RO School Board agrees to Green Hills AEA partnership

The Red Oak School Board has approved plans to partner with the Green Hills Area Education Agency to host the Rising Hope Academy for the 2023-24 school year.
The academy, which was previously hosted in Clarinda, was looking for a new district to partner with, and Red Oak was picked as a possible district due to its location and proximity to Highway 34, as well as having a local Green Hills AEA office in Red Oak.
At the regular Red Oak School Board meeting May 17, superintendent Ron Lorenz said the program was something that was important not only for Red Oak but for other area schools.
“We have a growing number of children with challenging behaviors and some intense mental health needs, and there simply aren’t enough placements to meet those needs. We’ve been having conversations for awhile, and this program is designed to meet the needs of those kids having challenging behaviors or with mental health needs,” Lorenz said.
The program would serve a maximum of eight kids in first through fifth grades, and Lorenz felt there were three or four kids in the Red Oak District be eligible for the program. Also, having the program, Lorenz said, would be a boost to the district.
“Having that program in our back yard will enable us to access some resources we wouldn’t otherwise have access too. The AEA has graciously agreed that when they train their teacher, paraprofessional, and behavior person, they have offered to include us in that, and our teachers will have the benefit of that on-site training,” explained Lorenz. “As they do social skills instruction, we have kids that may not be in the program but need it. They have invited us to piggyback and allow our kids to participate in it as well. That’s another resource we don’t currently have, and it’s staff that we don’t currently have.”
Also, Lorenz said they were looking for a way to get compensation that didn’t involve a monetary rent.
“We are much more in need of support, rather than rent. We’re working on a situation where we get additional administrative supports in lieu of rent. That’s a little tricky because of state licensure requirements, but I’m confident the AEA, through one person, or more, are going to help us with that, and it will be a good thing for our district, and the region,” commented Lorenz.
The only downside, Lorenz felt, was the space itself, which would see the class taught in the temporary classroom at Inman Primary.
“We are kind of tight for space, but because we’ve experienced declining enrollment, and because we haven’t filled one of the Title One positions, that gives us a bit more flexibility. Principal Jane Chaillie has come up with a plan to shift those classrooms back into the building. They may have to double up with a couple of specialized classrooms, but I think any inconvenience we experience will be outweighed by the additional resources we’re going to get and the additional help for some of those challenging behaviors,” advised Lorenz.  
While there would be additional duties to perform, Lorenz said they will have a full contingent of AEA staff working with the eight kids.
“The day-to-day operations will probably not be too egregious. Is there going to be some coordination that has to happen? Absolutely. We’re going to have lunch, and recess, and there’s going to have to be planning. I don’t see it as a challenge to the day-to-day activities; it will be more about having everything aligned so that we can make it work,” Lorenz stated.
Additionally, the district will receive a lot of support when it comes to special education.
“We’re going to have people that have a level of skill that not only will help us, but they will be go-to people. That’s not saying the AEA hasn’t provided that now, but there’s a difference between having someone in-house, versus calling someone and hoping they can show up,” said Lorenz.
Chaillie told the board she’d worked with some of the staff from Rising Hope Academy, and felt that they would bring a lot to Red Oak, they just needed to make sure the expertise was utilized to its fullest potential.
Lorenz said they did not make the recommendation of partnering with the AEA on the program lightly.
“I wouldn’t have proposed the partnership if Jane Chaillie hadn’t been on board. When I asked her if this was something she wanted to have, I got a very strong yes. Is it going to be perfect? It’s not. There are going to be things that we’re going to have to deal with, but again, what we’re going to get versus the inconvenience is going to be a positive for the district,” Lorenz advised. “There has been a lot of discussion, the AEA has been very forthcoming, and they’re very anxious to work with us. We appreciate that. “
Ivan Gentry, the executive director of specialized services and supports with the Green Hills AEA, said the AEA had more than 2,000 students in the AEA with behavior goals, and of that number, 64% are getting the most supports.
“There’s not a lot of openings for those students to be served in. This partnership will provide the necessary space we need, and we provide all the oversight of the staff. We’re very excited to take this journey with the district,” Gentry commented.
The board approved the partnership with Green Hills AEA for hosting the Rising Hope Academy.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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