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Douglas County school board votes to remove superintendent

Corey Wise was named to the position in April 2021 after 25 years with the district.

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo — The board for Douglas County School District (DCSD) voted to remove Superintendent Corey Wise in a special meeting Friday night.

RELATED: 3 Dougco school board members say others want to boot district superintendent

The 4-3 decision came after the board voted down a motion to delay a decision until a future meeting where public comment would be accepted. 

“Let us lead, let me lead, let’s see what can happen, let’s take the handcuffs off and work together and let’s see what can happen," Wise said to board members just before the vote, then addressed the audience and said he loved them and the district. 

"Challenge me. I like to be the underdog. Let me prove - and if I don't, then come have that conversation. But please don't do it over a weekend. And with the idea that I have to choose to leave the district that I love," Wise said to board members.

Wise chose to have the discussion about his performance leading up to the vote be public, rather than discuss it all in a closed executive session. 

That prompted the conservative majority board members to have to explain their reasons for wanting to terminate Wise. 

Mostly what was brought up were rules that Wise implemented as directed from the previous school board, including mask mandates. 

At times, the topic of Wise's future was taken over by discussion between board members about other things like the rally that happened this week, as well as the amount of teachers that called out sick in protest. 

Board members in the minority fought conservative board president Mike Peterson's claim that he was unhappy with Wise's performance, and questioned why there wouldn't be an improvement strategy if that were the case. 

Peterson said he had lost trust in Wise.

"And that saddens me because I wanted to start really by trying...really by trying to get to a better place together with the superintendent. But I can't get there now, so I've had my say. I just think that we have a minority (referring to board members in the minority) who does not want to move on," he said. 

During the final vote itself, conservative board director Becky Myers voted against the firing initially, responding "no." 

After the board president questioned the vote, and re-read the motion, as well as a challenge from board director Elizabeth Hanson, she changed her answer to "yes" in favor of the firing. 

It is unclear if Myers misspoke, or didn't initially understand what her vote meant to the motion.

Wise declined an interview with 9NEWS after the meeting, and took time to hug many people in the room before he left. 

Wise was named to the post in April 2021. He had, however, been with the district for 25 years and was serving as the district's interim superintendent when he was formally named to the post.

In the November election, Douglas County's seven-member board underwent a shakeup when more than half of its members were replaced by a group of four conservative candidates. It's the first time conservatives have had control of the board since 2017.

Peterson, Myers, Kaylee Winegar and Christy Williams all won their seats in November. They ran together on a "Kids First" platform.

The other three board members -- Hanson, Susan Meek and David Ray -- held a public meeting on Monday and said they were approached privately last week with news that the board president and vice president asked Wise to resign. If he didn't, the three board members were informed that the other four were prepared to replace Wise.

>>  Video below: Douglas County school board discusses superintendent contract

When asked for a reason why, according to these three members, Peterson reportedly said, "The district needs to get back to academics."

The board members present in Monday's meeting said they were concerned about the private nature of the moves, which could violate Colorado's open meetings laws. That is why they said they called Monday's public meeting.

On Thursday, more than 1,000 teachers called out sick in protest of the possibility of Wise being ousted. That prompted the district to cancel all preschool to high school classes.

RELATED: Douglas County School District cancels class Thursday after teachers call out sick

"Learning about the allegations that are brewing regarding the possible firing of our superintendent Corey Wise -- parents, the community and Douglas County Federation are working collectively to take a stand against these behaviors and actions that are looking to be possibly illegal and would have detrimental effects for students in the classroom," Kevin DiPasquale, president of the Douglas County Federation, told 9NEWS this week.

The Douglas County Federation represents district teachers.

This story draws on the previous reporting by Erin Powell.

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