Central Rivers AEA launches new staff mental health initiative

Mental health is just as important as your physical health and deserves the same quality of support. In the past, we have shared information regarding our Employee Assistance Program (EAP), virtual mental health visits through Doctor on Demand and the ability to engage in face-to-face therapy through your medical insurance.

Starting October 15, we will be adding the “Reach Out Program” in-house, featuring a small group of confidential, trained, empathetic staff who can serve as a first resource for you when struggling with a personal or professional challenge. We are calling them “staff support allies” and they are listed below. 

The Reach-Out program is designed to provide a safe and supportive thought partner to process and/or provide guidance and support. It is not meant to be therapy or for crisis situations. Our protocol for conversations is solution-focused. It is meant to be a short-term collaboration with a colleague, who has mental health training, to help provide support and find the right resources for you.

We recognize a need and desire to do better as an organization to ensure there is a responsive and empathetic work environment. Please hear us, when we say, “You are not alone,” and we want to provide help and support to you as an individual, a professional and as a member of our team. Our goal is to listen, provide a safe space and possibly help identify the next steps. 

The process is confidential, not only by design but by the professional ethics of each of our allies.

For more information, please join us on October 15, from 8-9 am for a special all-staff Zoom meeting to discuss this initiative further:

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The 2021-22 Central Rivers AEA annual employee policies and informational items now available

Our agency’s annual review of mandatory policies and procedural items are now available! For viewing, please visit the document as there are important updates to read. A few examples include:

  • Inclement Weather policies – We’re in Iowa and winter is just around the corner!
  • Agency Operations (such as our vision, values, equity updates, etc.)
  • Navigating and understanding the important items in your iVisions Portal

There is plenty of information to go through, please contact Shirley Horak or Robin Billerbeck, in HR with any questions.

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Thinking of retiring? Take advantage of the early retirement notification incentive!

Early Retirement Road Sign Announcement Conceptual IllustrationIn an effort to support a timely staff replacement selection process and assist in budget planning, the Central Rivers AEA Board of Directors has approved an incentive be provided for Certified, NUSS, and Administrative Staff who provide early notification of their intent to resign or retire at the end of the 2021-22 work year.

The proposed incentive would be administered as follows:

  • Commitments of separation by resignation or retirement at the end of the 2021-22 work year submitted by Certified, NUSS, or Administrative Staff, and
  • Notification of resignation or retirement received in the Human Resources Office before January 3, 2022, and
  • Accepted by the Board no later than the regular meeting on January 5, 2022,
  • Will receive an early notification incentive payment of $2,000, payable June 20, 2022,
  • Subject to the employee fulfilling their individual employment contract obligations for the 2021-22 work year. Staff resigning or retiring who separate prior to the end of the 2021-22 work year are not eligible for the early notification incentive.
  • This incentive is not offered to CWA.
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What’s the latest with the agency Equity Audit?

As was shared during the August edition of The Channel, the agency has contracted with the New York Leadership Academy to facilitate an equity audit alongside our agency equity committee. This month, the work focused on:

  • Identifying success criteria
  • Reviewing the timeline and steps in the audit process.
  • Reviewing the results of a needs assessment survey.
  • Laying the groundwork for roles and responsibilities of committee members.

At this point, no specific goals or action plans have been identified.  The equity committee will be meeting again in early November to identify specific focus areas for our audit process.  Once we have the focus areas identified, we will be seeking insights and feedback from our staff through surveys and/or focus groups.   

Interested in learning more? Check out this slide deck or contact one of the equity committee members or Karl Kurt.

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Coffee with the Chief

Grab a cup of coffee (or your favorite morning beverage) and join Chief Administrator Sam Miller for an update on agency events and current trends in K-12 education. 

These informal meetings are a great place to get any questions you might have answered and an opportunity to express your thoughts & concerns. 

The first update was held on Friday, October 1 and the recording is available to view online. Please note that the passcode 3AV^QTH0 is needed to enable viewing. 

The remaining meetings will all be virtual and begin at 8:00 am. If you are unable to join us, the recordings will be available in The Channel. Dates, times, and Zoom information are listed below.

