During my first several months on the job, I spent a lot of time just listening. Listening to you, to superintendents, to principals, to board members, and to others that we serve. As I reported during my presentations this fall, what became clear from all that listening is that your services are greatly appreciated. If those we serve had any complaint, it was that they needed more of your time and expertise.
My leadership challenge during the second quarter of this year has been to look for ways to make that happen. How could I get more expertise into the field and better utilize our current resources?
First, we’ve chosen a new role for leadership known as a “Regional Administrator” to be implemented next year. (See last month’s edition of Intersections for a full description.) The Regional Administrator approach is used successfully by at least three other AEAs and purposefully integrates our three services areas. Here are some other benefits of this move:
- Two of the 11 Regional Administrators chosen for the position are currently holding positions that are primarily internally based (Dr. Carol Sensor and Kim Swartz). Transitioning Carol and Kim out into the field next year will be a huge benefit to the school districts they serve. In addition, with the transition of Bremwood School to oversight by the Waverly-Shell Rock Community School District, we were able to redirect the talents of Greg Koppes from principal at Bremwood School to this important new role where his expertise can be shared on a larger scale.
- The Regional Administrator role “gets” the big picture of all the services that AEA 267 has to offer. They make sure that the “right hand” and the “left hand” of the agency are working together and help broker the right services at the right time–regardless of the service area it comes from.
- As a staff member, you’ll be able to spend more time serving and less time trying to coordinate with staff from other service areas. While integration will be more important than ever, ensuring that it happens will be a built-in part of the Regional Administrator’s job. You serve, they coordinate (with your help of course!).
Along with the announcement of the Regional Administrator model, you are also no doubt curious about the closure of the Charles City and Grinnell offices and how that decision fits with the other changes that are occurring.
As we reported last month in Intersections, making the decision to close these two offices made good financial sense. It’s no secret that funding for AEAs is stagnant; and simply put, we have to make decisions between people and buildings in cases like this. We are also studying the space in our Cedar Falls, Marshalltown and Clear Lake offices. While we remain committed to having a presence in these three regions, we are studying whether the spaces we currently occupy makes sense for our needs now. Could we operate more efficiently with less space? Could we redirect saved resources back out into the field? I expect to be able to share the results of the facilities study we are conducting (with the help of Struxture Architects) in late spring.
Bundled with the changes described above is the recent announcement of the transition of oversight of the Bremwood and Pinecrest Schools. A decision was made by the Iowa Department of Education that special schools with a residential component (thus excluding River Hills) are best operated by the resident school district and a consortium of other schools whose students attend. And, although difficult to accept on many levels, it makes sense when you think about it. Even this transition is yet another example of how we are directing our resources where we can have the biggest impact and better align to our mission–even if budget wasn’t the main driver.
Still, all this change can feel a bit unsettling and I fully acknowledge that. Our agency is no stranger to transitions and those who have been here for many years can share many stories that underscore the evolution and continuous improvement of not only this AEA, but the system in general. Continuously improving is our responsibility as stewards of taxpayer dollars and although it isn’t always comfortable, we owe it to those we serve to make the best decisions we can to ensure that we are providing the highest quality service both now and for years to come. I am honored to walk side-by-side with you as we do this important work on behalf of children, families and educators.
Feel free to call, email or stop in my office if your travels bring you to Cedar Falls. Your thoughts and ideas matter.
Yours in education,