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Learning the ropes: The view from a rookie AEA board member’s seat


December 15, 2010
By David Giese, AEA 267 Board Member
As a newly elected Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267) board member, I’m on a fast-tracked roller coaster ride as I learn about personnel, policies, and programs. I’ve spent my first months of service mostly observing and seconding motions in meetings.

Members of the professional staff with whom I have had contact during the past several months are working together like a well-coached team to improve the learning of all 66,000 plus students in all 60 public school districts as well as in all 25 nonpublic school districts which AEA 267 serves. Equalizing opportunities for all learners across the AEA is just one of their ambitious goals.

To open avenues of communication between AEA 267 and our school partners, our agency’s new chief administrator, Roark Horn, is currently engaged in “The Great Listener Tour,” a journey which will take him to each school district to ask questions, listen especially for what the AEA needs to do to improve, and to invite district educational leaders to take advantage of the “huge” number of services offered by AEA 267. In order to meet his goal, Horn will travel most of the 9,000 square miles the AEA covers.

Roark Horn is an outstanding communicator who meets monthly with the Iowa Department of Education, with the nine AEA Chief Administrators, with the AEA 267 Board of Directors, and with the district superintendents. A lifelong learner, Horn is currently working to complete his doctoral dissertation; he is an avid reader, writes with precision, and thoughtfully speaks when problem solving and when addressing the board and the needs of staff.

All nine AEA 267 Board members are interested and involved in all phases of the operation of the AEA. Board meetings are run efficiently as we discuss and ask questions on a wide variety of issues facing the agency. At the back of our minds as we deliberate are students and how best we can meet their educational needs.

Each board meeting usually concludes with a report from the directors of Educational Services, Information and Technology Services and Special Education Services. These updates from Dr. Sara McInerny, Jerry Schnabel, and Dr. Mary Stevens are interesting, informative and occasionally entertaining!

These individuals oversee a massive number of programs, which enhance the learning of our students while reinforcing and strengthening the skills of the 5,000 educators across AEA 267.

Most recently five of the AEA 267 Board Members attended the Iowa School Board Association (IASB) annual convention in Des Moines. We joined with 1,200 other school board members, district superintendents, and AEA chief administrators for a fact-filled day of listening to and learning from our colleagues across Iowa. Most notable was the keynote address by Dr. Tony Wagner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of the book, The GlobalAchievement Gap who engaged us in thinking about how schools could reinvent themselves.

My first five months on the AEA 267 Board of Directors has been a challenging yet stimulating ride! As a retired English/communication educator who focused on a small fraction of the educational picture for over 40 years, I find great excitement in coming out of the tunnel to a focus on the whole picture of education in the Twenty-first Century.

Editor’s Note: David Giese has been an Area Education Agency 267 board member since June of 2010. He represents the districts of BCLUW, Eldora-New Providence, Grundy Center, Marshalltown, and West Marshall as part of Director District 8. Giese is a semi-retired educator who lives with his wife, Mary, in Marshalltown.

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