ONE Word for 2020


CHOOSING YOUR ONE WORD: For the 6th year at South, I am encouraging every staff
member, student and parent to choose your ONE WORD to drive your actions, vision and
mission for this coming year. After reading Jon Gordon’s reasoning behind choosing your ONE word a number of years ago, this is a practice I started doing on my own to better help me drive me toward my WHY, my purpose.

By each of us choosing that ONE WORD and then sharing this word with each other, my hope is that this action supports a collective positive vision for our students, staff and building. As the new year begins, I would love to get as many staff, parents and students involved in this by having you select your ONE WORD for the year and submit it here. Below is a visual of all the ONE Words chosen over the past 5 years by staff, students and parents.

It is about this time each year that I reflect upon my word choice from the past New Year and begin to think about what word I hope will drive my upcoming year. A few weeks ago, as I was driving around town busily from here to there thinking about all the things I should be doing or haven’t done yet and likely being frustrated by something (the traffic, my teenage boys, stresses of work, my Ducks not making the playoffs, etc.), when an episode of “Wait. Wait. Don’t Tell Me” came on the radio with Henry Winkler (aka ‘The Fonze’) being interviewed by the host. In response to how has he maintained such a laid back and positive attitude during his entire life, he shared:

“I live by two words: tenacity and gratitude. Tenacity gets me where I want to go and gratitude doesn’t allow me to be angry along the way.

I must admit: there are times this year where I get angry. The “why” and “what” behind that might be a whole other blog series 🙂 but I do feel that what has been missing most this past year for me is gratitude. I often get frustrated with what I did not get done, what we (school or home) do not have and focus on the problem(s) versus the fortunate events that have lead up me/us being in such a great place with so many wonderful people, opportunities and resources surrounding me. 

So with all that in mind, my ONE WORD for the 2020 year is GRATITUDE. My hope for GRATITUDE guiding my upcoming year is to:

  • Start my day by finding one thing to be thankful for and writing it down before I start my day.
  • Each week, show gratitude by writing a note, email or text to a different person to let them know how thankful I am to have her/him in my life.
  • Author Toni Morrison shared, “At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough.” When I find myself getting angry, I will take a deep breath and just find something near me that highlights the beauty in the world and just focus on that person, thing or scene for a short moment so that I realize how so lucky I am to have that be a part of my day/life.

I hope you join me in selecting your ONE Word for 2020. As we finish the 2019 year this week at South, I want to wish you and your family a relaxing, joy-filled winter break and a happy New Years. All of us here at South MS look forward to an amazing second half to our school year beginning January 6th!

Doug Barry, Principal

2019: Present
2018: Vision
2017: Moment
2016: Joy
2015: Focus

Teach Waukee: growing our own

This past week, I met with a group of educators (teachers/associates) and future educators (students) who are beginning to work together to promote the profession of education among our own Waukee students with the belief that we have some amazing future teachers, counselors, administrators and educators within our own student body. 

As our district continues to grow and become more diverse, our team is also looking for ways to create a desire for Waukee students of color to go down the teacher/educator path and then recruit our students of color back to Waukee after college. The team believes we have a good start on this goal as this year’s Intro to Education class is more diverse than any section prior to this year. The students of color and educators on our team discussed how they see excitement from our elementary and middle school students when they are with them in their classrooms, pods and hallways of our schools! 

In addition to identifying and encouraging 6th-12th grade students to give the education profession a look, our team identified a long term vision of:

  • Starting now, track our Waukee graduates who are choosing to go into education (keeping in touch with them, offering opportunities and supports).
  • Over the next 1-2 years, actively recruit more diverse candidates to Waukee.
  • Over the next 3-5 years, recruit and hire candidates of color within our own graduates and outside of Waukee.

If you are interesting in supporting this initiative, please reach out to me to see how you can help. We have some amazing opportunities within our high school program such as our Introduction to Education program and want to make sure all of our students and families are aware.


Student Survey Results

Over the past 4 years, we have surveyed our students 3 times each year as part of our building’s climate goal. This year our goal is as follows:

Overarching Goal: 85% or more of our students will agree or strongly agree that they have an adult they know would be willing to help them with a problem (if they wanted the help). 

