August 31, 2017

SIOUX CITY, IOWA (Aug. 30, 2017)—Northwest Area Education Agency (AEA) held a public celebration, with an ice cream social and tours of its 100-year-old building, to commemorate a century of educational heritage at its Morningside location. 

The building at 1520 Morningside Avenue in Sioux City was built in 1917 by architects Beuttler and Arnold. It originally served as East Junior from 1917 until 1973 when the school moved to another Morningside location. Thousands of students from the Morningside-area of Sioux City were educated in the original building.

The former Western Hills AEA began operations in the building in 1975. Western Hills AEA merged with AEA 4 in Sioux Center in 2006 to become Northwest AEA, which now serves 10 counties, 35 school districts and approximately 45,000 children. 

“Much has transpired throughout 100 years, but this structure has served the educational needs of our community and area since then,” said Dr. Tim Grieves, chief administrator of Northwest AEA. “We want to commemorate these past 100 years and celebrate all of the accomplishments made by the students, teachers and professionals who have been in this building.”

The building saw four additions in 1919, 1923, 1934 and 1949. The entire building has been updated to accommodate the needs of nearly 100 local AEA staff and a total of 252 regional employees. 

The Iowa Legislature established Iowa’s Area Education Agencies in 1974 to be an effective, efficient and economical means of identifying and serving children from birth to age 21 who require special education services. This decision was a result of the federal law mandating a free and appropriate public education for children with disabilities. The Iowa legislature was also plagued with complaints about inequitable educational services from district to district across Iowa. The AEAs were assigned to provide equity by assisting schools with professional development and offering educational resources for students.

Ironically, the man who wrote the legislation for the AEA system was from Sioux City and attended Morningside College. Dr. E. Robert “Bob” Stephens was a teacher, superintendent and a faculty member at The University of Iowa before researching educational service agencies. His findings were used by the Iowa Legislature to write the AEAs into law in 1974. Mr. Stephens passed away this year at the age of 87. The national Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA) has an award named in Mr. Stephen’s honor that is given to distinguished leaders in the educational service agency field.

“Bob Stephens was instrumental in the development of the AEA system, and remained dedicated to its mission until his death this past February,” said Dr. Grieves. “He was extremely passionate about education in Iowa and served as a mentor to the state’s AEA chief administrators group. His wisdom and insight will be missed.”

The other major factor for the development of the Iowa AEA system was the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, which was also enacted in 1975. The Iowa AEA system was designed to serve children who have special needs. In addition to special education, Iowa AEAs provide professional development, media resources and creative services for educators.

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With offices in Sioux City, Sioux Center, Cherokee, Denison, Le Mars and Onawa, Northwest Area Education Agency (AEA) works in partnership with public and accredited private schools in a 10-county area of northwest Iowa to help assure that all children reach their full potential. The AEA provides special education support services, media and technology services, a variety of instructional services, professional development and leadership to promote school improvement. The Iowa General Assembly created the state’s AEA system in 1975. It is widely regarded as one of the finest in the country. For more information about Northwest AEA, visit www.nwaea.org.

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