Bettendorf Community Schools parents and community members respect the district’s teachers, but not the board or administration, according to the 2019 Satisfaction Survey released May 15.
The initial survey summary shared by the district only included the average responses — with a 1 indicating the participant “strongly disagreed” with the statement and a 5 indicating they “strongly agreed” — community member Sara Wells made a public open record request at the school board meeting Monday night for the anonymous, compiled comments, and shared them with the Times.
The board discussed adding the survey results as a discussion topic at a future meeting. The next agenda planning meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday.
While the district’s teachers were noted almost universally as being extremely “caring,” many comments were very critical of both the school board and the administration.
“I did like the rapport between school teachers, parents, board, and admin,” one commenter said. “They no longer work together. It’s very sad.”
Another went as far as to say Superintendent Mike Raso and the board had “divided the community.”
At least one commenter said they were pleased with how the board seemed to be working together, even if there had been a rough period.
Many of the comments focused on the closing of Thomas Jefferson, whether by calling out board members who had previously campaigned on not closing the school, claiming they were trying to leave the district after the loss of their neighborhood school or to assert that closing the one-section school was a necessary measure for the district’s finances.
“Bettendorf is a premier city with a dysfunctional school district,” one person said.
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Several comments called for more transparency, or even an entirely new board; Directors Paul Castro, Michael Pyevich, Stacey Struck and Gordon Staley are wrapping up their current terms this year.
“School board shouldn’t vote on things just because the superintendent tells them they need to vote,” one person said. “I would trust and have my faith restored in the school board if they fired the superintendent immediately.”
Director Andrew Champion said he agreed that the board and district need to work on communication, but that he could not comment further because he hasn't been provided with a copy of the survey's full comments.
"I inquired on Monday night during the meeting about the results and was told that a discussion would be on an upcoming board agenda," Champion said via email. "I look forward to this conversation and I truly believe that we, as a board, need to look at what we can be doing better.
Comments about the district’s academic rigor were mixed, with some commending the district’s “difficult course work” and increasing focus on trade and apprenticeships, but there were several areas noted as concerns.
One comment said the district needed to “focus on special education students from an administrative level,” and another added that there was a “very poor special education structure.”
A few commenters singled out the math department as well, saying the district’s math program wasn’t “on the same level” as Pleasant Valley and North Scott, and that it had been in trouble “for a good seven to eight years.” Another comment listing some of the teachers they thought were especially strong, though, included a few math teachers.
Vice President Richard Lynch said he’d defer to President Adam Holland; Holland, Castro, Pyevich, Struck and Staley did not return phone calls. Raso did not respond for comment.