After a few technical hurdles, Robert Kobylski should become Davenport schools' superintendent July 1, one month after originally anticipated.
Kobylski's Wisconsin certification was completed through an alternative means, called WiscAd. At its April 12 meeting, the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners denied Kobylski’s petition for a waiver for his superintendent license because it was difficult to determine if his certification met Iowa's standards. Another concern was that Kobylski “elected to not take the coursework for college credit.”
Kobylski said his Wisconsin license extends through June 30, 2024. He said when he pursued it, he already held a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University in Chicago, so he did not purchase the credit hours for the licensing program.
“Had I known that 12 years down the road I’d be applying in Iowa, maybe I’d have done things differently,” he said.
According to its website, WiscAd is a “DPI-approved alternative route to administration certification programs,” which provides Wisconsin administrator certifications to be a principal, director of instruction, director of special education, school business administrator or superintendent. It is offered through EduCATE-WI, a partnership with St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, which is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission.
Kelsey Moe, program administrator for EduCATE-WI said the program was targeted for a Wisconsin license, and the partnership with St. Mary’s allowed it to be offered for credit.
“Usually when you get your superintendent’s license, you’re going to do that through a university,” Moe said. “… It’s just an alternative way to get your license. It’s more streamlined.”
Greg Horstmann, the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners employee who handles superintendent and conditional administrator licensure, did not respond for a request for comment. In an email to Kobylski acquired by The Times, he wrote that he did not see "any" coursework that meets the superintendent endorsement requirements from Iowa. But an email from Siobhan Cafferty, a representative from Loyola, indicates that Kobylski has seven of the 10 courses needed for endorsement.
School board director Julie DeSalvo said Kobylski's Ph.D. from Loyola, a regionally accredited school, included a certificate to practice in Illinois. He completed his degree in the 1990s, so there was a chance his Illinois license could be denied, so he is taking classes “as backup.” Those would be completed by the end of June.
“Right now, (Kobylski) has that license, and he will be presenting that to the Board of Educational Examiners for their approval. They’re indicating it could take four to six weeks, but we’re anticipating it won’t take that long,” DeSalvo said. “… He will become certified, whether he has to take a few classes or not.”
“I’m not taking anything for granted,” Kobylski said. “I’m taking some extra coursework just in case they find any deficiencies in my Loyola program.”
Instead of using his vacation days from Wisconsin to begin work in Davenport in June, Kobylski is addressing “anticipated gaps” by taking courses at Loyola.
“That’s really Plan C. I’m hoping I don’t need that, but I’ve learned over the years to have multiple plans and multiple irons in the fire,” he said. “That’s the route we’re going.”
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“He’s been actively working for the last two weeks,” DeSalvo said. “At this point … he’s very close.”
Kobylski attended the board meeting Monday night to deliver a statement explaining the status of his licensure.
While thanking Kobylski for his transparency, Lori Janke, a parent in the district, said she was "appalled" at the district's "downplaying" of the waiver, asking the board to "look how it worked out last time," referencing former superintendent Art Tate, who resigned earlier this school year amid myriad issues in the district, including discipline disproportionality.
DeSalvo said Tate required courses in human resources when he was hired. According to a 2012 document from the Board of Educational Examiners, Tate was granted a waiver regarding special education, granting that Tate's one year of service as a special education director in another district, paired with the structured relationship between the superintendent and special education director, was adequate enough to qualify him.
“I’m just asking you to do a better job, and I’m so tired of asking you to do a better job. And if you can’t do a better job, then don’t be on the board,” Janke said during the open forum Monday night.
Neither the Davenport School Board nor HYA Associates, the search firm the district used to find its new superintendent, have concerns about Kobylski’s licensure, DeSalvo said.
“It’s very normal,” she said. “... We’re looking forward to him coming on board, and he’s working to make that happen as quickly as possible.”
Ted Blaesing, senior associate for HYA, confirmed that Kobylski's licensure was never discussed as a concern, but said the troubles were "not very common at all," citing Iowa's "antiquated licensure requirements."
"Iowa has one of the more unusual certification processes," he said. HYA is based in Illinois. "It's quite traditional, and does not provide for an alternative route, unlike most other states do now. It's based on college credit.
"Iowa's licensure requirements -- they're not more difficult, they're just more antiquated. It just seems a little strange."