DES MOINES — The state education department will conduct a second, more in-depth on-site visit to oversee how the Davenport school district is fixing its myriad of woes regarding overspending in its budget, violated special education plans and disproportionality in its special education programs.
Davenport school officials attended Wednesday’s state education board meeting in Des Moines to provide and update on and answer questions about their progress.
Multiple state board members said the situation was so dire that they felt compelled to remain involved.
“This is a bad deal. This is more than just one case, one student. We’re in the thousand number. This is serious,” state board member Josh Byrnes said. “I think we have to (go) beyond monitoring. There has to be action taken. This can’t be acceptable in the state of Iowa where we’re known for great education.”
The state education department will schedule with the Davenport district another on-site visit, perhaps as early as January.
The visit will be more in-depth than the state department’s first, in early 2017. The “Phase II” visit will include investigation into possible ethics violations and could result in reports not only to the state board, but potentially to authorities such as the state board that licenses teachers and other educational professionals.
“We can’t sit here and do nothing. We have to do something. Today,” state board member Mike May said.
Davenport schools officials, including interim superintendent T.J. Schneckloth and school board president Ralph Johanson, said they are willing to work with the state to resolve the district’s myriad issues.
“I think that my view and the board’s view is that we view the department and the board and the AEA as valuable friends that are going to help us through this,” Johanson said. “That’s part of the message that the board has been trying to make sure that everybody in the district, especially in the administration, is very supportive of all these efforts, and that the board continues to provide the appropriate resources.”
The state is monitoring how the Davenport district is resolving multiple issues:
- The district budget is overspending by more than $13 million.
- The district has a disproportionate number of minority students in its special education programs.
- The district violated rules for individual education plans for special-needs students by not consulting with parents.
Four women with special-needs students in Davenport schools who made the trip to Des Moines for Wednesday’s meeting said they were encouraged by the board’s commitment to oversight of the district as it works through its issues.
“I’m happy. I am so happy,” Catarina Bolton said.