Back to School: What’s New for 2012-13

In less than 24 hours, nearly 30,000 students return to almost 60 schools throughout Des Moines to begin the 2012-13 school year. Classes begin tomorrow at 7:40 AM at high schools, 7:45 AM at middle schools, and between 8:15 and 8:35 AM at the elementary schools. When students return to Iowa’s largest provider of public education, they will be greeted by some new faces, new programs, and renovated school buildings. Here are some highlights of what’s new in Des Moines Public Schools for 2012-13:

A half dozen schools welcome new principals this year. New DMPS educational leaders (and their previous position) are:

  • Carrie Belt, Hubbell Elementary School Principal – Carrie was the dean of students at Park Avenue Elementary School.
  • Dr. Debbie Chapman, Hiatt Middle School – Debbie was the School Improvement Leader at Lincoln High School.
  • Thomas Hoffman, Brody Middle School – Thomas was most recently principal of Ames Middle School in Chicago, IL.
  • Tina Langston, Cowles Montessori School Principal – Tina was previously principal of Border Star Montessori in Kansas City, MO.
  • Scott Nichols, Windsor Elementary School Principal – Scott was most recently dean of students at River Woods Elementary School.
  • Amy Wiegmann, Brubaker Elementary School Principal – Amy was previously the dean of students at Brubaker and a school improvement leader at Smouse.

In addition to new principals, each year DMPS welcomes new teachers to our schools. This year 212 new teachers – with some additional openings still in the process of being filled – join the faculty.

This year also marks the first year of a groundbreaking contract for teachers. The contract, currently available only to new teachers, is designed to proactively address anticipated state/ federal mandates; begin progress towards a revised and enhanced standard contract; encourage staff continuity and teambuilding within individual schools; facilitate the training of teachers specifically equipped to serve the needs of students in an urban, diverse district such as DMPS; and attract and retain the brightest educational talent at both the teaching and administrative levels. Those who opt into the innovative plan will achieve a Master’s Degree in Effective Teaching after six years of service in the district and be incentivized to stay for at least an additional two and hopefully beyond. In its first year, 77 new teachers have opted for this innovative contract.

The new school year also welcomes new district-wide leaders to several positions. They are: 

  • Marci Cordaro, Health Services Supervisor – Marci trained new nurses at Mercy College and was an instructor and department chair of the Health Careers program at Central Campus.
  • Wilma Gajdel, Director of Federal and Grant Programs – Wilma was most recently a consultant with the Iowa Department of Education and previously spent 31 years with DMPS.
  • Barry Jones, Director of Elementary School Services – Barry was the principal at Windsor Elementary School for eight years.
  • Nick Lenhardt, Business & Finance Controller – Nick has been with PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Marsh and McLennan Companies.
  • Mike Lord, Director of Elementary Student Services – Mike served as the principal of Brubaker Elementary School for the previous five years. 
  • Noelle Tichy, Director of Teaching & Learning – Noelle previously was the School Improvement Leader at Hiatt Middle School.

The 2012-13 school year has been underway for nearly 2,000 students in Des Moines. Classes began at the district’s three continuous calendar schools – Capitol View, Moulton, and River Woods – on July 11. School started at the Downtown School and Edmunds, which use an alternate calendar, last Wednesday.

Several thousand Des Moines students will return to school buildings that have seen recent renovations, both large and small. Building projects at or near completion are: 

  • Brody Middle School: A four-classroom addition, along with an elevator addition, restroom expansions and a renovated auditorium.
  • Central Campus: While work continues on interior renovations, a new front entrance was recently completed as part of this multi-year project.
  • Hiatt Middle School: A new main office, new kitchen, exterior door replacement, mechanical/electrical upgrades, security/technology upgrades, and parking lot improvements. An addition for the Boys & Girls Club will be completed in the Fall.
  • Hoover High School: Exterior window and door replacement, electrical/mechanical improvements, new lights, and a new boiler. This work follows several major renovations completed last year, including a new library.
  • Lovejoy Elementary School: A classroom addition, security/technology upgrades, window and door replacements, and mechanical/electrical upgrades.
  • Madison Elementary School: A new student drop-off area.
  • McCombs Middle School: An eight-classroom addition, a renovated auditorium, and mechanical/electrical upgrades.
  • Meredith Middle School: A classroom addition, exterior window and door replacements, mechanical/electrical upgrades, and security/technology upgrades.
  • North High School: A new parking lot (this follows a major renovation of the school that was completed last year).
  • Samuelson Elementary School: A classroom addition.
  • Smouse Opportunity School: Remodeled classrooms, electrical/mechanical upgrades, and restroom renovations.
  • Studebaker Elementary School: Classroom walls built to replace open classrooms, mechanical/electrical upgrades, and security/technology upgrades.

In addition to the above renovation projects, work is currently underway on the new Edmunds Elementary School, which is scheduled to be completed in time for the start of the 2013-14 school year.

The district is continuing to expand access for students throughout Des Moines to Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. Last year, participation in AP exams increased 80% due largely to the greater availability of AP courses at the district’s five comprehensive high schools. Additional AP offerings will be made at East, Hoover, Lincoln, North and Roosevelt. In addition, DMPS remains the only district to offer the International Baccalaureate program. Seven schools are currently accredited IB schools; this year, three more schools – Gateway Secondary School, Meredith Middle School, and Hoover High School – are going through the accreditation process.

High school athletic teams will see some realignments and face some new opponents starting this year. Changes for upcoming year include: 

  • CIML Metro: The Metro conference – which includes East, Hoover, Lincoln, North and Roosevelt along with Ottumwa – welcomes Indianola to the line-up this year.
  • Class 4A Football Divisions: The creation of new football divisions by the Iowa High School Athletic Association goes into effect this year. Lincoln is in Division 1; North is in Division 2; Hoover is in Division 3; and East and Roosevelt are in Division 4.