Longtime principal Mike Lonning to retire from River Hills, effective August 31

Mike Lonning, River Hills School Principal

After 35 years of service to the children and families served by the Area Education Agency (AEA) system, Mike Lonning will retire from his position as principal of River Hills School, effective August 31, 2022.

The Central Rivers Area Education Agency Board of Directors acted on Lonning’s resignation during their regular meeting on January 5, and appointed Kelsey Baker, currently serving as an Assistant Principal for River Hills, to the position.

Lonning started his career with AEA 7 in 1987 as a Teacher of Behavior Disorders at Van Eaton School. He later held several positions including Interim Principal at River Hills, Evaluation Facilitator Interventionist Specialist, and Administrative Intern with Four Oaks  before becoming principal of River Hills School in 2008. 

“I sincerely appreciate the great support the agency has provided me over the years and for taking a chance on me over 13 years ago as a new principal at River Hills,” said Mike. “It’s been an honor to have the opportunity to be part of the incredible multidisciplinary team at River Hills. Though team members have changed from year to year, their inspiration and motivation had as much of a positive effect on me personally, as they undoubtedly had on the students, families, and districts we serve.”

“Mike has been an incredible leader for this agency,” said Sam Miller, Chief Administrator. “He is deeply respected by the River Hills community of educators and families and has demonstrated unwavering commitment to the students. We wish him all the best in retirement but know that Kelsey will bring the same level of passion to the role. We are grateful for the time Kelsey has spent learning under Mike’s tutelage.”

Prior to serving as assistant principal, Kelsey Baker has served area students and families as a School Psychologist with the Area Education Agency system beginning in 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. (See related story about her appointment to the role of Assistant Principal at River Hills School in 2021.)

She holds a School Psychologist Specialist and Masters 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.

“I’ve seen firsthand that River Hills makes a difference for our amazing students every day. Our staff is dedicated to students and embodies an individualized education for each student. I am excited to continue learning and be a part of such excellence!”

Kelsey will begin her new position on July 1, 2022.

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Equity Committee seeks additional staff members to participate in focus groups

The Equity Committee met on January 6 to further plan for the upcoming focus groups to take place later this month. Much of the conversation centered around how to ensure that we have accurate representation in the groups, including increasing the number of staff of color and support staff who participate.

As a reminder, focus groups will…

  • Take place during the span of January 5 -19  (8:30 – 10:30 am or 2 – 4 pm)
  • Be conducted via Zoom
  • Consist of 10 – 12 participants per focus group – that’s 100+ participants! 

If you are interested in participating in a focus group, please sign up on the CRAEA Equity Audit: Focus Group interest form ASAP!

In the survey above, please select all times that would work for you. All feedback will be reported anonymously and will greatly inform our understanding of the work the agency needs to do to become a more equitable organization. 

Please understand, we will be prioritizing participants who represent varied roles and populations which have been traditionally underrepresented within the organization. We will notify you by email if you have been selected for participation.

If you choose not to participate in focus groups, or if you are not selected based on availability or other determining factors, we would encourage you to provide feedback in survey form. A link to the survey will be emailed to all staff in the near future.

We greatly value your input and strongly encourage you to consider participating. As we aspire to be a more equitable and inclusive Agency, we are seeking your insights and feedback.  

Please reach out to Karl Kurt if you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding our Equity Audit and/or the process. 

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Digital accessibility tips and follow-up

Thank you to everyone who completed the Accessibility Self-Paced Training Course! We appreciate the time and effort each of you put in to expand your knowledge and skills regarding accessibility. Based on feedback from the course reflection, we wanted to provide you with some examples as well as some tips and tricks to ensure content that you create digitally will be accessible to everyone. We will continue to explore and address as many of your questions as possible. If you have any questions or need support, please contact the CRAEA help desk at helpdesk@centralriversaea.org.

