Burlington Autism Classroom Receives Support from GPAEA

Jennifer Woodley, Public Relations Coordinator

Inside Sarah Maher’s 3rd, 4th, & 5th Grade Autism classroom at Corse Elementary in Burlington, students experience a colorful rich environment where they have the freedom to learn and experience success daily.

Great Prairie Area Education Agency’s Challenging Behavior & Autism Team have supported Ms. Maher and her students the past year in a variety of capacities. From professional development and training to observations and consultation on a case-by-case basis. “I guess the most important thing to me is that it’s a group effort,” Maher said. “It’s good staff, good leadership and a lot of other support staff outside of this room that has helped a lot.”

Learn more about supports and services from GPAEA at http://www.gpaea.org/en/services/autism/.


Yelick Selected as the Next Chief Administrator for Great Prairie AEA

Dr. Cindy Yelick

The Great Prairie AEA Board of Directors is pleased to announce the selection of a new chief administrator for the Agency. Dr. Cindy Yelick, who is currently the deputy chief administrator at Heartland AEA, will succeed Dr. Jon Sheldahl.

“Dr. Cindy Yelick will be a great addition to Great Prairie AEA team,” said Vicki Stephenson, president of the Great Prairie AEA board of directors. “She brings a wide range of experiences and leadership in her work with Iowa’s AEAs and the State of Iowa.”

As the chief administrator of Great Prairie AEA, Dr. Yelick will oversee over 270 full and part-time staff members who provide special education services, instructional services, professional learning, library and digital resources, technology support and more to over 36,000 students and 2,700 educators throughout the 14 southeast Iowa counties the Agency serves.

Dr. Yelick has previously held positions as executive director of instructional services, administrator for Iowa Core Curriculum, executive director of teaching and learning, and a regional coordinator at Heartland AEA; director of early childhood, assessment, and special education and elementary principal at Ames Community Schools; elementary principal at Des Moines Public Schools; director of McPrep Middle School Academy at Drake University; and assistant administrator at Spring Branch ISD in Houston, Texas. She received a doctorate in educational leadership from Drake University, master’s in curriculum and instruction, second language education from the University of Houston and bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of Northern Iowa.

“My career has centered around ensuring that all students have the opportunity to thrive,” Yelick said. “I am excited to work with the quality staff and leadership at Great Prairie AEA who continue the course for improvement and enhanced learning outcomes for all children throughout southeast Iowa.”

Yelick was selected for the position after the search firm G. Tryon & Associates conducted a nationwide search. She will assume the responsibilities of chief administrator contingent upon release from her current contract in July 2017.

GPAEA Schools Recognized for PBIS Efforts

Congratulations to the schools who attended the state Learning Supports Conference on May 8 & 9 and were recognized in person by the DE for their implementation efforts in PBIS. 17 schools from Great Prairie AEA were recognized, although not all were able to attend to receive their award.


Three Finalists Announced for Great Prairie AEA Chief Administrator

The Great Prairie Area Education Agency Board of Directors has announced three finalists for the position of the chief administrator. Tim Kuehl, Nathan Wood, and Cindy Yelick were chosen from a field of 17 applicants to be interviewed on Thursday, June 8. Finalists will be interviewed by three groups: GPAEA Administrators, local Superintendents, and the Board of Directors.

Tim Kuehl is currently superintendent at Clear Creek Amana Community School District in Oxford. He has previously held positions as superintendent and elementary principal at Gladbrook-Reinbeck; middle school principal at Forest City; high school principal and curriculum director at Allamakee; and elementary principal and curriculum director at Manson-NW Webster.

Nathan Wood is currently a regional director at Great Prairie AEA. He has previously held positions as middle school/high school principal and PK-12 special education director at Pekin Community Schools and PK-6 assistant principal/school administration manager at Sigourney.

Cindy Yelick is currently deputy chief administrator at Heartland AEA. She has previously held positions as executive director of instructional services, administrator for Iowa Core Curriculum, executive director of teaching & learning and regional coordinator at Heartland AEA; director of early childhood, assessment, and special education and elementary principal at Ames Community Schools; elementary principal at Des Moines Public Schools; director of McPrep Middle School Academy at Drake University; coordinator of Moulton Professional Development School at Des Moines Public Schools; and assistant administrator at Spring Branch ISD in Houston, Texas.

Following interviews, the Board will make a final selection. The name of the successful candidate will be announced via the Great Prairie AEA website, social media and Staff Update, as well as area news media.

ICATER Assistive Technology Summer Institute – August 7, Burlington

The ICATER Assistive Technology Summer Institute will be in Burlington on August 7.

