DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — The president of Douglas County Federation, the union representing some teachers and staff in the Douglas County School District, warned Saturday a "high percentage of staff" may leave following superintendent Corey Wise's firing.
Wise's 26-year career with the district came to an end Friday night after all four newly-elected Board of Education members voted to terminate his contract, effective immediately.
Wise served as superintendent for just under a year.
Kevin DiPasquale, the teachers' union president, says the vote will have some lasting consequences.
"It's unfathomable that they would behave in such a manner. People are devastated. They're upset," he said. "There's a nationwide and a statewide shortage of educators. This is not going to bode well for Douglas County Schools moving forward, aside from the financial challenges that our district is trying to recover from."
The four majority board members — Mike Peterson, Christy Williams, Becky Myers and Kaylee Winegar — cited concerns with Wise's leadership style, his involvement in mask mandates and his connection with the three other board members among reasons he should be fired.
DiPasquale calls those reasons "weak" and "nonexistent."
"These are dark times for Douglas County Schools, knowing that the decisions that were made were done without cause and without relevance to what it takes to run a school district," he said.
At Friday night's meeting were parents like Miles Cortez III, who is in support of the new members and expects big changes.
"I don't think it's unreasonable to have change at the top when you've got change at the board," he said.
Hundreds of people attended a rally Thursday in support of Wise, including teachers and students. But Cortez believes talks by the union about losing a lot of staff because of the board's decision to fire Wise may be overblown.
"I think the teachers that leave are probably teachers that we're happy to have leave," he said.
As a parent, he wants to see the board and the community come together and move forward. But that may take some time as some say the division has never been greater.
"There is a disconnect with what's best for education and what's truly best and putting kids first. We are certainly not seeing that by some of the board members, specifically the board majority," DiPasquale said.
Wise declined a request to talk Saturday. None of the four board members who voted to fire him were available.
On Friday night, board president Mike Peterson released the following statement:
“At a Special Meeting on February 4, the DCSD Board of Education voted to terminate the contract with Superintendent Corey Wise, effective immediately.
I recognize this is an emotional time for our community and want you to know I am committed to restoring peace and unity to our school district with a continued focus on educating our children.
In accordance with the district’s succession policy, Deputy Superintendents Andy Abner and Danelle Hiatt will serve as acting superintendents for our school district. At a future meeting, the Board will discuss the appointment of an interim or permanent superintendent.”