December 10, 2021

  • https://centralriversaea.zoom.us/j/89137644516
  • Meeting ID: 891 3764 4516
  • One tap mobile  +13126266799,,89137644516# 

February 4, 2022

April 1, 2022

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October is Cybersecurity awareness month

Now in its 18th year, October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2021 and this year’s theme is “Do your part. #BeCyberSmart.”  This theme encourages individuals and organizations to own their role in protecting their part of cyberspace, stressing personal accountability and the importance of taking proactive steps to enhance cybersecurity.

Statistically, phishing emails are the leading cause of data privacy incidents, so it’s more important than ever to equip yourself with the knowledge necessary to identify these malicious messages.  Phishing is a type of social engineering where an attacker sends a fraudulent message designed to trick a human victim into revealing sensitive information to the attacker or to deploy malicious software.

Take one minute to review the message and search for any of the five common red flags shown below:

  1. Message is unexpected or oddly timed
  2. Message contains odd spelling or grammatical errors
  3. Message urges actions like clicking links or opening attachments
  4. Message appears to be time sensitive or threatens consequences for inaction
  5. Message is requesting money or personal information

When you receive any suspicious communications: Stop and think before you click!  

If you suspect a phishing email, please contact the Help Desk at 319.273.8231 or helpdesk@centralriversaea.org

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Refinements made to improve the ease of working through the required Digital Accessibility Module

Thank you to everyone who has taken the Accessibility Self-Paced Training – CRAEA Module and given us feedback. Based on the feedback, we have made refinements to the module. Since only some sections are recommended vs required, there is no longer a summary quiz at the end. The training is still required for all staff to complete by December 1, 2021. There are still three modules that make up the course, but we have created a breakdown of which modules we suggest you familiarize yourself with vs could be useful to your job:

  • We suggest you familiarize yourself with the information in this section
    • Accessibility Guidelines (Covers what the ADA says about web accessibility and covers different concepts that work together to make accessible web/digital content)
  • These sections you might find useful in your day-to-day
    • Accessibility in Google Workspace Tools (Covers the tool Grackle to help make more accessible Google Documents)
    •  Zoom (Covers using Accessibility features like Closed Captioning, to help your viewership)

At the bottom of each page to move to the next page, click “Next” to take you to the next page. As you view pages, a green checkmark will appear to the right. This allows you to keep track of where you left off.

The training should take approximately 2.5 – 3 hours to complete. Once you have completed the three modules, please complete the form found on the last page of the course titled Congratulations! Course Complete!

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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Blue Cross Blue Shield Association class action settlement

Many employees are receiving emails regarding a Blue Cross Blue Shield Association class action settlement.  The email contains a unique ID and links to a website with additional information. 

  • This email is not a phishing attempt.  There is a pending BCBS class action settlement that may allow individuals who were covered under a BCBS policy (Wellmark) to receive settlement funds. 
  • Your receipt of this email is not a guarantee that you will receive a settlement payment. 
  • Individuals who didn’t receive an email may still be eligible to file a claim.
  • Health Plan Name: Wellmark BCBS of Iowa
  • Central Rivers AEA Group No: 36927
  • Employer Address: Central Rivers Area Education Agency, 1521 Technology Parkway, Cedar Falls, Iowa, 50613

 For more information on eligibility, the claim process, and to file a claim please go directly to the settlement website.

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Thank you to our Central Rivers AEA & River Hills Custodial/Maintenance Team!

Our office buildings and grounds are always looking spotless thanks to our custodial/maintenance team!  While they may be more behind-the-scenes, their hard work does not go unnoticed.

