Monday, March 3, 2014

Van Meter to Receive TLC Grant

Van Meter Community School District to Receive Teacher Leadership Grant

I am pleased to announce today that the Van Meter Community School District is in the first group of Iowa school districts selected to launch teacher leadership systems next school year.

Teacher leadership systems will allow teachers to work in greater collaboration with colleagues and school administrators to improve instruction and increase student achievement. Out of Iowa’s 346 school districts, 146 applied to start teacher leadership systems in 2014-15 and 39 were selected. Of those, two districts will share teacher leadership systems. A list of all selected school districts is at the end of this press release.

We are excited for the opportunity to continue the development of our teacher leadership system. Increasing leadership capacity in our district is not only great for our teachers, but will have a positive impact on student learning. 

Teacher leadership systems are the centerpiece of Iowa’s historic 2013 education reform package. They stand to be the foundation for implementation of other state reforms, such as high academic standards. With higher expectations for all students today, it is critical to better support the complex work educators must do.

Teacher leadership systems will be phased in over the next three years across Iowa, with the goal of all districts participating by 2016-17, although whether to do so is a local decision. The Commission on Teacher Leadership and Compensation recommended which districts should be in the first group. Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck made the final decision.

Our district’s teacher leadership model includes instructional strategists, mentors, and PLC leaders who will work closely with classroom teachers to better meet the individual instructional needs of students. Teacher leaders will be paid stipends in exchange for taking on extra responsibilities.

Districts that applied were required to set a vision and goals for the teacher leadership system in their community. Requirements include setting a minimum salary of $33,500 for full-time teachers, providing intensive mentoring for new teachers, and adopting a rigorous selection process for applicants for teacher leadership roles.

Districts selected will receive about $309 per pupil next school year to implement their teacher leadership systems. The annual cost statewide is nearly $50 million in FY15, growing to about $150 million annually in the third year. After the initial year of district implementation, their teacher leadership funding rolls into the Iowa school finance formula.

The next step for school districts is selecting teacher leaders. Gov. Terry Branstad’s FY15 budget recommendations include $4 million for the Iowa Department of Education, working with Area Education Agencies, to provide technical assistance and leadership development for the districts in the first group implementing teacher leadership systems in 2014-15.

We are very excited to be one of the first district in the state to receive support from this grant. It will support our work to personalize learning for each student's success today, and tomorrow.

The selected districts, enrolling about one-third of Iowa students, are:
Cedar Rapids
Council Bluffs
East Marshall
East Union
Greene County
Humboldt (in collaboration with Twin Rivers)
Le Mars
Mount Pleasant
North Polk
Rock Valley
Sioux City
Southeast Polk
Twin Rivers (in collaboration with Humboldt)
Van Meter
West Des Moines
Western Dubuque

Monday, January 27, 2014

2014-2015 School Calendar Proposal

As some of you may or may not know, legislation was passed last year that allows schools to count 1080 hours instead of 180 days as the time needed for a school year. This gives districts flexibility to meet the needs of its students.  With that being said we have worked with a committee of teachers, administrators, and parents to develop a proposed school calendar for next year that is similar, but slightly different than the past few years' calendars. 

Similarities include:
  • Early start date with semester ending prior to winter break
  • Some full days for professional development
  • Full week of spring break
  • End date in mid May

Basically the calendar is the same in regards to the number of days, but the major difference being proposed is weekly professional development time for teachers. Many schools in the metro area including, West Des Moines, Des Moines, Johnston, Ankeny, Norwalk, and Carlisle either have a weekly late start or early out to provide time for professional development. In our proposal, the school day would start at 8:15 and end at 3:30 Monday through Thursday. Friday would start at 8:15 but dismissal for students would be at 1:30 p.m. Teachers would use this time after students are dismissed until 3:30 p.m. to meet professional development responsibilities outlined by the state, district, and their individual and team plans. Time is valuable and research indicates this added PD time will improve instruction and student learning.

We know the challenges this may cause for families and this was considered when developing the calendar.  Other communities have found ways to make the time needed to improve the quality of instruction by providing weekly PD for teachers work, so it is believed that our community can as well.

The calendar has been shared with staff, the school board, and the VMEPC.  Most of the feedback has been positive, but as with any change, challenges have been presented and we will do our best to address those concerns.  Our School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) will review the calendar in early February. Board members will have time to listen to patrons between now and February 17 when they will decide whether to approve the calendar or not at the monthly  meeting.

Linked is the proposed calendar and a letter with more information for you to consider.  As with anything, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Thanks for taking the time to review the linked documents.


Proposed Calendar

Monday, October 14, 2013

Creating a Learning Space that Meets Student Needs

The mission of Van Meter Schools is to personalize learning for each students' success today and tomorrow. When you think about truly personalizing learning for students, it is a daunting task. The current school system was not designed with individuals in mind, but rather the masses. The factory model educational system was created to standardize learning, not to customize it to each individual's needs. So creating a learning system to help all students learn at high levels in an efficient way that works for all students is hard work.

We love what we have developed at Van Meter. Students are given more flexibility to demonstrate their learning here than in many other schools in the U.S., but we are far from where we hope to be in the future. Our vision is to empower students to be learners who:
  • Communicate
  • Collaborate
  • Create
  • Innovate
  • Solve Problems
  • Adapt
  • Think Globally
  • Live Ethically
  • Persist (Grit)

We believe we have the foundation established to continue to develop a system that encompasses our mission and makes our vision come to life, but we need a learning space that better enables our teachers to help our students learn in a system customized and personalized to meet each of their needs. That is why we have worked hard to design the type of building structure that is flexible, encourages collaboration, and allows students to create and innovate to solve problems in this ever changing world.  
With the support of our community backed bond issue in April of 2013, Van Meter Schools has started to transform the district's facilities.  Work has already begun on moving the baseball and softball fields.  As many people have noticed as they drive by our facilities, the fields are well on their way to being completed by next spring.  Photos of the project can be viewed here.  As is viewable from the photos or by just driving by, the fields turf is in and the grass seed is planted. We plan on getting the sod put in and the fences installed later this week. By the end of October, we should be about two-thirds of the way done with the project.

While work on the East Athletic Complex needed to start prior to the school building renovations, we are most excited about the changes that will be taking place in the late winter and early spring to our secondary building.  The project is expected to start shortly after the new year and will continue through the summer of 2015 with plans for completion by the start of the 2015-2016 school year.  Though the building plans have not been formally approved by the Van Meter School Board, you can preview what has been developed by the design team below.  

Main Floor- Download as a PDF to zoom in 
2nd Floor- Download as a PDF to zoom in

There are several key design features in these plans, but ultimately, we are hoping to create a learning space that matches our philosophy of learning. Students and teachers need spaces that are adaptable to the type of learning required for a personalized, innovative and global educational experience.

We are grateful for the support of our school. With one in five students open enrolled into our growing district, it is apparent that Van Meter Schools is a place that people want their kids to attend. Personalized, Innovative and Global is just not a phrase we put on our website or in promotional tools, but it is how we operate on a daily basis. We look forward to the continued progress of our facilities and we are confident when complete, the learning experiences of our students will only be improved.