Davenport Schools have been recommended for conditional accreditation, according to a report from the state released Thursday afternoon, meaning the state will continue to oversee certain policies where the district was found in violation of state rules.
“We’ve read it; we’ve accepted it. Some of it is affirming,” Interim Superintendent TJ Schneckloth said. “ … Nothing in there is a real big surprise, and we’re working on a lot of it.”
The Iowa Board of Education will review the report at its meeting May 9 and is allowed to make changes.
After a state visit in 2017 found several areas of state and federal noncompliance in the areas of special education and disproportionate discipline of minorities, the board voted in November to complete what's called a Phase II audit, which is broader and more intensive, including both general education and finances in its scope.
Per the report released Thursday, the Phase II visit garnered Davenport 14 new citations, in addition to the 11 issued in April 2018. The new citations all have deadlines at or prior to August 2020 and include required corrective actions.
The 14 new citations include everything from a lack of documentation for teacher evaluations and career development plans to questions about the appropriateness of placement of 170 students in Life Skills programs.
Many of the more bureaucratic citations — including a supposed lack of accessible instructional materials — were triggered because state inspectors couldn't easily find some required information on the district's website. Schneckloth said it would be "revamped" to make information easier to find. Similarly, communication problems between parents and the districts can be fixed by modeling it after the methods for sharing Title I building information, which the report cites as an effective system.
While emphasizing that he would not expend energy trying to argue with the state, Schneckloth said many of the citations would be easy fixes, since the citation itself "misrepresented" parts and procedures of the district. For example, one of the citations is "no evidence was provided to demonstrate that teachers are evaluated on a three-year cycle." The problem, Schneckloth said, is those records are kept at the building level, not the district level, so the accreditation team could not find them where they first looked.
Another citation is that the district did not provide evidence that the equity coordinator had been appointed by the local board, but Jabari Woods and Erica Goldstone were approved by the board for the positions at the Jan. 28 board meeting, albeit past the deadline.
For the citations requiring more drastic changes, some work has already begun. One citation is that administrators are not being evaluated on an annual basis; Schneckloth said it was only administrators in the central office who had not been evaluated, and that he had begun to do so.
On April 22, the district hit a major milestone by meeting the requirements for its special education citations, one day ahead of the deadline.
The district had to reconvene the individualized-education plan, or IEP, teams for 2,866 students whose services were out of federal compliance. The review was used to correct issues and determine if students were owed compensatory education hours.
Now, the district will have to complete a similar procedure for those 170 students in Life Skills programs, including providing compensatory education, if necessary.
"Life Skills is one of the most restrictive environments we have, and we need to make sure we have students in the least restrictive environment possible," Schneckloth said.
While addressing the new citations, Davenport will have to continue to address its previous disproportionality citation, earned because the district disciplines black students more often than whites. Black students are also more often chosen for special-education programs than whites.
In addition to formal citations, the state team made numerous recommendations to help the district work more cohesively.
"Buildings tend to work independently rather than working as a system," the report observes.
These recommendations including addressing the central office's "uncommon structure," better incorporating special education staff, and working to standardize the district's multiple behavioral initiatives, which include Boys Town, Davenport Way and PBIS.
"It is unclear how training was delivered to staff on these programs or how buildings are using them," the report states. "It is also unclear how a building determines whether to engage in PBIS or Boys Town, for example."