School District in Chaos After New Conservative Board Suddenly Cans Superintendent Corey Wise

Hundreds of students in Douglas County, Colorado, staged a walkout this week, dropping out of their classes to protest the firing of the school district superintendent, who is believed to have been rejected by the council’s new conservative majority. The school board at the end of last month requested to resign or be dismissed.

Students filed out of class chanting “fairness for all,” “support our staff,” and “Justice for Corey” after the Douglas County School Board voted in a special meeting Friday night fired Director Corey Wise without cause and without public comment.

“Everything is very unethical, the way it is treated,” said Asella Straus, a 12th grader at Highlands Ranch High School, told Colorado Public Radio. “He hasn’t been fair when it comes to it. The majority leadership that we could see clearly didn’t care about the voice of the students, the voice of the community.”

The 4-3 vote to remove the superintendent in Colorado’s third-largest school district – which serves about 64,000 students – was widely criticized by school board officials across the state, accusing Alleged that the Douglas County board violated the state’s open meeting law.

Wise supported policies for masks in schools that were dropped when the board voted in December to scrap the district’s mask mandate even as the Omicron variant surged.

Kaylee Winegar, a newly elected Conservative member of the school board, on Friday said Wise’s termination was “more about finding a better fit.” “It’s just what we wanted with this county to be different,” she explained.

In one Letter of February 6 Condemning Wise’s termination, more than a dozen Colorado school administrators wrote that they were “both shocked and disappointed by the unprecedented action” to terminate Wise, who served in the district with “Dignity and Honor” for more than 25 years.

They stated: “The removal of an effective director like Corey Wise was without cause, without the opportunity for public participation, and despite strong and strong objections from teachers, students, and staff. is a failure of management.

Three of the board’s liberal members complained during a Zoom meeting last week, follow Denver Postthat there was no vote, meeting or announcement regarding his plan to fire Wise with two years left on his contract.

The district closed on Thursday as 1,000 teachers, district staff and parents supported Wise and opposed the board. A petition in favor of Wise and the board’s request to revoke its conservative majority had garnered 25,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

The district’s deputy superintendents, Andy Abner and Danelle Hiatt, will serve as acting superintendents, said Board President Mike Peterson.

Elizabeth Hanson, a board member who opposed Wise’s firing, offered Wise’s emotional defense after the vote.

“I need to be very clear that this decision is not about performance in any way and this is politics in its ugliest and purest and most destructive form,” she said. “This is an attack on public education and I hope that it is something that will awaken our communities, our state, and our country. There are very calculated efforts going on right now and only the people have the power to stop it.”

Hanson and two other liberal members of the board, David Ray and Susan Meek, have accused the board leaders of violating Colorado’s open meeting law when they allegedly issued “ultimatums” to the board. him to resign or be removed from the position he has held since he was cast for the role last April.

“You all have the vote to do what you want. Let’s have the integrity and honesty to come together to make those decisions publicly, our public deserves it,” Meek said Friday.

Peterson has denied any suggestion that he violated the state’s open meeting law.

“Fully compliant with open meeting requirements and Sunshine law,” Peterson said Friday. “When a superintendent meets with another director whether in writing, in person, by phone, or otherwise, even if they are discussing the business of the school is not infringing.”

According to state open meeting law, school board members are required to discuss public business or take official actions during meetings open to the public. They are prohibited from conducting public business in secrecy.

But Peterson insists the meeting is to “allow the CEO to consider how he wants things to go before deciding or taking general board action.”

“We wait for how we handle it,” he said.

Peterson declined to comment to The Daily Beast on Tuesday about what prompted the vote in addition to concerns about policy violations. A spokeswoman for the school district, Paula Hans, also did not respond to a request for comment regarding any concerns about the manner in which Wise fired on Tuesday.

Ray told The Daily Beast in an email that he received a text message from Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors Christy Williams on January 28 asking to “chat” and she informed him that she and Peterson ” met with General Manager Wise to give him an ultimatum. resign or prepare to be replaced by a majority of the Board of Directors. “

Williams and two other newly elected members of the conservative majority – Winegar and Becky Myers – did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on the private meeting allegedly related to Wise’s firing.

Wise declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment last week about his impending dismissal and could not be reached for comment following Tuesday’s ouster. Before the vote, he pleaded with board members to “give us a chance, give me a chance, a real chance.”

The subversion comes as school boards become increasingly important battlegrounds for culture war issues including how race issues are taught in classrooms and questions about women’s rights considerations. parents when it comes to COVID-19 mask and vaccine requirements.

Douglas County’s seven-member board was rocked when four new conservatives were appointed in November, together tilting the board to the right and handing control to conservatives for the first time since 2017.

The candidates also won the support of local and state GOPs, as well as groups like Project 1776 PACprotest against anti-racist education, NBC News reported.

“I believe the new board will no longer teach us about things like black history and LGBTQ diversity, which I believe are very important to keep in school. We just want an education that is fair, without bias, without any politics,” an eighth grader at Cresthill High School, Emily McMahan, told CPR.

Late last month, the council’s conservative majority voted to change the equity policy Wise advocated a year ago to call for more diverse recruitment practices and curriculum review efforts. of the school district.

The Gazette previous report Winegar, who said she drafted the proposal, claimed to have done so in response to “serious and genuine concerns and concerns” about the possibility of policy leading to Major Racial Theory being taught. in Douglas County classrooms.

According to Ray, a school management group pushed back on any changes, in a letter submitted to the board “submitted without the involvement or knowledge of Superintendent Wise.”

“I believe this has had such a provocative effect on the new board of directors that the majority of our employees do not fit into their agendas,” he said.

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