OUR WHY:  Our students have great dreams, aspirations and goals and the ability to connect with others is key to achieving those.  We need to be able to connect with others in kind and caring ways, even through challenges.

This past week during early out time, our teachers worked in teams to review the student survey results, look at individual responses, highlight celebrations and set action steps to improve upon what they see and observe within their teams. I believe that it is as important to focus on our students’ social, emotional and behavior growth as it is on their academic growth and progress. Below is a summary of this fall’s data. If you have any questions, please let me know! We look forward to continue working with our students in order to help SMS be the best place possible for each child to learn, work, grow, connect and laugh. 

(both 6th & 7th combined)

Grade Level Specific

SMS Annual Homecoming Tailgate

Our Annual Homecoming Family Tailgate is on Friday at Centennial Park at 5:30p and is for all South MS families. For only $10 you can feed your entire family! Pay online (click for RevTrack) or RSVP (click here) and pay the night of the event (cash or check). The deadline to sign-up is today (Tuesday, Sep 24).

What to eat? Each person will get a hamburger or hotdog, bag of chips and drink. Families are welcome (but you don’t have to!) to bring dessert or an appetizer…please make it a finger food as we will not be doing plates and silverware. If you or a family member does not like hamburgers/hotdogs or is/are a vegetarian, please feel free to bring your own tailgate meal and join us for some fun and fellowship.

What to do? Bring a yard or tailgate game, frisbee, football or any other activity to share with others.

When? This Friday, Sep 27, the tailgate starts at 5:30p so come anytime after then. Food will be served until 6:30p and we have the shelter reserved until game time: 7:00p. 

Where? The open shelter at Centennial Park. See map below for parking. Our bad weather/rain location is the South MS commons. 

Questions? Let us know at 515.987.3222 or email 

CONNECT! Special edition

We have a number of ways for families and students to CONNECT with South MS and Waukee this August/September and I wanted to take time to share them with you. Please check them out. The first two are more of our immediate needs so thanks for considering these CONNECT opportunities!

    • Host a small group of teachers for lunch next Friday, August 16. We are looking for 12 families or business to host 3-5 teachers for lunch as part of our first day of professional development. This could be in your home, at a restaurant, place of business, the park or even at South MS. This will be the 3rd year we have done this CONNECT activity and we have had good responses from teachers and parents alike. Click here to learn more and complete this form 
    • We need some additional 7th grade student volunteers for a few events over the next 2 weeks. Have your son/daughter check out our needs by clicking here
    • We are in need of help from our families to support a meal for our teachers during the first parent night “A Walk in Your Child’s Shoes” on Thursday, September 5. Click here to sign up.
    • We will host our 2nd Annual Family Tailgate on Friday, September 27 at Centennial Park. Last year’s rain had us inside at South but we are hoping for sun, fun and connecting to take place at beautiful Centennial Park this year! Get it on your calendar and sign up on Rev Trak here
    • Whether you’re new to Waukee or been here 10 years like me, visit the Warrior Mall for your Waukee gear: We may have some South MS options later this fall, but the Warrior Mall covers it all. 🙂 


SMS Summer Book Club

Waukee Summer Book Club

Come join us this summer as we EXPLORE culturally relevant books for ourselves, our classrooms and our community while we CONNECT with other educators, parents and community members with the goal for you to LEAD others in conversation and action within your sphere of influence!  Sign up here! 

Deadline is Wednesday, May 22. 

What is this?

To start, participants will choose 3 fiction books from a list of Project Lit books and educators may also choose to be a part of a common read: We Got This! by Cornelius Minor. Through either face to face book club meetings this summer or an online option, participants will meet together to discuss the books.

Do I have to do it all?