Cedar Falls Office:

  • Gus Delamore, Supervisor of Buildings/Maintenance
  • Gloria Hill, Lead Custodian/Maintenance
  • Beth Kidder, Lead Custodian/Maintenance
  • Don Brown, Substitute Custodian

Clear Lake Office:

  • Gregory Hampton, Custodian
  • Skyler Wood, Lead Custodian/Maintenance

Marshalltown Office:

  • Lenny Hogendorn, Lead Custodian/Maintenance

River Hills School:

  • Steven Hines, Lead Custodian/Maintenance
  • Paul Onodinga, Custodian – 2nd Shift
  • Douglas Sarauer, Custodian – 2nd Shift
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Four CRAEA board seats up for re-election

Central Rivers AEA has four director districts open for re-election in December 2021. The four director districts up for re-election are: 

  • 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.
  • Director District 2: Districts represented: Charles City, Dike-New Hartford, Dunkerton, Nashua-Plainfield, Sumner-Fredericksburg, Tripoli, Wapsie Valley, and Waverly-Shell Rock.
  • Director District 7: Districts represented: Cedar Falls, Denver, and Janesville.
  • Director District 8: District represented: Waterloo.

A Statement of Candidacy must be filed with the AEA board secretary no later than October 15, 2021.  Statement of Candidacy forms can be obtained by contacting Lori Thomas, Board Secretary at 319-273-8201. 

The board of directors for each school district will vote to select one candidate to serve as their representative on the AEA board and must return their official ballots by November 30, 2021. The successful candidate will be determined by a weighted voting process and sworn in to serve a four-year term during the annual, organizational meeting of the CRAEA board on December 8, 2021. 

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Congratulations on 35 years of service to Central Rivers AEA!

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New ASI Mobile App feature added

A special “thank you” to an existing client for this request! ASI has recently released a new mobile app feature that allows participants to track and be reimbursed for medical mileage claims!

In addition to filing claims, and now, mileage claims, participants can also view their annual election amount, account balance, payments, contributions, and previously submitted claims.

ASI’s app is free and available online at www.asiflex.com or through Google Play or the App Store.  ASI prides itself on being forward thinking with technology. Do you have a new feature you’d like to see on the app or online? Let us know at marketing@asiflex.com

Avoid USPS Mail delivery delays
With the recent increase in postage costs, and the many consolidations of processing facilities, the USPS has indicated there will be mail delivery delays. Plan participants can avoid these delays and get reimbursements and communications instantly!

Simply go to asiflex.com, login to the Employee Portal, go to Account Settings and sign up for:

  • Direct deposit – No need to wait for check reimbursements. Participants can get their money faster when signed up for direct deposit.
  • Email and text alerts – Receive email and text alerts from ASI about when a claim is received, paid, or if additional documentation is necessary to process claims. 

To submit claims, participants can skip the mailbox. ASI offers multiple, convenient claim submission options:

  • Mobile app
  • Online Employee Portal at asiflex.com
  • Recurring provider payments
  • FSA Store Cardless Pay
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The Halloween dress-up contest is back!

This year, we are expanding the costume contest fun to include our entire CRAEA family.  What does this mean? 

It means we will have two contests this year to compete in to win bragging rights in the “Spooktacular Hall of Fame” and prizes.

This year’s prizes are extra special as we will be awarding vouchers in various amounts to purchase books for the school of your choice!



Halloween Costume Contest #1


  • Group: (2+ co-workers): 1st place $50 / 2nd place $25 
  • Solo: 1st place $40 / 2nd place $20
  • Snap a picture and upload it to this Halloween Costume Contest#1 (All Staff) – Google Form or email it to Robin Billerbeck before 9:00 am on Friday, October 29.
  • Voting will begin at 10:00 am and end at 1:00 pm with winners announced via email. 

Halloween Family Photo or Pumpkin Contest #2 


  • Family (photo of you with your kids/pets): 1st place $30 / 2nd place $15
  • Pumpkin creations (photo of your unique pumpkin): 1st place $10 / 2nd place $5 
  • Snap a picture and upload it to this Halloween Costume Contest#2 (Family/Pumpkins)- Google Form or email it to Robin Billerbeck before 9:00 am on Monday, November 1
  • Voting will begin at 10:00 am and end at 1:00 pm with winners announced via email.
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Additional PPE now available

The agency has a large supply of PPE available for staff which includes face masks, wipes, and hand sanitizer. If you need any items, please contact your regional administrative assistant.

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