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Teachers call out, hold rally against 'shady' school board members

Four Republican school board members are accused of holding secret meetings; it's believed the intention was to force the superintendent out of his position.

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — More than a thousand teachers called out sick in Douglas County on Thursday, forcing the district to cancel class. Those same teachers held a rally outside of the administration offices in Castle Rock to protest actions taken by four school board members. 

On Monday, teachers and parents learned of secret meetings held between four Republican school board members. They are accused of having those meetings in violation of open meetings laws, also colloquially described as "Sunshine Laws." They require elected officials to hold discussions on the record. It's believed the intent behind those closed-door meetings was to force Superintendent Corey Wise out of his position. 

Many teachers, parents and students took issue with the accusations after they came to light this week. In response, more than 1,300 called out of class. Many attended the rally that garnered a crowd of more than 500 people. 

"I’m just continuing to fight the good fight," said 7th grade teacher Jennifer Cancino. "I will just continue to try and have my voice heard on behalf of myself and my colleagues and my students." 

Cancino has been with the district for close to 30 years and has put her trust into Superintendent Wise, who has spent a large part of his tenure with DougCo. 

"I felt like as a teacher, we had such a respect for him and he had such a mutual respect for teachers," said Cancino. "I also feel frustrated that the majority, the board majority ran on kids first, and that’s not, in fact, what they are doing." 

High school teacher Heather Riggs is both a parent within the district and a teacher. She teaches honors and AP chemistry. 

"It’s just shady. It’s just plain shady that anyone you disagree with can just be fired and you can’t even manage to do it the right way," said Riggs. 

She's been with the district for 14 years and said she was already wary of board members who seemed to go against the district's equity policy – a policy many teachers fought to put into place. When she learned of the accusations, she became upset. 

"It’s important. I firmly believe that you stand up for the right thing, even if it makes you uncomfortable," said Riggs, who hopes her stance encourages both her students and her own children to do the morally right thing. 

> Watch: Expert explains possible legal implications of Douglas County sick-out

Many students also stepped out in support.

"I just feel like I need to reciprocate how much hard work they have put into helping me get through this year, especially with the pandemic," said high school junior Ansley Edelbrock. "They go through so much. They go above and beyond to really make sure that us as students are doing well and are set up to be successful." 

She was surprised to see the reaction for her teachers when they saw her at the event.

"It was surprising to me. I didn’t understand how much it meant to them until I really got here and I saw how many people were here and it felt like such a strong community," said Edelbrock. 

A petition started within the past 24 hours has already gotten more than 8,000 signatures at the time of this writing. The petition is calling for a recall of the school board members who are at the center of the accusations. 

"The goal of the petition is to get the support of the community that we can recall and hopefully make right what is wrong to show what was unjust and make justice out of it," said Kaci Nice, who started the petition. "I want to show my kids that we skipped school today to stand up for what is right and have a petition and do things, the right lawful way if we want something done." 


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