We are going to provide participants with different levels of participation. When you sign up, you will indicate which level you’d like to do this summer:

    • Waukee Staff Level I – Professional Study: Commit to: We Got This book study, read & discuss 3 fiction books; meet 3-4 times (online or in person); create an action plan for your classroom, team, building or community. This option is open to anyone; South MS teachers doing this level can submit 4 hours of teacher quality pay.
    • Waukee Staff Level II – Summer Book Club: Read & discuss 3 fiction books; meet 3-4 times (online or in person)
    • Parent/Community Summer Book Club: Open to any parent/community member. Read & discuss 3 fiction books; meet 3-4 times (online or in person)

Summer Meet Up Times: (Tentative)

Sign Up Deadline: Wednesday, May 22

Date Online Option In person
Tuesday, June 11th Virtual Meeting/See Saw Sharing (link to come)  Location/time TBD
Monday, June 24th   Meet Up & Book Swap (location/time to come)
Tuesday, July 9th Twitter Chat! #SMSBookClub Location/time TBD
Monday, July 29th Book Club Round Up
Facebook or Blog Post?
Location/time TBD 

What books can I choose from?

We will be using the middle grade Project Lit books from the current year and the upcoming year. List HERE.

Where do I get the books?

A survey form will be sent to all participants

  • SMS staff – the school will be ordering/paying for these books when we finalize choices. You may keep them for your CLASSROOM library or donate them to the SMS library to be added to the circulation or bookroom.
  • Other Waukee staff – you will pick the 3 books and you/your building would be responsible for obtaining the books
  • SMS Parents or Community members – There will be two options: (1) purchase on own, keep or donate the books to the school at the end of the summer; (2) have SMS purchase books & donate them to a teacher of your choice at the end of the summer.

What is Project Lit?

Project Lit is a national, grassroots LITeracy movement, a network of dedicated teachers and students who are committed to increasing access to culturally relevant books and promoting a love of reading in our schools and communities. Project Lit commits to working together to:

  • Empower students as READERS and LEADERS in their school and community.
  • Flood our schools and communities with high-quality, culturally relevant books.
  • Champion & celebrate reading daily.
  • Inspire and support educators through sharing of lesson plans, resources, strategies, and book recommendations.
  • Create opportunities for students to connect with peers around the country.
  • Advocate for policies & practices that will help our students become lifelong leaders.

Student Assessments Next Week

The week of April 29, South Middle School will be giving the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) to students in both 6th and 7th grades. ISASP is the new state assessment that has replaced the Iowa Assessments (or Iowa Basic Skills), as Iowa’s main state accountability test for all students. Testing dates and times are:

  • Monday, April 29 Math Test 8:35-10:10 *Students should bring a basic, four function calculator if possible. No graphing calculator or cell phone.
  • Tuesday, April 30 Reading Test 8:15-10:10
  • Thursday, May 2 Language/Writing Test 8:15-10:33

Notable changes between the ISASP and the Iowa Assessments include:

  • Just so you know… during ISASP, we will ask students to leave phone and watches in the locker or at home. Student may bring a book to the classroom.
  • A writing component of two long-answer questions, about three paragraphs each.
  • Short answer questions in both reading and math to explain answers/reasoning.
  • The assessments are untimed.
  • The ISASP is aligned with the Iowa Core Standards, providing clear and accurate assessment of student learning outcomes.

As with all assessment, parents should encourage their students to:

  • get a good night’s sleep
  • eat a healthy breakfast
  • come fully prepared to engage and participate to the best of their ability
  • Please try to avoid absences during this time. If your student has to be absent, we will schedule a time for them to make-up the assessment as soon as possible.
  • All personal electronic devices including cell phones, smart watches, tablets, etc. will not be permitted in the testing rooms. We encourage students to leave them at home for their safety.

Thank you for your help in preparing your student for their ISASP assessments. If you are interested in learning more about ISASP you can visit the Pearson link here:

Building an Inclusive Community @ South MS

Dr. King gave the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech. It’s our dreams that change the course of history. ~ Simon Sinek

Last winter, our leadership team planned, organized and then hosted a mini-conference in August for South MS teachers and community members with the focus on learning and application of that learning connected to diversity, equity, disparity, cultural differences, valuing perspectives, race, inclusion, climate and culture. The mini-conference was a unique mix of experts from near (Des Moines, Waukee) and far (Chicago, Portland), school and community members, professional learning materials and resources along with time for teachers to collaborate together. It was a great event and a common learning experience for our many of our teachers and parents.

