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Des Moines district won’t extend superintendent’s contract

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The board of Iowa’s largest school district narrowly decided not to extend the contract of its embattled superintendent beyond June 2023.

The Des Moines school board voted 4-3 Thursday not to extend the contract of Superintendent Tom Ahart, who has been at odds with state officials over the district’s decision to stick with remote learning at the start of the school year. At the time, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds had ordered all schools to provide at least half of their instruction in person despite the coronavirus pandemic unless virus cases were at a high level in the area around a district.

The board’s decision was reported Saturday by the Des Moines Register.

Ahart faces a hearing later this week over whether he will lose his state superintendent’s license over the district’s decision, though the district reached an agreement with the state to make up the instructional time that was lost.

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School board leaders Dwana Bradley and Rob Barron put out a statement about the vote not to extend Ahart’s contract. Ahart has led the district of more than 30,000 students since 2012, but they wouldn’t discuss details.

“This has been one of the most challenging times the Des Moines School District has ever experienced. Since March 2020, the school district and this board have gone through a long and difficult process of making decisions, in the midst of a pandemic, to balance the health concerns of our community with the educational needs of our students,” Bradley and Barron said in the statement.

Barron and Bradley plan to testify on Ahart’s behalf at the hearing over his license on Thursday.

“Dwana and I look forward to testifying on his behalf at his hearing this week,” Barron said in an interview. “And are hopeful in his efforts to defend his license, which is being wrongfully targeted.”

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