Withers Honored

By: News Release
Mar 31st, 2017

Dr. Bill Withers, board member at Keystone Area Education Agency, was the recipient of the Dr. E. Robert Stephens Award from Iowa’s Area Education Agencies. Withers received the award during a presentation at the AEA Boards of Directors’ Conference on March 30. This is the first year for the awards and it is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate outstanding candidates for their contributions to education and the AEA system.

The Dr. E. Robert Stephens award acknowledges contributions in the areas of innovation and support to local districts, AEAs, the Department of Education and other partners/organizations. Over 50 years ago, Stephens was a graduate student at The University of Iowa. He was asked by the Iowa Department of Public Instruction and rural superintendents in the state to direct a study to find a prototype to distribute instructional services equitably and efficiently across Iowa. His vision eventually found its way to the Iowa Legislature in 1974, when Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs) were passed into law. This award is named after “Dr. Bob” to honor exemplary work by those associated with educational service agencies and AEAs.  

In fall 1974, Dr. Bill Withers was in his fourth term as a school board member for Allamakee Community School District when Senate File 1163 transformed the 79 county and joint county school systems into 15 Area Education Agencies. In the basement of a bank building in Elkader, he recited the oath of office as an Area 1 board member in September 1974. A month later he was elected Vice President of the Area 1 Board of Directors. It was at that time that Dr. Withers started a cornerstone practice of his service as an AEA board member. Bill continues to meet with the boards of the school districts that he represents and bring those conversations to the AEA board table. He has twice presided as President of the board and currently serves in the role of Vice President, while also chairing the Policy Committee.

Dr. Withers, along with his wife, Libby, their three sons, and daughter-in-law were in attendance at the awards ceremony in Des Moines. “We are honored to present this award to Dr. Bill Withers,” said Brent Siegrist, Executive Director of Iowa’s Area Education Agencies. “His many years of service as an AEA board member is his testament to the AEA system and his dedication to the school districts he serves.”

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, appropriate, public education for children with disabilities. Since that time, Iowa’s nine AEAs continue to provide services to every public school district and accredited, nonpublic school in Iowa. While Special Education comprise about 80 percent of the services offered, the mission of Iowa’s AEAs it  to improve the learning outcomes and well-being of all children.