DENVER – The list of Douglas County teachers who called out of school for various reasons on the same day hundreds protested the imminent firing of the superintendent was not released Wednesday after the person who filed the public records request for the names withdrew their request, the district said.
The Douglas County Board of Education went into executive session at the start of Wednesday's special board meeting to discuss the status of the Colorado Open Records Act request and response with the board’s attorney.
After coming out of the executive session, Board President Mike Peterson confirmed the district would not be releasing the names of the teachers on the list – whom he said may have been on the list “for many different reasons,” as the district ended up moving to a no-student-contact day on Feb. 3 after hundreds of staffers had already called out.
Paula Hans, a spokesperson for the Douglas County School District, also confirmed that the names were not released because the unidentified person who filed the CORA request withdrew it.
Peterson and the district's interim superintendents condemned the people who put threatening fliers on some teachers’ vehicles at two different Douglas County schools Wednesday.
Peterson said the district’s security team was looking into the fliers and who placed them on teachers’ vehicles and called the fliers “upsetting.”
“This is no way to move forward as a district. Our teachers should be respected and supported for the work they do for our students every day, and we hope the community can come together in support of our teachers,” Peterson said.
District Deputy Superintendent and Acting Superintendent Andy Abner said he wanted to emphasize to staffers in Douglas County that the district would not tolerate harassment, intimidation or threatening behavior toward them. He said if any occurs, they should report it to their supervisor or human resources.
“It’s very unfortunate these fliers have happened, that any of our staff are taking any kickback. If anything, you should be praised for the hard work you do. We value you, appreciate you and support you,” Abner said.
Danielle Hiatt, also a deputy superintendent and acting superintendent for DCSD, said Douglas County should demonstrate its respect for its educators.
“We do take it very seriously when there is any concern directed to us against our educators. We are asking parents and the community to show respect and demonstrate that respect to our educators,” Hiatt said. “As a community, we’re better together in that regard.”
Teachers and staffers within DCSD who spoke with Denver7 on Wednesday and the day beforehand said they felt threatened by the CORA request. Staffers and teachers who called out for school on Feb. 3 for any reason were notified by the district and by Peterson on Tuesday that the district would have to release the records responsive to the CORA request by the close of business Wednesday.
Hundreds of educators did not show up for school on Feb. 3 after news leaked that the majority was trying to fire Superintendent Corey Wise without consulting with the full board and without cause ahead of a school board meeting the next day.
In that meeting on Feb. 4, the majority members of the school board — the “Kids First” slate elected last fall: Peterson, Vice President Christy Williams, Becky Myers and Kaylee Winegar — voted 4-3 to oust Wise as superintendent without hearing public comment.
After staffers were notified of the pending release of the CORA records, Peterson said he had asked to find out who filed the CORA request and why. Additionally, one of the administrators of the Kids First Facebook page for Douglas County said the group condemned the request.
Before the teachers and staffers walked out in protest on Feb. 3, but after they had made their intentions known, Republican former 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, a Douglas County resident and parent, said on his radio show that the names of the teachers participating should be released publicly.
“My vote is the school board vote to publish online the names of every single teacher who bails on school tomorrow in support of their interests,” he said on the show – a sentiment echoed by some other conservatives in the area.
Teachers at two different schools — Legend High School and Iron Horse Elementary — found letters on their cars Wednesday, which had their windows painted in support of Wise, according to those who received them.
The letter said, “Most Teachers Are God and We Appreciate Them! You Are Bad! Get Out and Leave! … Douglas County parents, Grandparents, and Taxpayers OWN the schools! Remember That!”
“It’s been jarring. It’s been heartbreaking – so many different emotions to cycle through. This was aggressive. It was a cowardly act. It just felt really uncomfortable,” said teacher Megan Gray. “I also just think that this is just not the way to handle conflict.”
It is unclear what will happen with the list of teacher names despite the original CORA being withdrawn. If the list of names is public record, others can theoretically request its release as well.
Denver7 has submitted a CORA request to obtain the name of the person who made the CORA request for the teachers’ and staffers’ names.
In addition to what the interim superintendents and board presidents said about the letters and the CORA request at Wednesday’s meeting, Kevin DiPasquale, the president of the Douglas County Federation, the county teacher’s union, said the community came together to denounce the CORA request.
“A select few are politicizing our classrooms and using intimidation tactics to silence educators and single them out for using their voices,” DiPasquale said. “Tonight, the community, educators, and parents came together and denounced the attempt to expose teacher absences, a move that would’ve infringed on teachers’ basic rights and eroded public trust in the school district and board.”
The rest of Wednesday’s meeting involved a lengthy discussion over a timeline for posting the superintendent job, questioning applicants and naming finalists. The job will be posted Thursday, and the board will discuss further details on the timeline at a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday.
The board also heard public comment from community members upset about the board majority’s firing of Wise.
"This board firing Corey Wise, ignoring the wishes of a majority of teachers in the district and refusing to hold public comment on the matter is evidence of how little you value teachers in Douglas County and, in turn, how little you value students," said one person.