The president and vice president of the Douglas County School District Board of Education issued an undisclosed ultimatum to the district superintendent to resign or otherwise be dismissed – all without telling the rest of the board, according to three council members who made the allegations Monday night.
In a striking public meeting, the three board members – Elizabeth Hanson, Susan Meek and David Ray – said they discovered on Friday that board chairman and vice-chairman Mike Peterson and Christy Williams , issued the ultimatum to Superintendent Corey Wise, giving him until Wednesday morning to decide how to proceed.
There were no votes, no meetings and no notice that this would happen, the three administrators said Monday evening in a Zoom meeting.
“We’re not just whining,” said Ray, District F’s manager. .”
Directors who spoke on Monday believe the actions violated Colorado’s open meeting laws, which govern how decisions can be discussed and decided by public officials, and said board members directors are not allowed to take these actions on their own without informing the rest of the board.
“I totally understand if four members want to vote one way,” said Meek, who represents District A. “It’s a majority, but it has to be done by law and by policy and procedure. “
Hanson, who is also a lawyer, said she would file an ethics complaint with the state for the conduct of one of the council attorneys, Will Trachman. The attorney, Hanson said, met with Peterson and Williams to give legal advice on whether they could issue the ultimatum to Wise. Trachman is obligated under his contract to write memos to other directors if he meets with them individually, she said, but the three directors said they received nothing.
“I’m not comfortable having a person on our payroll who doesn’t live up to their contract legally and ethically,” Hanson said. “This must also be resolved immediately.”
As to why the majority of the board wants Wise out, the three trustees said at the meeting that they were told the rest of the board had “collectively decided that we needed to take the district in a different direction.”
“We’re mystified,” Ray told the Denver Post after the meeting. Given the circumstances, Wise “performed admirably” as superintendent, he said.
“I have no issues or concerns with his leadership,” Ray said.
School district spokeswoman Paula Hans said via text Monday night that Wise had not resigned.
“Despite rumors circulating in our community, the DCSD Board of Education did not take a vote regarding the superintendent,” she said.
Peterson, reached by text, said he was not watching the meeting and would have to watch it again. He directed further comments to the school district.
Ray, Hanson and Meek said a special meeting was to be called in the near future so the full board could discuss the superintendent’s future.
“We have to be true to our word, we have to follow the law, we have to have conversations as a seven-member council,” Meek said.
The Douglas County School Board has undergone a major overhaul in recent months, following the election in November of four new board members, including Peterson, Williams and two others: Kaylee Winegar and Becky Meyers.
The four members shifted the political balance of the board to the right and garnered significant donations from national conservative groups.
The conservative-leaning majority wasted no time in tackling the burning issues, voting last week to change the district’s equity policy, which was passed in response to the racial justice movement sparked in 2020 by the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota.