The president and vice president of the Douglas County School Board told former superintendent Corey Wise that if he didn’t resign within a few days, the newly elected board members would fire him with good cause, according to an audio recording of the Jan. 28 meeting. .
The audio recording was filed in district court on Wednesday as part of a lawsuit filed by Highlands Ranch resident Robert Marshall against the Board of Education, alleging that four majority members on the school board decided to replace Wise after a series of private one-on-one discussions. which violated the state’s open records law. Peterson and Williams “communicated this decision” to Wise during their January meeting, according to the latest documents filed in the case.
“We don’t want to make it terrible, we don’t want to make it public, but we’re willing to do it if that’s the direction things need to go,” said Christy Williams, vice president of the board. he can be heard speaking to Wise on the recording.
Earlier this year, three school board members — Susan Meek, Elizabeth Hanson, and David Ray — held a hastily scheduled public meeting where they said that Williams and board president Mike Peterson had given Wise an ultimatum: resign or be expelled. They claimed that in doing so, their colleagues, with whom they have repeatedly clashed over district politics, violated the state’s open assembly law.
Four days later, Wise was fired for no reason at a controversial public meeting that drew national attention and sparked student protests at several schools in the Douglas County School District. The vote was led by four conservative members – Peterson, Williams, Becky Myers and Kaylee Weinegar – who won the majority on the council after last year’s election.
Wise replaced Erin Kane, who previously served as Interim Superintendent in 2016. Peterson asked Kane to apply for the position of superintendent weeks before the job posting was posted.
The audio recording of the meeting between Wise, Peterson, and Williams is notable in that two board members denied making a decision about the former superintendent’s future until they voted to fire him during a February 4 public meeting.
“The decision on the superintendent was not made until the fourth (February),” Peterson said during a February hearing on the public hearing lawsuit.
Williams also testified that she did not make decisions “until I voted.” But she acknowledged that during the January meeting, the only options offered to Wise were resignation, retirement, or being fired.
But on audio, Williams is heard telling Wise that she thinks the four board members have “a pretty good reason” to fire the superintendent.
“I feel like there were probably a lot of things going on behind the scenes that worked against the four of us,” she told him, adding, “There were meetings that probably shouldn’t have happened, at least (Peterson) about it did not know. I know a lot of things that have happened…we think we have enough reasons. This is not the direction we want to go.”
But, Peterson added, the directors were willing to go in that direction if necessary, saying he had spoken with attorney Will Trachman the night before about Wise’s contract. (Wise noted at the meeting that his contract expired for another two years.)
Peterson told Wise they wanted him to decide by Tuesday, February 1, to retire.
“If not, if you call us on Monday and say, ‘No Mike, I don’t think I would like to retire, I would like to move forward with the dismissal,’ then we can set up a special meeting,” Peterson said. .
The audio “indisputably shows that Peterson perjured himself when he testified under oath in open court,” Marshall, who filed the lawsuit against the board of directors, said in an email.
A spokesman for the Douglas County School District could not be contacted for comment.
Wise filed a state and federal discrimination complaint against the school district and four of its members, alleging that he was wrongfully fired for speaking out for students with disabilities and students of color. In the complaint, he claimed he was fired for supporting students and staff wearing masks in schools during the pandemic, and for his role in implementing the district’s fairness policy.