Iowa Quad-City education officials fear a growing financial scandal with the Iowa Association of School Boards will hurt its mission as an educational resource for boards and districts.
North Scott schools Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert attended a presentation on standardized testing in his district Tuesday that was presented by an association employee.
“They provide it at a very low cost,” Schwiebert said. “If that goes away, I don’t know where I’m going to get that information.”
The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee is looking into allegations of financial mismanagement and highly inflated salaries at the nonprofit agency. The association is funded through dues paid by school boards throughout the state.
Quad-City area superintendents said that how the scandal plays out and how transparent the agency is could affect whether school boards remain members.
“I think most every school board, depending on what they find, is going to have to question their support going forward, through the investigation and what they do to remedy those problems,” Bettendorf Superintendent Theron Schutte said.
Jack Hill, who serves as mayor of Long Grove and on the North Scott School Board, has found himself embroiled in the scandal for his role in boosting the salary of executive director Maxine Kilcrease from $210,000 to $367,000 per year while he was president of the state association’s board. He has taken a leave of absence from the state board. Kilcrease was put on paid administrative leave last week.
Reached by telephone Tuesday, Hill declined to comment directly on the issues swirling around him but defended the association.
“Despite what is going on, the association has done a lot of good things for school districts around the state as far as training board members, research and advocacy efforts,” he said. “Unfortunately, all those good things are being lost in the back and forth. That is the sad part of it in my mind.”
Schwiebert, who called Hill a “man of high integrity,” has experience with the association in his present job and in his previous role as superintendent of the Mount Vernon School District.
He also feels strongly about the role the organization plays in providing education opportunities to school boards and
districts across the state.
“I have been fortunate enough to have board members at Mount Vernon and North Scott be leading members of that organization,” he said. “I have been a strong supporter on how they help board members be better board members. I am sick to death about the negative aspects of it.”
Richard Clewell, vice president of the Davenport school board, was elected to the association’s board of directors in December. He said the board is struggling with the recent allegations and the legislature’s intervention in the investigation.
“We are dealing with the information that is being presented and what is going on with the oversight committee,” Clewell said.
“When something like this happens to an organization, people wonder what is going on. We need to do what we have to do to retain and regain that trust.”
Davenport schools Superintendent Julio Almanza is pleased the association has leadership like Clewell’s as it tries to regain the trust that has been shattered in a short time by a pile of allegations.
“He understands what needs to happen and the need for accountability and the need to fix things so they don’t happen again,” Almanza said of Clewell. “We want to make sure that it returns to that resource role and not the entrepreneurial one.”