This year, I have based my professional growth goals upon that foundation of learning with the hope I can continue my own learning and growth in this area. Principal Kim Tierney of Maple Grove Elementary and I set our focus of: 

  • strengthening our knowledge and skills needed to be a threat to the existence of inequity within our spheres of influence; and
  • to provide a space and voice to everyone of our stakeholders in order to assess our current reality and identify or address inequities within our school, district and community.

After having some great 1:on:1 conversations with some parents and students 1st semester, I would like to CONNECT with more families by expanding the conversation to small groups of parents and community members. This next step is bring together a group of willing and interested parents and community members to engage in open conversation around diversity, equity, disparity, cultural differences, valuing perspectives, race and inclusion.

If you are interested in being a part of this school & community conversation, please reach out to me (email or call) so I can involve you in the learning, collaborating and work (dreaming!). I look forward to hearing your dreams for our students and our school community.

Summer 2019 Update

Our team of 15+ parents/staff met in May for the first time and are meeting again on Thursday, July 18 at 7:00pm (@ the WILC). If you are interested in joining these conversations and/or supporting the work, please let me know.

Agenda/notes can be found below. 

No Pops Concert Tonight :-(

Unfortunately our January Pops Concert scheduled for tonight has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. We were able to record both bands today and will share the full concert for a short period of time with our South MS families here in the near future. More information to come to band parents from Mr. Deutmeyer and Mrs. Cunningham. Our band students did an AMAZING job performing for our students and teachers this morning during our whole school assembly. You can view a bit of what we heard below. Our next scheduled band concert will be April 23. For our band schedule and other band related information, visit our band blog [click here]. 



ONE Word for 2019


CHOOSING YOUR ONE WORD: For the 5th year at South, I am encouraging every staff
member, student and parent to choose your ONE WORD to drive your actions, vision and
mission for this coming year. After reading Jon Gordon’s reasoning behind choosing your ONE word a number of years ago, this is a practice I started doing on my own to better help me drive me toward my WHY, my purpose.

By each of us choosing that ONE WORD and then sharing this word with each other, my hope is that this action supports a collective positive vision for our students, staff and building. As the new year begins, I would love to get as many staff, parents and students involved in this by having you select your ONE WORD for the year and submit it here. Below is a visual of all the ONE Words chosen over the past 4 years by staff, students and parents.

As I thought about which word I was going to choose this year, it was much more of a struggle for me than any previous years. Both at work and at home, the upcoming year brings much change and unknown. Our district continues to grow quickly and the Waukee I knew nine years ago seems to be so much different than the Waukee today. The opportunities for our students are nearly endless, our teachers still continue to do amazing things in the classroom, but the challenges of being able to hone in on the individual needs of each and every student with rapid growth and 100s of new students can be daunting. The need for me, each of us, and our entire building/district to understand and connect with our changing student and community population is vital for us to continue to be THE leading district in the state. I believe in Waukee and know it will take listening and work to be the school we want to be for our students and families. At home, my oldest child will graduate and head off to college next fall followed by my other two children in the not-so-far-away future. The life I know today in my home will look drastically different over the next 1-5 years. I realize my time to share all my parental knowledge and shape them into the young men I want them to be is running short (I do know my limits here as well!).

So with all that in mind, my ONE WORD for the 2019 year is PRESENT. My hope for PRESENT guiding my upcoming year is to:

  • Be present in my conversations with our stakeholders. My goal is to engage in a number of student and community conversations (1:on:1; small group, etc.) to deepen my understanding of who we serve and how I/we can do it better. 
  • Be present as much as I can when I’m engaged in conversation with teacher teams, walking through classrooms, standing in the hallway during passing periods and avoiding distractors when I need to be present (phone, email, etc.).
  • Be present in my home. Put down, put away, put up my phone and laptop to avoid working being seen as a priority over my wife or sons. Play. Listen. Enjoy this time.

Best of luck in selecting your ONE WORD for 2019. As we finish the 2018 year this week at South, I want to wish you and your family a relaxing, joy-filled winter break and a happy New Years. All of us here at South MS look forward to a fantastic second half to our school year beginning January 2nd!

Doug Barry, Principal

2018: Vision
2017: Moment
2016: Joy
2015: Focus