In a 4-3 vote Friday night, the Douglas County School Board of Directors moved to fire Superintendent Corey Wise.
The decision came after school board member David Ray made a motion to postpone an official vote in favor of more time to discuss and give the public a chance to comment. Ray’s measure failed 4-3.
Ray asked what harm it would do to delay the vote.
“Not making it public. Not giving the public a chance to respond,” he said. “This is not effective government. It will have long-term damage on this district.”
Voting in favor of firing the superintendent were first-year school board members Mike Peterson, Christy Williams, Becky Myers and Kaylee Winegar with Ray and directors Elizabeth Hanson and Susan Meek voting against it.
The Feb. 4 special meeting did not allow any public comment from the full audience that showed up to the district building in Castle Rock.
After the vote to fire Wise, Meek asked what happens next. Peterson said the district's two assistant school superintendents will take over until a new district leader can be hired.
As per his contract, Wise will be entitled to a one-year payout, equaling $247,500, according to Peterson.
The decision came after a week of controversy among the board’s newly-elected four member majority and the three members making up the minority. At issue in the more than three-hour meeting was trust.
The three-member minority said trust was violated when Williams and Peterson held a meeting with Wise last week, giving him the options to resign, retire or face termination from the school board's new majority.
Peterson defended the meeting, saying it did not violate open meeting laws and all board members were notified about the meeting with Wise after it happened.
The majority members said trust was violated when Ray, Meek and Hanson held a public meeting Jan. 31 alleging the majority had violated open meeting laws in taking the action they did with Wise.
Later in the week, teachers held a “sick-out” that caused the district to cancel all classes Feb. 3. A demonstration was held, partly to support Wise, at the district offices in Castle Rock on the same day.
Wise was employed with the district for more than 26 years, climbing through the ranks to become superintendent.
As the meeting got going, Wise was given the choice to discuss his employment with the board behind closed doors in an executive session or in a session open to the public. Wise chose to keep the meeting open to the public.
In fighting for his job, Wise said, “The irony a little bit is that this was about me and my performance. I would love to go back and have the time to go through each of those. Step those out. Find the root cause. There are times where I wonder if you want to fire each other or fire me.”
Peterson, Myers, Winegar and Williams said they were prepared to work with Wise at the start of their terms; however, they questioned his handling of the district's equity policy and its mask mandate.
The four majority members also questioned Wise’s ability to implement the board’s decisions, alleging his alliance remains with Ray, Meek and Hanson.
Peterson said while Wise is well liked by district teachers and students, he is not CEO material.
Wise asked the board to give him a chance.
“Let us lead. Let me lead. Let’s see what can happen,” he said. “Let’s take the handcuffs off and work together, and let’s see what can happen. Challenge me. I like to be the underdog. Let me prove myself, and if I don’t, then come have that conversation. But please don’t do it over a weekend and with the idea that the next day I have to choose to leave the district that I love.”
As the meeting was coming to a close and the final vote was being taken, some confusion came up when Myer said "no" to the question of firing Wise. When Peterson asked for clarification, Myer said she meant to say "yes" before asking for the question again, at which time she asked tearfully, “Can I just go home?”
Hanson said it was not fair for Peterson to change her vote, stressing that Myer voted “no” when asked.
Wise did not provide public comment following the board’s decision.
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