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UNI trying to increase number of school psychologists in rural areas


March 28th, 2023 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – The University of Northern Iowa is using a U-S Department of Education grant to try to improve access to mental health professionals in rural schools. U-N-I’s School Psychology Program Coordinator, Nicole Skaar, says it continues a previous “grow your own” effort to get more psychologists in schools. “Taking current educational or related field professionals who have master’s degrees and are currently professionals in education or related fields, and retraining them to be school psychologists,” she says. Skar says this program will focus on the Great Prairie, Central Rivers, and Northwest Area Education Areas to train 15 school psychologists over the next five years. She says the national association recommends one school psychologist for every 500 students.

“Iowa is currently at one school psychologist to 19-hundred students. And if we’re looking at like, Great Prairie A-E-A — one of the A-E-A’s we’re currently partnering with — they are one school psychologist to every four-thousand students. So we clearly have a shortage of school psychs in Iowa,” Skar says. Skar says the first time they did the program those involved continued teaching while doing the work — but they’ve changed that this time. “To get them through the program and doing all of their field experiences that are required for the program, it was really difficult to make all that work logistically,” Skar says. “And so we have worked with the A-E-A’s in this program to provide a new type of full-time employment, that would be sort of like school psych assistant work.”

The program uses part of the two-and-half million dollar grant to help them pay for their classes. Skar says there are teacher shortages in a lot of areas, and taking some existing teachers for the program is a concern. “That’s one of the downfalls of this. We’re taking people who are already working as teachers or school counselors that may have a shortage area, and retraining them into school psychologists,” she says. Skar says they hope more psychologists can address some of the larger issues and help ease some of the pressure on the staff.

“We are providing psychological safety for both students and staff, so addressing student mental well being and staff well being that hopefully, we’re, you know, kind of cutting off, some of the more intensive issues that maybe school psychologists would be needed for, you know, needing more special ed teachers and things like that,” according to Skar. Skar says U-N-I at the same time is continuing to work on efforts to get more teachers into other fields as well to fill some of the gaps.

After three motorists die in flooding, Iowans are reminded of safe driving tips

News, Weather

March 28th, 2023 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Iowans should remember the phrase, “Turn around, don’t drown,” as the risk of spring flooding grows, especially after two tragedies over the weekend in the state to our south. Three people were killed in Missouri, several injured, when vehicles were swept away in two separate flooding incidents. Jeffrey Brewer, a spokesman for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, says motorists shouldn’t try to drive across a road or bridge that’s covered in water. “We talk about turning around during a flood to make sure that you don’t find yourself getting swept away in the floodwaters,” Brewer says, “because you’d be surprised how little water it takes to lift the vehicle up, and you can get taken away.”

The National Weather Service says six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and possible stalling, while a foot of water will float many vehicles. Not only is driving across a flooded road exceptionally risky, but Brewer says it can cause widespread engine damage. “If your car is in floodwaters, be careful about starting it up or driving it if the floorboards are wet or if you think water has gotten up into the engine,” he says, “because the electrical parts of the car can be damaged, and that can ruin the whole engine if you try and drive it while it’s still wet.” If there’s even the possibility floodwaters have gotten into your engine, he says it’s best to have it checked out before turning the key.

Brewer says, “We recommend if your car is in a flood, to have it towed and taken to a mechanic where they can make sure it’s dried out and then go through the process of starting it and making sure it’s all okay and everything.” Brewer says it’s important to have comprehensive coverage on your car, truck or S-U-V, because it’ll cover flood damage.

Council Bluffs City Council approves $10k Police Officer hiring bonus


March 28th, 2023 by Ric Hanson

(KETV/Council Bluffs, Iowa)The City Council in Council Bluffs, Monday night, passed a measure that allows the City’s Police Chief to offer a $10,000 hiring bonus, in hopes of receiving more qualified job applicants for Police Officers. The City’s law enforcement agency, like so many others across the country, is struggling to hire more officers. On the Council’s agenda prior to their vote to approve officials with the Police Department noted “The Council Bluffs Police Department has experienced difficulty in obtaining a sufficient number of qualified candidates to serve as police officers. The applicants that have been showing interest, have typically not been certified law enforcement officers at the time of hire and are required to spend several months upon the start of their employment with the city to become certified.”

The $10,000 will be given to individuals who are already certified law enforcement officers when hired. According to the department, it takes about $9,045 per candidate to train an officer to obtain certification. On Monday night, the city council estimated the department has about six openings with four current applicants. It’s unclear if any of those applicants would qualify for the bonus.

