Category: View Point

ViewPoint: Pushing educators beyond traditional boundaries

By Amy Moine, Central Rivers AEA
Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA) is on a mission to help the educators we serve be the leaders of the most inspired and innovative schools in the nation. And we’re doing it through professional learning designed to push them to think beyond traditional boundaries of what school should look like.
The Lead, Inspire, Innovate Series is a line up of workshops presented by experts in education and supported through job embedded practice, coaching and feedback from Central Rivers AEA consultants. The purpose of these workshops is for our educators to have an opportunity to hear inspiring messages from experts in the field so that they can lead in more innovative ways that will enhance learning and success for all students.
Since September, over 750 educators have participated in this year’s series. The 2018-19 roster includes experts in the fields of communication, technology, student mental health, school culture, peer coaching, and “growth” mindset. Many speakers have spoken previously to Fortune 500 companies and international audiences.
One of the most popular speakers this year has been Dr. Shannon Suldo, a leading expert in the field of adolescent mental health. Unfortunately, nearly every school district served by Central Rivers AEA has indicated an uptick in the number of students with challenging behaviors and mental health concerns. Many educators find themselves unequipped to deal effectively with these challenges which can create undue stress for all involved. Suldo presented strategies for supporting students with these concerns and also provided information on how to bolster positive mental health and well-being in all students. Dr. Suldo’s presentation was followed up by a workshop by J. Stuart Ablon, Ph.D., the Director of Think:Kids in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Associate Professor in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ablon provided evidence-based practices to help educators break down challenging behaviors and problem solve solutions that help children improve with dignity and respect.
These two workshops alone have resulted in improved relationships between many educators and students and provided hope around a difficult topic.
Interested in knowing what our presenter roster looks like for the 2019-2020 school year? Visit our website at and click on “Lead, Inspire, Innovate Professional Learning Series.” We invite you to learn more about how Central Rivers AEA is serving the schools in your community.
Amy Moine can be reached at

ViewPoint: Why a national marijuana law could be closer to reality in 2019

By Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish
So far, the task of loosening marijuana laws has been left to individual states to implement. But that changed when the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives last month.
“The states have been carrying the water for the pro-marijuana forces for several years but that may finally start to change,” says Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish (, a cannabis industry lawyer. “The federal government is about to get involved in a big way. Uniform national marijuana laws are certainly now on the table.”
Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has already laid out a blueprint to advance national marijuana legislation. Blumenauer’s plan could begin as soon as Democrats take the gavel next month, he says. His strategy would include starting to move the 37 bills currently unable to make it to the House floor under Republicans onto committee schedules, for hearings and proposed legislation.
Here are some of the House committees that could be looking at marijuana issues and what they would be considering:
The House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Blumenauer wants the House to “deschedule” marijuana. It is currently labeled a “Schedule 1” drug, the most tightly restricted category reserved for drugs that have “no currently accepted medical use.” Cannabis advocates have been trying to change that classification since 1972.
House Veterans Affairs Committee. Hearings may be held on proposed legislation to give veterans access to medical marijuana.
House Financial Services Committee. The focus would be on banking changes. Right now, cannabis businesses are unable to use banks, causing them to be an all-cash business, which makes them more susceptible to robberies and violence. There are many other advantages for cannabis producers if they could have access to banking institutions.
Further optimism about the future of passing national marijuana laws is due to two major roadblocks being removed. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired by President Donald Trump and Texas Rep. Pete Sessions was defeated by Democrat Colin Allred. Although Jeff Sessions had more of a national profile, Rep. Pete Sessions was arguably more important for pro-marijuana forces to remove since he was chairman of the powerful House
Rules Committee. He has been credited with keeping almost all marijuana legislation from reaching the floor of Congress for a vote.
“No marijuana bill could get a floor vote under Representative Sessions,” Parrish says. “He was probably the biggest legislative roadblock to comprehensive national marijuana legislation. Now that he is gone, there is a lot of optimism that many of these bills may finally get a vote.”

