Superintendent says Reynolds' has bad plan for AEAs


Dear Editor,
I am writing to express my concerns about Governor Reynolds’ recent announcement regarding the proposed reform of the Area Education Agency (AEA) system during her State of the State speech. The suggested changes include moving AEAs under the Department of Education, narrowing their focus to special education, and allowing school districts to decide whether to opt into AEA services.
Educators across the state have been anticipating adjustments to the AEA system for several months, but the governor’s proposal for a substantial overhaul in the near future has surprised many.
During my three-year tenure as a school leader at Grant Wood AEA, I gained valuable insights into the AEA system's pivotal role in driving innovation, supporting systems thinking, and fostering leadership beyond traditional educational institutions. This provided an exceptional learning experience, fostering enduring relationships with schools and educators that continue to benefit both myself and my school district.
The broad array of services—including assistive technology, science kits, and college-for-kids programming—greatly enriched our schools and students. My experience in the AEA system not only enhanced my capacity for innovation, systems thinking, and leadership, but also exposed me daily to a wide range of impactful services for schools. During the three years I served as an AEA employee, I was amazed at how many services AEAs provided to public and private schools. 
Currently, the extensive services provided by AEAs to Central Lee and surrounding schools go beyond special education, including support for career and technical education programming, eRate funding, school improvement initiatives, professional development, and more. While Central Lee is not small, leveraging AEA resources has allowed us to save significant funds that would otherwise come out of our operating budget.
Reflecting on gaps in AEA services if this bill passes, I remember the unwavering support AEAs provided during challenging times, such as the loss of a student in a tragic car accident last summer. The AEA’s commitment to supporting our school district, leaders, and students—even on a Sunday, off contract—showed a dedication to being there whenever crises arise.
During the uncertainties of navigating COVID four years ago, school districts faced a lack of answers from the state and Department of Education. Stepping up to fill this void were the AEAs, coordinating resources, meetings, and collaboration among school districts for enhanced statewide support. Their proactive approach included seeking answers beyond their designated responsibilities, providing considerable assistance to district leaders navigating the uncertainties of the time.
In recent years, the Department of Education issued numerous directives for data tools and professional development. The AEA plays a crucial role in delivering this training and providing ongoing support for districts. The AEA system is essential for both public and private schools to progress, and I have doubts about the Department of Education's ability to handle this work in the future without significant costs for third-party vendors.
Contrary to the governor's claim that educators advocate for redirecting AEA flow-through dollars, I find it challenging to believe. A more constructive approach to AEA reform involves a comprehensive study with input from educators, AEA staff, legislators, and stakeholders. Drastically overhauling the system as proposed is unlikely to enhance it and risks causing its demise over the next several years.
I am grateful for the experiences that shaped me as part of an AEA. This system has been instrumental in my growth, contributing to my development as a leader through collaborative meetings, professional development, and support during challenging times. During the completion of my dissertation, AEA staff provided invaluable support, keeping me on track.
The AEA system consistently focuses on serving Iowa's public and private schools, fulfilling required services while responding to unique needs for improvement. I urge a more thoughtful and inclusive approach to reform that considers the insights of educators, AEA staff, legislators, and community members to ensure the continued success of our educational system.
Dr. Andy Crozier,
Central Lee Community School District

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