Thank you to the Central Rivers AEA board of directors

image of Central Rivers AEA board of directors


Join us in thanking our dedicated board members this month during School Board Recognition Month!   Serving over 62,000 students, 5,000 educators, and approximately 500 staff members, these nine committed volunteers are the backbone of the agency, setting the course for our work!

  • Roberta Kraft-Abrahamson, Director District 1 – Districts represented: Central Springs, Clear Lake, Forest City, Garner-Hayfield-Ventura, Lake Mills, North Iowa, Northwood-Kensett, St. Ansgar, and West Hancock.
  • Dr. Debra Rich, Board President, Director District 2 – Districts represented: Charles City, Dike-New Hartford, Dunkerton, Nashua-Plainfield, Sumner-Fredericksburg, Tripoli, Wapsie Valley, and Waverly-Shell Rock.
  • Kathy Enslin, Director District 3 – Districts represented: AGWSR, Alden, Aplington-Parkersburg, CAL, Clarksville, Eldora-New Providence, Grundy Center, Hampton-Dumont, Hubbard-Radcliffe, Iowa Falls, and North Butler.
  • Dr. Darshini Jayawardena, Director District 4 – Districts represented: Belmond-Klemme, Mason City, Osage, Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock, and West Fork.
  • Dr. Mary Stevens, Director District 5 – Districts represented: BCLUW, East Marshall, GMG, Marshalltown & West Marshall.
  • Maureen Hanson, Board Vice-President, Director District 6 – Districts represented: BGM, Gladbrook-Reinbeck, Grinnell-Newburg, Hudson, Montezuma, North Tama County, South Tama County, and Union.
  • Dr. Tony Reid, Director District 7 – Districts represented: Cedar Falls, Denver, and Janesville.
  • Bryan Burton, Director District 8 – District represented: Waterloo.
  • Dennis Craun Jr., Director District 9 – Districts represented: East Buchanan, Independence, Jesup, and Waterloo.
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Open enrollment for benefits closing May 9

The Open Enrollment period for insurance closes this Sunday, May 9. Even if you do not take insurance, you must go through the open enrollment process, which can be found on the Portal under My Benefits > Benefits Enrollment. 

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Kelsey Baker named Assistant Principal of River Hills School

Kelsey Baker, currently a School Psychologist for Region 6, has been named half-time Assistant Principal for River Hills School. In her new role, Kelsey will serve as an assistant to longtime Principal Mike Lonning, while also serving as a Team Representative for the school.

Kelsey has served area students and families as a School Psychologist with the Area Education Agency system since 2007. She has also served as a clinician with the Malcolm Price Lab School as well as worked one-on-one with children through Exceptional Persons, Inc.

Kelsey holds a School Psychologist Specialist degree from the University of Northern Iowa, a Masters in Education degree through Dordt University, as well as a Bachelors of Education degree from Wartburg College. She was named Iowa School Psychologist of the Year in 2020 and authored the book, “Our Special Family” which highlights family diversity and uniqueness.

“Kelsey is a perfect fit for the amazing students, staff and families at River Hills School,” said Mike Lonning. “In addition to being extremely knowledgeable and experienced, she is a kind and caring individual with a heart for children. We are lucky to have her.”

 Kelsey will begin her new position on July 1, 2021.

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Make It Ok

Make It OK is a national campaign designed to increase understanding and reduce the stigma of mental illness in the workplace. While work often contributes to mental well-being for many, it can also negatively affect an employee. Central Rivers AEA is partnering with Make it Ok Iowa to bring awareness and provide additional resources to help staff address their mental health wellbeing. 

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) available to all agency employees and provides no-cost, confidential help for a wide variety of mental health needs and concerns. Access to trained counselors is available 24 hours a day by calling 866.451.5465. Additional resources can be found on the Portal > My Benefits > Employee Assistance Program/Mental Health Supports.

Together, we are starting the conversation around mental illness and providing help that is supportive and open.  Please contact Karl Kurt, Assistant Chief Administrator/Director of HR if you have any questions or would like more information. 

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New Zoom background feature now available

Zoom is rolling out a new video background feature called Immersive View that could make video calls feel more like a dynamic learning environment.  Immersive View allows hosts to arrange video participants and webinar panelists into a single virtual background, bringing people together into one scene to connect and collaborate in a cohesive virtual meeting space.  

Whether you want to create the feeling of being in a classroom, boardroom, or auditorium, Immersive View assembles up to 25 participants in one meeting environment.  Hosts will have the option to automatically or manually place participants into a virtual scene of their choosing.  Hosts can also easily move participants around that scene and even resize a participant’s image for a more natural experience.

In order to make this new feature available, you will need to be running the latest version of Zoom.  If you have any questions or need technical assistance, please contact the Help Desk at 319.273.8231 or

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Spring it On!

Spring it On is our youth shelter donation drive and a great opportunity for staff to spring into action and provide our shelter youth with basic necessities to make their landing feel just a little bit softer!

Central Rivers AEA provides temporary educational services to students in three youth shelter programs: Four Oaks in Independence, Francis Lauer Youth Shelter (FLYS) in Mason City, and Woodhaven in Waverly. 

Our students often come to us with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and if they have a few items, they are usually carried in a garbage bag.  Students are typically ages 11-18 and live on-site in a residential facility for anywhere from two to 45 days, sometimes longer. 

Students come from a variety of situations including: 

  • rescued from human trafficking
  • removal from an abusive situation by DHS
  • awaiting a court date for a criminal charge
  • awaiting a foster care placement

Details on items needed and the sign-up sheet can be found on this document.  Please consider joining the drive either on your own or with a team (i.e. departments, disciplines, regions) and help us fill suitcases with donated items for the youth shelter kids!

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Check out this month’s technology tips and tricks

Chrome Tab Groups

If you tend to keep a lot of tabs open in your Chrome browser, you know the challenges of working with many websites at once: your tab bar is cluttered and it’s often hard to find a page you know is open — somewhere — in your browser.  Now, with a simple right-click, you can group your tabs together and label them with a custom name and color. To create a new tab group:

  1. Right-click an open tab
  2. Select Add tab to new group
  3. Name the group and choose a group color

Zoom Push-to-Talk

Are you tired of fumbling around to unmute yourself during Zoom meetings?  If so, the Zoom push-to-talk feature should help alleviate some of the hassle.  The feature allows the user to remain muted throughout a Zoom meeting and instead of grabbing for your mouse to unmute yourself, just hold down the spacebar when you want to be unmuted and talk.  

In order to take advantage of this feature, however, you will need to make sure you have it turned on in your settings:

  1. Within the Zoom desktop app, select your profile picture, then choose Settings 
  2. Select the Audio tab
  3. Check the option Press and hold SPACE key to temporarily unmute yourself 

 If you have any questions or need technical assistance, please contact the Help Desk at 319.273.8231 or

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Online IT knowledge base roll out

The Central Rivers Help Desk is excited to announce a new online IT Knowledge Base to help employees gain access to IT-related support material.  Knowledge base articles include step-by-step instructions, general how-to information, and screenshots to help employees gain the knowledge to solve a problem or complete a task.  The IT Knowledge Base will provide employees with the opportunity to find relevant IT support information quickly as a self-service option.  Please contact the Help Desk at 319.273.8231 or for support.  As always, we are here to help you! 

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Application process for RWS discontinued

Staff working remotely will NOT need to fill out an application for remote worksite (RWS) for 2021-22.  Further details regarding RWS parameters will be available in the near future. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the HR Department.

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