T.J. Schneckloth selected as interim Davenport Community School District superintendent

Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 2:37 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - The Iowa State Board of Education on Thursday named T.J. Schneckloth, director of student support and federal programs for the Davenport Community School District, as interim superintendent.

The move comes nearly a week after the board voted to temporarily replace Superintendent Dr. Robert Kobylski and the district’s chief financial officer.

The department of education said in a media release that it had “made every effort over the past three years” to work with the school district to address several issues including disciplinary actions against minority students, special education services, and “serious school safety concerns.”

The department also said the district has consistently failed to improve those issues.

Amy Williamson, chief of the Bureau of School Improvement, said the department has seen less progress from the district on its corrective action plan over the last six to eight months.

“I’ve been really optimistic about it still and I’ve been forthright about that with their board and with Dr. Kobylski that this is still going to get done, but we’ve seen less progress,” she said.

Williamson said the corrective action plan the district submitted for the 2020-21 school year “wasn’t actually even completely filled out.”

“No data was submitted to us, the ‘roles and responsibilities’ areas weren’t filled out and then the evidence that was submitted was not satisfactory for any of the goals,” she said.

“We felt that we needed to recommend to the board (Sept. 25) to take an additional step and the board had already decided what step was going to be at their prior meeting, and that was going to be if the district failed to meet any of their goals, they would put somebody in place that would meet those goals.”

Schneckloth was named interim superintendent in October 2018 after former Superintendent Art Tate resigned. He served until Kobylski took over last fall.

During a virtual state board of education meeting Thursday, Williamson laid out an interim plan for the school district.

According to the plan, Schneckloth will report directly to the state board of education.

Bill Decker, chief administrator at Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency, and Shane Williams, director of educational services for the AEA, will provide “mentoring, oversight, and support” for Schneckloth.

An interim CFO will be determined jointly by Schneckloth, Decker, Williams, and department of education staff no later than Oct. 9.

Williamson said the department has a list of potential candidates that includes some retired CFOs and others who are already working elsewhere.

Kobylski has not lost his job, she said. Schneckloth will have the authority of a regular superintendent and will focus specifically on the corrective action plan.

Kobylski may be assigned work by Schneckloth to help complete the corrective actions or conduct other district business at the discretion of the interim superintendent.

Williamson said the local school board remains a vital part of the corrective action process and overseeing the operations of the district.

“We want the local board to be involved and we really want this to be a collaborative process where everybody’s actually moving in the same direction,” she said. “We expect that there are still going to be local board meetings and local board business that doesn’t even necessarily pertain to the corrective actions.”

Schneckloth, Decker, and Williams will meet twice a week with Williamson to plan for and check in on progress toward the completion of the district’s corrective plan.

The initial timeline for this plan will last for six months. The state board can consider extending the timeline at its meeting in March.

Dan Gosa, vice president of the Davenport School Board, said he supported the move during Thursday’s virtual meeting.

“One of the things I like about TJ very early on when he was our interim he put his head down and got to work,” he said. "He went out to one of your meetings, eight days on the job, and completely got decimated. But he owned it, didn’t give any excuses.

"The majority of our board is tired of excuses. We want to see results, and I feel this would be a move to help our district. "

Several parents spoke out against the temporary appointments of Schneckloth, Decker, and AEA.

“No reasonable person can possibly see this recommendation as effective state oversight of Davenport’s systemic failure to comply with state and federal laws and regulations," one parent said.

Another parent said, “The department of education can do better and our kids deserve better, especially considering how long they have waited for someone to care about the racism and ableism they face every day.”

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