Douglas County superintendent leaves behind years of controversy

9NEWS at 5 p.m. 5/25/16.

CASTLE ROCK - Dr. Liz Fagen started her time at the Douglas County School District as one of the highest-paid superintendents in the state, commanding a salary close to $300,000. But, that was just the beginning of a time of tumult and change.

"She was hired to basically implement the controversial reforms that have plagued our district over the past six years since she was hired," parent Amy McDowell said.

McDowell is the community outreach coordinator for a group called Douglas County Parents who have been opposed to Fagen for years. She says Fagen changed the structure of how teachers are paid, pushed for school vouchers, and increased spending outside of the classroom. Hundreds of veteran teachers left Douglas County for neighboring school districts.

McDowell is happy that Fagen leaving to become superintendent of schools in Humble, Texas.

"Huge win for our community here in Douglas County. We definitely believe it's a positive first step in the healing of our district," McDowell said.

But, Douglas County School Board President Meghann Silverthorn says Fagen's reforms are a legacy that has improved the district. Teachers are now paid for their performance. School security has been improved. In 2014, Fagen led the district to receive the highest accreditation rating offered by the state.

"She oversaw a district with lots of changes, a lot of successes," Silverthorn said.

Fagen also implemented a new way to fund schools by giving principals full power over their own budgets.

"She's always tried to focus on empowering staff members saying you are the captains of your own career," Silverthorn said.

Silverthorn says the average tenure for a metro area superintendent is usually around three years. 

"I'm grateful that she's poured six years of her career and her life into our district," Silverthorn said.

McDowell is happy to be rid of Fagen. Her last day in Douglas County will be in July. Down in Humble, Texas, more than 1,000 parents have already signed petition asking the school district not to hire Fagen.

"It just shows how controversial she is," McDowell said. "It's very telling of what our community has to say about Dr. Fagen, sadly."

Though McDowell and Silverthorn generally disagree. They do agree on one thing.

"This is an opportunity for us on the board to come together and say what do we want in new leadership. What do we want for our district and having our communities involved, having our families involved," Silverthorn said.

"We are incredibly hopeful that the current majority board members will do the right thing, ask for the community input, ask for input from their staff, their educators, their principals," McDowell said.

The district will likely appoint an interim superintendent before searching for a permanent one.

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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