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Religious beliefs raise concerns about the ability of the acting superintendent of the CRCSD to carry out his work

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – Cedar Rapids Acting Superintendent Art Sathoff delivered a sermon against teaching evolution and people who don’t believe in God, according to videos reviewed by our team. KCRG-TV9 i9 survey.

According to documents I received after a public records request, Sathoff is paid about $167,000 to complete the job for the remainder of the school year. He is responsible for day-to-day operations in the district following the death of former Superintendent Noreen Bush, who originally also served as acting superintendent, after a more than two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer. in October.

According to his LinkedIn, Sathoff worked at the Indianola Church of Christ for five months as an associate pastor before taking the position in the Cedar Rapids School District. Prior to becoming a pastor in July 2022, he held a different leadership position called an elder and gave sermons to Indianola Christ Church. According to the church websiteone of the main beliefs of the church is that the sanctity of marriage exists between a man and a woman.

Madison Atwood, who said she was an equity coach with the Cedar Rapids Community School District, emailed the board after her appointment and said a member of an LGBTQ affinity group, who had her first meeting in October, contacted her with concern about the views of the church. She also said Sathoff’s appointment will make it harder for her to provide support to marginalized staff.

“We are very concerned that his [Sathoff’s] personal beliefs can impact our work as a group and certainly make it difficult to help LGBTQ staff members feel safe and supported in the CRCSD,” Atwood wrote.

She also said marginalized employees struggle to feel like they belong, be effective in their jobs, and create higher turnover rates for the district in an email.

Dexter Merschbrock, who is a member of the CRCSD school board for District 4, was the only member to vote against Sathoff becoming the acting superintendent. He said he thought the views of the church could be considered discriminatory in a written statement and shared his concerns with fellow board members David Tominsky and Cindy Garlock.

“I remain concerned that the views of this organization, which could be considered discriminatory, make Mr. Sathoff the wrong candidate to be the public face of our district,” Merschbrock said.

In a sermon, which our i9 investigative team reviewed, Sathoff said one of the biggest threats to Christianity are people who don’t believe in God rather than “radical Islam.” He also opposed the teaching of evolution in a sermon.

“There are people who claim to be Christians, who don’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible,” Sathoff said in June 2020. “And who believe in evolution and not creation, for example.”

Cindy Garlock, who is the vice president of the Cedar Rapids school board and voted to endorse Sathoff, is a former AP biology teacher and uses the “@darwinrules” Twitter account.

Concerns about the process

Jennifer Borcherding, who is a member of the CRCSD school board for District 3, said at Monday’s board meeting that she was frustrated with the process used to hire an acting superintendent.

“I just felt the process, although extraordinary and under terrible circumstances, I think the process we went through was flawed,” she said Monday.

Our I9 team reached out to all seven members of the school board to understand the process, such as the number of candidates interviewed, around the selection of an interim superintendent since Wednesday. Most council members did not respond.

Colleen Scholer, director of communications for the Cedar Rapids Community School District, said in an email that she was sending a message on behalf of those elected officials because the board’s self-imposed bylaws require district communications staff to respond. to all media responses and follow-up questions.

She didn’t answer any specific i9 questions related to the process used to select Sathoff or checks to make sure someone’s personal beliefs don’t interfere with her position. But, she said in an email, the Cedar Rapids School Board values ​​diversity and inclusion for all students and staff and the acting superintendent is responsible for implementing board policies. .

The board has approved a strategic plan, board policies, and bylaws that include expectations related to this value,” Scholer wrote. “The Acting Superintendent serves the board and the district at large, and is responsible for acting in accordance with this strategic plan and the policies and bylaws of the board.”

She also led our i9 team through a board policy, which stated that the board could not make hiring decisions based on religion in accordance with federal and state law. According to previous TV9 reports, the school board highlighted Sathoff’s experience by passing a school tie to Indianola. The Cedar Rapids Community School District is considering its own $312 million bond issue to demolish and build new middle schools and renovate high schools throughout the district.

Colleen Scholer, director of communications for the Cedar Rapids Community School District, said in an email that she was sending a message on behalf of those elected officials because the board’s self-imposed bylaws require district communications staff to respond. to all media responses and follow-up questions.

She didn’t answer any specific i9 questions related to the process used to select Sathoff or checks to make sure someone’s personal beliefs don’t interfere with her position. But, she said in an email, the Cedar Rapids School Board values ​​diversity and inclusion and the acting superintendent is responsible for implementing board policies.

The board has approved a strategic plan, board policies, and bylaws that include expectations related to this value,” Scholer wrote. “The Acting Superintendent serves the board and the district at large, and is responsible for acting in accordance with this strategic plan and the policies and bylaws of the board.”

Registration request problem

According to the Iowa Department of Educationemails sent and received on school accounts are subject to open records laws.

TV9 is seeking legal recourse over another request for public records from the Cedar Rapids Community School District. The Equity Coach’s email expressing concerns about Sathoff’s personal beliefs was not forwarded to our i9 team because the District said it contained personal information in confidential personnel files.

CRCSD’s acting superintendent has lectured against changing teaching and has beliefs that staff are concerned about(Ethan Stein)

TV9 cannot find any personal information in the email, which means we don’t know if there were any other emails the district should have given TV9 in response to our request for registration. This includes any comments or responses from board members regarding this specific email or whether another employee, relative or interest group has also expressed concerns about the acting superintendent’s beliefs.

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