This is a unique summer learning opportunity that combines discussion of current relevant topics in assistive technology with hands-on learning opportunities of some of the most recent and most commonly used assistive technology software programs. New this year is a blended course – part online, part in person.

Registration is now openPlease complete a survey. After completion, you will receive an e-mail with directions for registration and payment.


ICATER’s Assistive Technology Summer Institute will be conducted by Patricia Bahr, Director of ICATER and graduate assistants from ICATER. Bahr is a rehabilitation engineer and has worked to match the needs of people with disabilities to technology, since 1988. Bahr developed and is the primary instructor for a graduate class – Universal Design and Accessibility for Online Instruction.

Who Should Attend?

Everyone that works with people with disabilities, especially in the education field would benefit from attending the Assistive Technology Summer Institute. These people include:

  • Assistive technology professionals
  • Counselors
  • General education teachers
  • High school and college students with disabilities
  • Occupational therapists
  • Parents of students with disabilities
  • Psychologists
  • Special education teachers
  • Speech pathologists


  1. Watch eight (8) hours of recorded lectures and demos
  2. Attend a 1-day in-person workshop (7:45am – 4:30pm)
  3. Submit a short reflective paper

Credit Options

  • Certificate of Completion ($100)
  • One UI Graduate Credit ($505)
  • Iowa Licensure Renewal Unit ($125)

2017 Sixth Grade Math Bee Winners

Lori Mueller, Mathematics Specialist

The Great Prairie AEA Sixth Grade Math Bee was held May 2 at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center. 221 students from 19 school districts attended the annual event. The top six out of forty-nine teams were awarded plaques for their accomplishments.

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  • The Sixth Place team was from Mt Pleasant Middle School and consisted of: Aaden A, Bowen D, Jacob R, and Zerek V.
  • The Fifth place team was from North Mahaska and consisted of: Lane H, P.J. S, Brock W, and Cole G.
  • The Fourth Place team was from Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont and consisted of: Braxton N, Lizzy VU, Aliveah B, and Shallis L.
  • The Third Place team was from Oskaloosa Middle School and consisted of: Anderson K, Lucy R, Jack R, and Cael B.
  • The Second Place team was from Danville Elementary and consisted of Josey W, Madelyn B, Kat W, and Carlea B.
  • The First Place team came from Oskaloosa Middle School and consisted of: Elliot N, Zane I, Lawson M, and Dylan P.
  • Placing Third in the Individual competition was Elliot N of Oskaloosa Middle School.
  • Receiving Second Place was Madeline B of Davis County Middle School.
  • Receiving First Place was Josey W from Danville Elementary School.
  • Placing in the Top Ten were: Cael B, Jack R, Lucy R, Brock W, Olivia S, Eliana M, Kat W, Samual M, Bowen D, Bryce W, Shallis L, Braxton N, Anderson K, and Lawson M. (There are more than ten names here because of several ties.)

Congratulations to these students and their teachers that worked with them. We are proud of all of you!

Elementary STEM Professional Learning Opportunity for Teachers!

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This year’s Iowa Academy of Science’s Iowa Science Teaching Section’s fall conference – branded the “Elements of STEM” conference – will take place on October 8-9, 2017.  Our pre-conference events will take place on Sunday the 8th and the full-day conference will be held on Monday the 9th The location for the Elements of STEM conference is the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny, IA. Save the date and keep watching for registration to open: http://scienceiniowa.org/

Questions? Please contact: Eric Hall, eric.hall@dmschools.org; Stacey Rivera, stacey.rivera@ankenyschools.org; or Lisa Chizek, ljchizek@gmail.com

Heartland AEA is Piloting an Additional Course Option for Iowa Evaluator License Renewal

Heartland AEA with support from the Iowa Department of Education is pleased to pilot an additional course option for administrators and/or evaluators who want to renew their evaluator license. The Collaborative Leadership Institute is a two credit hour course that will be held on June 19-20, Oct. 3 and Dec. 5, 2017 at the Heartland AEA Regional Education Center in Johnston. The pilot is open to anyone in the state. Seating is limited to 50 people. Register for the course at this link.

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The Cornerstone – May 2017


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The Simplest, Hardest Lessons Make the Biggest Difference

This is my last blog for The Cornerstone, as I will be leaving for a new job July 1.  I’ve learned a great deal during the last six years, some of it from more experienced colleagues in the AEA system, some of it from GPAEA team members who have so graciously shared with me the intricacies of their day-to-day work, and a lot of it from the many educators throughout SE Iowa whom we continue to serve.  I’ve seen some resounding successes and some disappointing failures and I want to take a moment to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned.  While I have learned a lot of lessons (many the hard way), these three are the most important ones I want to share upon my departure.  They are simple lessons to remember, but often hard to follow and I have found they often make the difference between success and failure.

