accomplishments at DMPS, a look ahead at future goals, a reminder about the importance of public education, and a Q&A session.

An annual tradition for many years, the last in-person State of the Schools was in 2008. After a 15 year hiatus Caldwell-Johnson said it was time to revive the event to celebrate the work and achievements of some 30,000 students and nearly 5,000 employees. And she invited the audience to be champions for education and maintain Iowa’s history as a leader in top-notch public schools.”

“DMPS needs strong voices who not only support our district but believe in a strong public education system,” noted Caldwell-Johnson. “For 116 Years DMPS has educated, nurtured, cultivated, and graduated hundreds of thousands of students no matter their race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, socio-economic status, language proficiency, gender identity, special needs, or developmental capacity. If you come to Des Moines Public Schools, there is no question that you will become the best you right here.”

Smith gave a people a reminder about the many unique educational opportunities – from advanced learning to skilled trades to the state’s only public Montessori school – that, in Iowa, are only found at DMPS.

“We provide students with access to schools and programs that are not only among the best in Iowa but rank among the top in the nation,” noted Smith. “We offer all students access to opportunities they are only going to find at public schools.”

Three East High seniors joined Caldwell-Johnson and Smith in the State of the Schools program. Kendell Fuller welcomed everyone to East – noting that his school was not only the oldest but also “the most prestigious high school in Des Moines” – while his peers Samantha Conyers and Josue Alleman moderated a conversation with Caldwell-Johnson and Smith responding to a series of questions submitted by attendees. Topics covered in the discussion ranged from book banning in school libraries to vouchers for private education to concerns about safe schools and more.

For more from this year’s State of the Schools event, see the video and photos below.


2023 State of the Schools

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