Six candidates are running for four seats in Bettendorf. Director Gordon Staley is not running for reelection, and Director Steve Geifman was appointed after Stacey Struck moved out of the district. The board chose to appoint someone who would not run.
Most pressing, according to those running, are morale, transparency and communication, and leadership.
Nearly every candidate explicitly laid out the necessity for more teacher support, especially given the state’s stripping of collective bargaining and recent demonstrations and discussions at board meetings about the need for more training when it comes to student safety and discipline.
Communication and engagement with the community are also at a critical point. Both incumbents cited communications about the failed general obligation bond as a failure on the board’s part. Each of the four newcomers expressed a need for more transparency, and taking advantage of opportunities to involve the community.
The current board hired a search firm to find a superintendent after Mike Raso’s contract expires. It runs through the end of this school year, but the board has twice voted unanimously not to extend it further. Not every candidate has been explicit in their priorities to hire a new superintendent, but building a more collaborative relationship between board and superintendent has been cited by most candidates.
Candidate summaries were compiled from surveys the Quad-City Times sent to each candidate, and an Oct. 14 forum hosted by the district.
Paul Castro, incumbent
Castro is a retired teacher in the district and has been endorsed by the Bettendorf Education Association. He has two grandchildren who are either enrolled in or have graduated from Bettendorf High School.
His three priorities are increasing student achievement, seeking and retaining the best teachers, and providing staff with supports.
“The board should very seriously seek out ways to improve the morale of our employees in our district,” Castro said at the forum. “We must strive to continually obtain and retain the very best teachers, pay them a very competitive wage, and provide them with whatever is necessary for them to teach with confidence.”
Doerder works in sales and has been endorsed by the Bettendorf Education Association. She has three children too young to be in school.
Her three priorities are transparency and process improvement, quality educational programming and curriculum and future long-term financial stability.
“One of the most significant things that I have noticed in the past several years are the community, parent and staff surveys that have been conducted but yet seem to have not prompted changes within the district,” Doreder said in her survey. “This attitude is unacceptable to me.”
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Eastman is a master coach and trainer for Iowa Reading corps and has been endorsed by the Bettendorf Education Association. She has two children in the district.
Her three priorities are to restore trust and transparency, hire a superintendent who is “ready to cultivate a positive work climate,” and secure staff contracts to ensure retention and attraction of teachers and support staff.
“Knowing that Bettendorf Community School District is going to be on [my kids’] resumes for the rest of their lives -- it needs to mean something,” Eastman said at an Oct. 14 forum. “It’s always meant something, and we need to make sure it continues to mean something.”
Goins is a teacher in Davenport and has been endorsed by the Quad-City Federation of labor and WIN Committee. He has three kids, two attended Bettendorf Schools.
His priorities are to re-establish a “kid-first mindset” and advocate for teachers, establish equal funding across the district, and re-establish district morale. In the Oct. 14 forum, he repeatedly reiterated he “strongly opposed merit pay,” and expressed an interest in establishing a junior ROTC program.
“I’m a teacher that advocates for teachers,” Goins said at the Oct. 14 forum.
Neighbor is an occupational therapist with four children in the district.
His three priorities are educational excellence and student preparation, financial responsibility while remaining competitive with regard to teacher compensation and facilities, and outreach and planning. Neighbor also said the district is facing funding and enrollment challenges, especially since the district is land-locked.
“To those not as involved in the school, we need to demonstrate that not only would our schools do better with more robust community involvement, but that the community receives reciprocal benefits from a top tier school. These are more evident with clear communication and planning,” Neighbor said in his survey.
Michael Pyevich, incumbent
Pyevich is an orthopedic surgeon and has been endorsed by the Bettendorf Education Association.
His priorities are to adhere to the mission statement to prepare students for the future — including creating a dual-enrollment program with Scott Community College and developing career and technical education curriculum, partnering with the community, and nurturing “all students to pursue their dreams.”
“Low morale is currently a challenge among our teachers and staff,” Pyevich said in his survey. “We cannot allow our teachers to be fearful for their jobs or feel unsupported. We cannot allow our students and staff to not feel safe in our buildings.”