The Bettendorf Board of Education declined to move forward Thursday night with a parent petition seeking removal of Superintendent Michelle Morse.

The online petition at Change.org had 1,198 signatures, asking for a “vote of no confidence” in the schools chief, following a flurry of resignations and student behavior issues in the district.

The undersigned petitioners “believe that the Superintendent has acted inefficiently, incompetently, and is a detriment to the Bettendorf Community Public School system and we request that she resign or be let go effective immediately,” the petition says.

“Since August 2021, we have had 45 staff and 5 administrators resign and 10 staff elect early retirement. This is completely unacceptable, our district is losing qualified and experienced staff,” it says. “After the difficulties we have experienced during COVID, and so many leadership positions leaving and the current lack of leadership, our district has suffered greatly.  

Bettendorf Community School District Superintendent Michelle Morse

“Dr. Morse has completely failed in her legal duties to provide a safe learning environment for students and staff, which has hindered student achievement and teachers ability to teach. It is for these reasons that this community is asking for the board to dismiss Dr. Morse or that she resigns of her own accord.”

Bettendorf school district communications director Celeste Miller issued the following response to the petition Thursday night:

“Public education across the country and around the world is dealing with increased pressure, scrutiny, and criticism. Bettendorf is no exception. We have and will continue to welcome input from students, staff, parents, and community members regarding how we, as a district, can better serve our students, staff, and families. We are steadfast in our commitment to collaborate with all stakeholders to identify solutions and cultivate stronger relationships.

Bettendorf Middle School

“Student and staff safety is of the utmost priority in our district and essential to teaching and learning. We have met with students, staff, and parents to listen to concerns and identify solutions. The staff has been working throughout the summer to update practices and protocols as well as improve and clarify district expectations and consequences.  Additional administrative and security support have been added at both the high school and middle schools as well as a district social-emotional behavioral health coordinator. 

“Bettendorf like other districts in Iowa and across the country saw some increase in resignations and retirements. Compared to last school year, Bettendorf had 18 more staff resign. The majority of the staff leaving the district are moving on to other positions and advancements for family and personal reasons. Some are making a change due to the intense pressures of working in education.”

According to an American Federation of Teachers’ “Under Siege” (a July 2022 survey of its members), “The unprecedented challenges of continuing instruction during a pandemic may have eased, but newly energized book-banning campaigns, political interference, and the latest school shootings are draining more teachers of enthusiasm for their jobs.,” the district said.

“Further, with unanimous support from our Board of Directors, 26 staff took advantage of an early retirement incentive as compared to only two retirements last school year. In spite of the perception of some, Bettendorf continues to be a highly desirable district. The majority of our vacancies are filled and have been filled by highly qualified, experienced, and passionate educators, while other districts continue to look to fill many open positions. 

“As our new administrative team prepares for the upcoming school year, they are dedicated to remaining solution-focused and finding opportunities to improve the Bettendorf Community School District for students, families, and staff,” the district said. “Going into the 2022-2023 school year, our goal is to center our work on our district’s core values of community, integrity, lifelong learning, and empowerment.”