“Hiring certified officers is a win-win situation allowing the department to get experienced officers into and through the field training more efficiently. It also enhances our continuity of service by ensuring well-trained and experienced members are out serving the public,” the agenda item said.

The incentive goes into effect immediately and lasts through June 2024. Applications for Police Officers in Council Bluffs are being accepted through April 20, 2023.

Legislature ponders new rules to determining how much county officials are paid


March 28th, 2023 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Four bills introduced in the Iowa legislature this year have been designed to set a new statewide policy for determining how much elected officials in Iowa’s 99 counties are paid, but lawmakers are still working out the details. Senator Mike Klimesh, a Republican from Spillville, says an alternative that may be debated in the Senate this week is still being drafted.

“We’re going to not allow counties to not have a compensation board. The supervisors must have a compensation board in the county, Klimesh says. “We’re going to make the county compensation board show their work.” Klimesh says it would involve showing base salaries for all county officials who are elected to their positions and how those salaries compare to pay for officials in counties of similar size. The Iowa House has already approved a bill that would let county supervisors dissolve compensation boards and make the salary decisions themselves.

Representative Amy Nielsen, a Democrat from North Liberty, says the bill also forbids counties from reducing one elected official’s salary, while all the rest are increased.  “They could not be targeted for a reduction in pay for any retaliatory or political reasons,” Nielsen says.

Compensation boards currently meet annually to make salary recommendations for each elected official in their county — the supervisors as well as the county attorney, county auditor, county treasurer and county sheriff. The supervisors may reduce the board’s recommendations, but current state law says they have to make the same percentage reduction for all officials.

Cass & other area Counties to Participate in Statewide Tornado Drill


March 28th, 2023 by Ric Hanson

(Atlantic, Iowa) – Outdoor Warning Sirens throughout Cass County will activate this Wednesday morning (March 28th) at approximately 10:00AM as part of a Statewide Tornado Drill. That’s according to Mike Kennon, Cass County Emergency Management Coordinator. Those who subscribe to the Cass County Emergency Notification System will also receive an alert concerning the drill. Kennon adds,”This is an excellent opportunity for residents, businesses, and schools to practice their own procedures in the event of a real severe weather event.”

To register for the Cass County Emergency Notification System, go to links located on the Cass County homepage or the Cass County EMA Facebook page. If you need assistance, contact Mike Kennon, Cass County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator at 712-254-1500.

Doug Reed, Director of Emergency Management for Pottawattamie County, says Tornado sirens will sound across Pottawattamie County as part of the drill sequence Wednesday, at 10-a.m. For more information on severe weather preparedness, visit https://pcema-ia.org or www.ready.iowa.gov. Follow Pottawattamie County Emergency Management, HSEMD, IEMA, and NWS on social media using the hashtag #IAwx and #ReadyIowa.

Shelby County Emergency Management Coordinator Alex Londo says his county is also participating in the Drill. He says “We are encouraging everyone to have multiple methods to receive watches and warnings.  This may include mobile apps, traditional broadcast media, and NOAA Weather Radio.”

There are three simple steps to prepare for severe weather, according to Londo:
Stay Informed
Have a Plan
Put Together a Kit

Son charged in killing of Sheldon woman


March 27th, 2023 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – The Iowa D-C-I has released updated information on the woman killed in Sheldon last week. The woman has been identified as 62-year-old Jody Lynn Duskin. Duskin was found dead inside her home last Thursday by a family member. The State Medical Examiner determined her death was a homicide.

Duskin’s son, Nathaniel Kassel of Rock Rapids was arrested in South Dakota for first-degree murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Kassel is being held at the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office in South Dakota awaiting a judge to approve his extradition to Iowa.

No other details of the shooting are being released as police continue to investigate.

Nathaniel Kassel

Large power outage in Atlantic


March 27th, 2023 by Ric Hanson

(Atlantic, Iowa) – Much of the City of Atlantic was without power for about an hour this (Monday) afternoon. The lights went out at around 4-p.m. and came back on right around 5-p.m.  Atlantic Municipal Utilities General Manager Steve Tjepkes initially said the problem was with a feeder line, but he said right after the power came on, that a contractor working on a substation ran into an issue which resulted in the widespread outage.

Street lights were out across town, causing the Police and Street Departments to roll-out temporary 4-way stop signs. There were reports earlier in the afternoon, of a separate power outage in Council Bluffs that left 5,500 people in the dark.

