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.