ViewPoint: Immigration in focus for rural America

By Brian Depew, Center for Rural Affairs
A raid in north central Nebraska put a spotlight on immigration in rural America.
It targeted alleged labor exploitation by a local employment agency. It swept up more than 100 community members and employees of local businesses.
The raid highlighted how deeply immigration is reshaping rural America.
When we consider immigration, we often think of midsize communities with large meatpackers. Few of us think of communities with 100 residents in a county of 800 residents. That is increasingly the reality.
In conversation with rural people, I often hear a refrain about immigration. I’ll paraphrase it as, “I don’t mind new immigrants moving here, I just wish they would do it legally.”
Unfortunately, there is no legal pathway for the vast majority of immigrants.
Consider, there are three primary ways to immigrate legally to the U.S. This includes employer-based immigration, family reunification, and humanitarian protection. Employer-based immigration is limited, and unavailable for most immigrants.
For individuals who have a legal pathway, resulting wait times can stretch to 20 years. This is untenable.
That is why the Center for Rural Affairs first called on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. We called for creating an opportunity for undocumented immigrants to fulfill requirements and become citizens, a more robust process for legal immigration, a new commission to determine a practical number of workers allowed to immigrate annually, and enforcement of wage and labor laws to prevent employers from misclassifying workers.
The reality is that new immigrants have become an important part of our communities. They are homeowners, entrepreneurs, leaders, parents, and employees. It is not our new neighbors who have failed to keep up.
It is our own immigration law that has not kept up with our communities and the people who live there—new immigrants and long time residents alike.
The need to enact immigration law change is as critical and urgent as it was in 2013.

ViewPoint: Working together to support youth mental health

By Dana Miller, Central Rivers AEA
We’ve all heard the alarming statistics: One in five children have or will have signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder. Only 20% of children who have mental health disorders receive the treatment they need, and most concerning, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for children and adolescents. Many know these statistics because they live them. They watch children struggle daily, not always knowing how to help. The mental health crisis is leaving parents, caregivers and educators wondering “what can we do?” “how can we help?”. Thankfully, there are several ways to help.
Research clearly shows that mental health education, early identification, intervention and collaboration of services (among families, community, and schools) can result in positive outcomes for our children with mental health concerns. Using trauma informed practices, teaching, modeling, and practicing social and emotional learning skills and strategies help our children develop the skills they need to navigate difficulties they encounter throughout life. Families, schools and communities must work together to provide our children with these critical life skills.
Central Rivers AEA is committed to working with local school districts, families and communities to better meet the needs of our children with mental health concerns. A multi-tiered system of support framework has been developed to help schools identify and provide support to children who may be struggling. The goal of this work is to identify students early and meet the needs of the whole child, helping them achieve a positive well-being. Some schools have started this process by completing universal screenings for social and emotional concerns. These screenings are the same as screening for math or reading concerns. The goal is to identify students who may be “at-risk” and provide additional supports to meet the child’s needs.
Reducing stigma through education is also a critical step. Central Rivers AEA has staff that are working collaboratively with school counselors, teachers and administrators to increase their understanding of mental health, suicide awareness, and evidence-based interventions to support students. Central Rivers AEA also has staff with expertise in mental health and behavior who are available to support school teams and students. If you think your child is struggling with mental health concerns and need to access support please contact your child’s principal.
If you would like additional information regarding mental health the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI): is a great place to start. NAMI Iowa: offers an abundance of resources, trainings and support group options.
Watching someone you love struggle with mental health concerns can be overwhelming, but you are not alone. We can work together to get our children what they need!
Dana Miller is a School Psychologist with Central Rivers AEA. She can be reached at

ViewPoint: Shop local this season

By Rhea Landholm, Center for Rural Affairs
This holiday season, will you be among 83 percent of consumers who plan to do some portion of their holiday shopping at a small, independently owned retailer or restaurant?
These types of businesses are what keep our small communities thriving. Up and down rural main streets, shopkeepers are readying their stores for the season. They welcome shoppers from their communities and those who are just visiting. Business owners are even stocking rolls of wrapping paper to provide added value when you spend your money with a local retailer.
In support, shop local events are popping up across America. One such celebration in Fremont, Nebraska, is planned hour by hour and block by block. Participating store owners are giving away treats, cider, and cocoa; hosting live music; and holding drawings.
Main street businesses are an important part of our life in rural America. I am part of the 9 in 10, or 91 percent, of consumers who believe it’s more important than ever to support small businesses this holiday season. Are you?
During this holiday season, and year round, #ShopSmall. Support your community, your friends, and your way of life. When local businesses succeed, we all win.


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