New principals and construction: what families will see as Des Moines metro schools start

Phillip Sitter
Des Moines Register
View Comments

School starts in a little more than a week, and, in an ever-growing metro, students and families may see some changes in their district.

A new superintendent will kick-off the school year in Des Moines and several new principals will take the helm at schools across the metro. Suburban districts will welcome the new year in new buildings.

Here's a roundup of what people may notice at their child's school when the first bell rings Aug. 23.

More:When does school start? Dates, child care resources families around Des Moines should know


  • New construction — The Neveln Building, 406 S.W. School St., is now home to the district's main office after an extensive renovation was completed this year. A third phase to expand Ankeny Stadium has started and will include new locker rooms for home and away teams, as well as a meeting and conference room. The district also will repair eight tennis courts at Prairie Ridge Middle School.
  • New assistant superintendent — Amy Dittmar started July 1 as the district's assistant superintendent for academic services. Dittmar was the district's elementary schools director from 2017 to 2022.
  • Northview Middle School principal resigns — The district announced last week that Jay Slight has resigned as principal at one of its middle schools. The district’s Director of Curriculum and Innovation, Carol Eddy, will serve as an interim principal.

Dallas Center-Grimes

  • New high school features — Renovations continue at Dallas Center-Grimes High School. The first phase is complete, which includes a new fine arts studio. New band and choir rooms will be ready for the start of the school year in what used to be a weight room and small gym. The Mustang Athletic Performance Center — including a new weight room and an auxiliary gym — is expected to be ready during the school year, though there's not an exact completion date.
  • New interim superintendent — Scott Blum was named as the district's interim superintendent. He was principal at Dallas Center-Grimes High School since July 2016. He also was a school board member in Waukee from 2015 to 2016.
Scott Blum
  • New high school principal — Travis Donahue is the new principal of Dallas Center-Grimes High School after having been the assistant principal for two years. The district first hired Donahue in 2007 as an industrial technology teacher whose students built homes in Grimes and Dallas Center. He's also been involved with serving at-risk students, has been a dean of students and has coached football and wrestling.
Travis Donahue

Des Moines

  • New superintendent — Ian Roberts was hired in May as Des Moines' next superintendent after having been the Millcreek Township School District's leader. Millcreek is a suburban area outside Erie, Pennsylvania.

More:New DMPS superintendent named in $250,000 settlement for ex-employee at his old district

  • The district has eight new principals —
Ben Graeber

Ben Graeber will be principal at Capitol View Elementary School.

Ashley Inthalangsy

Ashley Inthalangsy will be principal at Brubaker Elementary School.

Carrie Johnson

Carrie Johnson will be principal at Windsor Elementary School.

Benjamin LaConner

Benjamin LaConner will be principal at Samuelson Elementary School

Christopher Maniece

Christopher Maniece, who is new to the district, will be principal at North High School.

Scott Nichols

Scott Nichols will be principal at Cattell Elementary School.

Tiffany O’Hara

Tiffany O’Hara will be principal at Hillis Elementary School.

Tiona Sandbulte

Tiona Sandbulte will be principal at Stowe Elementary School.

  • New stadium expected to open soon — Mediacom Stadium is expected to be open in early October for part of the 2023 football season. The 4,000-seat stadium is a partnership between Des Moines Public Schools and Drake University and will be home to Drake's mens and womens soccer teams, as well as Des Moines' football and soccer teams and other school activities.


Luke Dillon
  • New principal — Luke Dillon will be the principal at Johnston Middle School. Dillon's most recent job was Iowa City's assistant director of curriculum instruction and assessment, as well as assistant equity director. He's previously been a principal or assistant principal at high school and middle schools, and has been a basketball, football and track coach.
Nikki Roorda
  • New interim superintendent — Nikki Roorda was selected in May to lead the district as its interim superintendent. Roorda has been the district's associate superintendent since July 2021 and worked as the district's executive director of teaching and learning since August 2019. The district hopes to have a long-term superintendent in place by July 1, 2024.

North Polk

  • New elementary school office — Renovations to the office at Central Elementary School are ready for the school year and include an entrance that's more secure and will require visitors to check in before they're granted access. More work will add six grade-level classrooms, a new art room and a new music room. A portable building that had been west of the school has been moved to the north to be used as office space for the district's transportation department. Another portable building was sold.
  • Classroom and restroom additions at North Polk Middle School are not expected to be ready until the start of the 2024-2025 school year.


Jolee Donnelly
  • New elementary principal — Jolee Donnelly will be the principal of Olmsted Elementary Principal after having been the interim principal for a year. Donnelly has previously been a dean of students and English teacher at Urbandale High School, the district's facilitator of curriculum and professional learning, and a high school English teacher in West Liberty as well as San Antonio, Texas.
  • New elementary school — The new Valerius Elementary School, 3305 92nd St., will be open for the school year. A community open house has not yet been scheduled.


  • New principals — Doug Barry will be the interim principal of Walnut Hills Elementary School. His experience includes eight years as the principal of South Middle School, four years as Maple Grove Elementary School's principal and a year as the shared principal of Eason and Maple Grove elementary schools.

Frank Lee will be the principal of Timberline School. Lee has worked for Des Moines Public Schools for 11 years. He also has been Des Moines Area Community College's program director of youth workforce development.

  • New middle school — Trailridge School will be open this fall at 1455 N.W. Douglas Parkway for about 1,000 students in the sixth and seventh grades. It's the district's fifth middle-level building.

West Des Moines

Jon Mendoza
  • New principals — Jon Mendoza will be the principal at Crestview School of Inquiry. Mendoza previously served as the principal and director of the virtual online school within the district. He worked for Des Moines Public Schools for five years and previously taught elementary students and coached high school athletes at various districts in the state.
Tamara Tjeerdsma

Tamara Tjeerdsma will be the interim principal at Westridge Elementary School for the 2023-2024 school year after having officially retired at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. Tjeerdsma served as the director of the Crestview School of Inquiry for four years and assistant principal of Jordan Creek and Westridge elementaries for four years. She previously taught elementary school for 18 years, including 10 years in the West Des Moines district.

The district also in January approved assistant principals for all its elementary schools for the 2023-2024 school year: Dana Allen at Clive Learning Academy; Jackson Anderson at Hillside; Emily Backus at Crossroads Park; Jeanette Barnes at Jordan Creek; Tyson Heuton at Westridge; Leah Holcomb at Fairmeadows; Sue Lawler at Crestview School of Inquiry; and Erin Willoughby at Western Hills.

  • New storm shelters and remodels — Additions and remodels at Clive Learning Academy, Crestview School of Inquiry, Fairmeadows, Stilwell, Valley Southwoods and Westridge were scheduled to be complete Aug. 12.

The Southeast Polk Community School District did not immediately provide details for this list.

Phillip Sitter covers suburban growth and development for the Des Moines Register. Phillip can be reached via email at He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty. 

View Comments