A sharply divided Douglas County (Colo.) school board has fired superintendent Corey Wise.
The Denver Post reports that Corey Wise, who took the job in April 2021, was fired without cause in a 4-3 vote during a Friday night meeting. The four board members who voted to oust the superintendent all were elected in November 2021 as part of a conservative slate.
“It’s more about finding someone who better aligns,” said Kaylee Winegar, a member of the board majority. “It’s just what we want with this district is different.”
Voting against Wise’s firing, board member Elizabeth Hanson called the superintendent’s ouster “an attack on public education.”
The district, a suburban area south of Denver, is Colorado's third-largest district with about 64,000 students.
The removal of Wise has led to angry protests from many district patrons. A change.org petition seeking recall of the board members who voted to fire Wise has collected nearly 23,000 signatures by Monday afternoon.
"Douglas County School board members asked Superintendent Corey Wise to resign or be fired unlawfully by violating our open meeting laws," the petition states. "The meetings were behind closed doors and secretive. According to some of the other board members, time and corrective measures were not given to superintendent Wise and this was a surprise to him. Corey Wise has been serving our community in various ways for 26 years. After all of that, they fire him. It's clear the board will not listen to our voices or pleas."
The board members who fired Wise expressed concerns about Wise carrying out policies set by the previous school board, such as a now-ended mask mandate.
The board members supporting Wise accused the majority of violating open meeting laws when they were excluded from a session in which the board president and vice president told Wise to resign or he would be fired. After that accusation became public, about 1,000 teachers, employees and parents protested to support Wise and demand transparency from the board.
After Wise's firing, Kevin DiPasquale, president of Douglas County Federation warned that a "high percentage of staff" may leave the district because of the board's action, The Denver Channel reported.
"People are devastated," DiPasquale said. "They're upset....This is not going to bode well for Douglas County Schools moving forward."
In Wise's absence, the district’s two deputy superintendents — Andy Abner and Danelle Hiatt — will share the role of acting superintendent, board president Mike Peterson said.
Wise worked in the district for 26 years; first as a teacher and principal then as interim superintendent for six months before he was selected to take on the job full-time in April. His contract runs until June 30, 2024.