Reminder of CRAEA’s expectations regarding accessibility: Digital accessibility is not only a legal requirement, but an obligation to ensure everyone can utilize our products and services. Creating an inclusive digital environment will provide access to our resources and limit barriers while enhancing participation among those we support and serve.
When creating content digitally, always consider the audience. You cannot assume your content regardless of the format (Documents, Slides, Sheets or the web) will not be accessed by someone who has a disability. Our job is to create opportunities, not obstacles.

Examples of assistive technology in action

Tips and tricks for you to try!

Did you know that you can adjust the speed of almost any video by clicking on the gear in the lower right hand corner of the video and selecting a speed that is comfortable for you. This works not only on YouTube videos, but also videos that are in your Google Drive, from Screencastify, Flipgrid videos, Vimeo, etc. When watching a video, look for a gear, three dots, etc. in the lower right corner and see if adjusting the playback speed is available.

playback speed options.

playback speed options.

Did you know?

Approximately what percentage of the population between the ages of 18 and 44 have some difficulty hearing to a lot of difficulty hearing, even with a hearing aid? (according to data compiled by the CDC in 2019)

  1. 2%
  2. 5%
  3. 7%
  4. 12%

See this graph below for more info.

Figure 1. Percentage of adults aged 18 and over with difficulty hearing even when using a hearing aid, by age group: United States, 2019

Figure 1 is a bar graph that shows the percentage of adults aged 18 and over who had difficulty hearing even when using a hearing aid, by age group. Visit CDC site for information.

NOTES: Hearing limitation is based on responses to the survey question, “Do you have difficulty hearing, even when using a hearing aid? Would you say no difficulty, some difficulty, a lot of difficulty, or you cannot do this at all?” Estimates are based on household interviews of a sample of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population

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Congratulations to our staff with 20 years of service!

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2022-23 CRAEA office calendar now approved

The board of directors approved the office calendar for 2022-23 during their meeting this week. The calendar contains the required 260 workdays and lists holidays and office closed days for the school year. A downloadable copy of the calendar can also be found on the staff website under Resources.

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Join us for Coffee with the Chief on February 4


Plan now to join Chief Administrator Sam Miller on Friday, February 4, at 8:00 am for a virtual update on agency events and current trends in K-12 education. This is a great opportunity to get any questions or concerns you have have answered.  So grab a cup of coffee or your favorite morning beverage and join us!

Zoom information to join:


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Tips & Tricks from IT

Mistakes – we’ve all been there!  Have you ever been working in Chrome and accidentally closed a browser tab?  Here are two easy ways to get your tab back:

  • Use the Ctrl + Shift + T keyboard shortcut on a PC and Cmd + Shift + T on a Mac, or
  • Right-click on your Chrome tab bar > Reopen closed tab
  • Another very common frustration is working on a project and you accidentally make a mistake that could potentially undo all your great work. Happily, you can reverse the mistake with one easy keyboard shortcut: 
    • Ctrl + Z on a PC and Cmd + Z on Macs. 

Most programs have an Undo command that reverts back to the last change you made to your current project.  This can come in handy and just knowing the feature is available can be a big relief!

A newly launched learning center now available from Zoom!  The Learning Center, a free online platform that educates and empowers users to confidently use Zoom through a series of short, on-demand online courses and videos.  The Learning Center currently offers courses on Zoom Phone, Meetings, Webinars, and Rooms, along with being continuously enhanced and updated with the launch of new features and products.  With engaging content for new and experienced Zoom users, there is truly something for everyone so that you can work and collaborate more effectively on Zoom.

To get started with the Learning Center, please follow the link, sign-in with your Zoom account, and choose “Start Learning”.  Users will automatically be enrolled in the “Getting Started with the Learning Center” and “Getting Started with Zoom” courses.  We recommend that you start here to get acquainted with the platform and general layout of the courses.  From there, you can explore different learning paths, learn more about the products Zoom offers, and become an expert on all things Zoom.

If you have any questions or need technical assistance, please contact the Help Desk at: 319-273-8231 or helpdesk@centralriversaea.org.      

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