Iowa Red Cross volunteers part of tornado recovery effort in Mississippi


March 27th, 2023 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Volunteers from the Central Iowa Chapter of the American Red Cross are already in Mississippi, which was hit by multiple tornadoes over the weekend, killing at least 25 people.

Emily Holley, with the Nebraska-Iowa Region of the Red Cross, says only a few Iowans are in the disaster area so far, but more will be deploying. “We expect there to be quite a bit more, depending on what the needs are down there,” Holley says. “Disaster assessment is always in motion because the storms are not finished yet, and we expect there to be more devastation.”

It’s estimated at least 27 tornadoes hit five Southern states on Friday night and Saturday morning, though Mississippi was the hardest hit with at least ten tornadoes. An EF-4 twister, with top winds of 170 miles an hour, struck the town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, leveling a large portion of the community. Another tornado was on the ground in Mississippi for 59 miles. Holley says the Red Cross teams from Iowa will be offering what’s called mass casualty care.

“We are opening shelters for folks who are unable to stay in their homes, their homes aren’t safe, so obviously, we don’t want them in that situation,” Holley says, “so we are opening up shelters so that folks can get the support that they need, meals, a bed, showers.” While the disaster support volunteers receive extensive training, seeing the widespread damage up-close and comforting survivors can be a difficult job.

“One of the things that we do is, after they have come home, they work with Red Cross staff to kind of debrief the event,” Holley says, “so if they need more support processing that devastation, we are able to provide that for them.”

For Iowans who’d like to offer financial help, Holley says the quickest avenue is the agency’s website. “We want to be able to send more supplies and help down there, and we also want to be prepared for the next disaster, wherever it may strike,” Holley says, “and so the best way to give is going to be at Redcross.org/donate.”

You can also call in a donation toll-free at 1-800-HELP NOW.

Bill to require mandatory state prison sentence for felons caught with guns


March 27th, 2023 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – A subcommittee in the Iowa Senate has advanced a bill that would toughen penalties for convicted felons caught with a gun. The bill easily cleared the House last Tuesday on an 88-to-six vote.

Tony Phillips, a lobbyist for the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association, said the bill would be a useful tool for county law enforcement agencies. “You end up dealing with the same types of these people over and over and you have a hard time getting the correct punishment to get them off the streets,” Phillips said during a Senate subcommittee hearing today. “It’s really more about making sure the good guys out there are unaffected, but you have tools to go after some of the more serious crime and repeat crime in the state.”

The bill calls for a mandatory two year sentence in state prison for a felon caught for the first time with a gun. A felon convicted a fourth time for illegally possessing a gun would have to serve at least a decade in state prison. For the past few years, federal prosecutors have been focusing on cases involving felons with serious criminal records who’d been caught with a firearm during an arrest. Senator Jeff Reichman, a Republican from Montrose, said relying on federal prosecution has become a concern because there’s a backlog of these cases in the federal system.

“This (bill) is against the bad actors and keeps them off the street and overall reduces crime,” Reichman said.

A Legislative Services Agency analysis indicates the state will spend at least $2.8 million more each year if the bill becomes law. That’s because about 30% of people with felonies who are convicted in state court of having a gun are being sent to state prison today. Most are placed in the community based system that’s an alternative to jails and prison.

More high school students jointly enrolled in community college classes last year


March 27th, 2023 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – The number of students who took an Iowa community college course while in high school increased by around six percent in the past school year. The Department of Education’s Jen Rathje says that continues a recovery following the pandemic.”You can kind of see there was a slight dip after 2020. We are continuing continuing to see participation, rebound and is back on the rise in the program,” she says. Rathje says pandemic dip was only recent downturn in the joint enrollment program in the last several years. “From 2004, the growth has been 137-point-nine percent — with an average annual growth rate of four-point-nine percent,”Rathje says.

She says the program is popular because it gives students a jump on college and they are able to complete their degrees and enter the workforce quicker, while saving money. “In Iowa, about two out of every five community college students are also a high school student. And so overall, jointly enrolled students accounted for 42-point-six-percent total community college enrollment across the state, and 11 of our community colleges enroll more jointly enrolled students than the state average,” Rathje says. Northeast Iowa Area Community College had the most jointly enrolled students.

“With 52-point-one percent of overall student enrollment being comprised of jointly enrolled students, Followed by Southwestern Community College with jointly enrolled students making up 47-point-three percent of total enrollment,” she says. Rathje says the increase in community college enrollment comes along with a decrease in full time college enrollment. Nearly 43 percent of students who also took community college classes were seniors with just more than 35 percent juniors. The full report is available on the Department of Education’s website.