The most important thing I’ve learned about service agency work (and educational work in general) during my tenure here is that everything we do has to be driven first by the building of a relationship.  In the absence of a quality relationship, successful collaboration is an uphill battle, if not impossible.  Our successes and our failures are the direct result of the quality of the relationship that exists between the parties involved.  I have encountered some very smart people in recent years who believe that their knowledge or technical expertise is the most important thing they have to offer, but it isn’t.  Solutions must be adaptive to each unique situation and I’ll take a team united more by caring, commitment, and empathy over one heavy on expertise every time.

Continue Reading at The Simplest, Hardest Lessons Make the Biggest Difference

GPAEA’s Battle of the Books Results – Elementary & Middle School

Tricia Slechta, Media Integration Specialist

Congratulations and thank you to all of the students and teams who participated in Great Prairie Area Education Agency’s Battle of the Books on April 10!

The Mediapolis Page Turners pictured above won first place at the first area Elementary Battle of the Books competition sponsored by Great Prairie Area Education Agency. The Page Turners are pictured with Scott Slechta the Iowa Teacher of the Year.

The Untouchables (Waco) and Awesome Squad (Fort Madison) tied for second place.

Third place went to the Reading Warriors (Wapello).

To advance to the final round of four, teams had to first take a written exam composed of 60 questions; teams had 60 minutes to answer all the questions. While the questions were checked by a group of volunteers students participated in a question/answer session with local author Carol Gorman. Once the top four teams were announced the four teams engaged in an oral round robin format of 60 questions.

The winners of the first Middle School area Battle of the Books competition are the Reading Rock Stars (Edward Stone, Burlington).

Under the Cover-Bibliophiles (Oskaloosa) and Book Hounds (Fort Madison) tied for second place.

Peculiar Readers (Central Lee) was the third place finisher.

Teams also received spirit awards for designing team t-shirts or dressing in the spirit of their name.

Learn more about the Battle of the Books and get the 2017-18 Reading Lists at https://sites.google.com/aea267.k12.ia.us/bob/home?authuser=0

GPAEA Schools in the News – May 2017

Post updated throughout the month. Did we miss something? Send your school news to jennifer.woodley@gpaea.org.

Note: The articles compiled in this list come from independent media sources who are solely responsible for their content. GPAEA staff did not participate in writing any of these articles and GPAEA does not necessarily endorse the content of the articles. Some articles may be available only by subscription.

Iowa’s AEAs Announce Statewide K-12 Digital Resources for Fall 2017

aea_vertical_color-2Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs) are pleased to announce that for the 2017-18 school year, students and educators will continue to have access to many of the same digital resources they have come to depend on as high-quality, reliable instructional resources. In addition, two new resources will be available for upper elementary and middle school students.

Statewide resources continuing in the next school year:

  • AEA Digital Library
  • BookFLIX
  • Britannica School
  • CultureGrams
  • Gale Resources
  • iClipArt for Schools
  • Learn360
  • SIRS Issues Researcher
  • Soundzabound
  • TeachingBooks.net
  • Teen Health & Wellness
  • TrueFLIX

New resources coming for upper elementary and middle school students:

  • FreedomFLIX
  • ScienceFLIX

Two resources will be discontinued at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year:

  • Atomic Learning
  • AP Images

For more information or assistance with AEA Digital Resources, contact Tricia Slechta at Great Prairie AEA.

Selection Process Note: The statewide selection committee and RFP review process included AEA library professionals, Iowa Department of Education consultants, AEA content experts and teachers. Final selections were made after surveying teachers and students for their patterns of usage and preferences, examining past years of database usage and receiving and reviewing proposals from more than 30 vendors.

Part B Survey for All GPAEA Parents

Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires states to report the percent of parents with a child receiving special education services who report that schools facilitated parent involvement as a means of improving services and results for children with IEPs.

The Iowa Department of Education is gathering these data as a census for both students with and without an IEP using a brief three-question survey.

Survey Link (for Parents of Students in Great Prairie AEA ONLY) – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/1617AEA15

Survey Information
Please use the link above to answer the following questions for each of your children. The survey will allow you to answer these questions for up to five children.

  • How old was your child on January 1, 2017? (choose 3-21)
  • Does your child have an Individualized Education Program – IEP? (y/n)
  • Did the school your child is currently attending facilitate (request, encourage or initiate) your involvement as a means of improving services and results for your child? (y/n)

The survey will be open April 15 through June 30.

If you have any questions, please contact Meredith MacQuigg, Data Consultant, Iowa Department of Education, 515.494.5610 or meredith.macquigg@iowa.gov.