Emails: CRCSD school board members never got opportunity to discuss interim superintendent position

Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 10:35 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Multiple school board members from the Cedar Rapids Community School District were left out of the process of finding an interim superintendent for the districts, according to emails our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team received from a public records request.

The district is paying Art Sathoff, who is the former superintendent for Indianola, around $167,000 to manage the district’s day-to-day operations for the remainder of the school year. He took over the job after former Superintendent Noreen Bush died after a more than two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer in October.

Sathoff has faced criticism from a member of the board of education and employees within the district for his religious beliefs. Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team found videos in November where he gave a sermon against the teaching of evolution and people who don’t believe in God. According to his LinkedIn, Sathoff worked at the Indianola Church of Christ for five months as an associate pastor, which believes the sanctity of marriage exists between one man and one woman.

Jennifer Borcherding, who is elected to represent district three on the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s Board of Education, said she believed the process to hire Sathoff was flawed because the board was never offered an opportunity to meet as a governing body and discuss the position. She implied school board leadership, like President David Tominsky and Vice President Cindy Garlock acted independently.

“I take my oath of office and public service very seriously,” Borcherding voted to the board. “It is unfair to the voting public to not have their legally elected stakeholder voices at the table.”

She also mentioned the board did not vote to delegate authority to board leadership to independently pursue candidates and pointed to board policy, which said board members shall not seek individually to influence the official functions of the District and shall have authority only when acting as a board legally in session.

According to previous TV9 reporting, School Board President David Tominsky highlighted Sathoff’s experience passing a school bond in Indianola. The Cedar Rapids Community School District is considering its own $312 Million bond issue to tear down and build new middle schools and renovate high schools across the district.

Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team reached out to Board President David Tominsky and Vice President Cindy Garlock to understand why it didn’t discuss the position with the board, but we didn’t hear back by publication on Tuesday night.

To receive four pages of emails district officials charged our KCRG-TV9 i9 Team $225, of which $175 was for a lawyer to review the documents. District officials said it took the lawyer 1 hour to read the four pages and redact information.

According to emails, the district is using legal counsel to respond to TV9′s media requests to members of the board of education. The district told TV9 in the past it has to pay for lawyers because it doesn’t have its own counsel. Board President David Tominsky and Vice President Cindy Garlock didn’t respond to questions on how much the district is spending on lawyers to answer TV9′s questions.

TV9 used legal recourse on a different public records request from the Cedar Rapids Community School District in November. The email from the equity coach expressing concerns over Sathoff’s personal beliefs wasn’t turned over to our i9 Team because the district said it contained personal information in confidential personnel records. TV9 can find no personal information in the email, which means we don’t know if there were other emails the district should have given to TV9 in response to our records request.

The Cedar Rapids Community School District has still declined to release information about a ransomware attack earlier this year, like how much it paid hackers, who hacked the district and if student data was compromised.