Douglas County Schools Costs for Firing Superintendent Corey Wise | Westword

How Much Firing Superintendent Corey Wise Has Cost Dougco Schools So Far

The big bucks owed to Wise are just the beginning.
Corey Wise has switched school districts.
Corey Wise has switched school districts. Douglas County School District via YouTube
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The fallout from the Douglas County School Board's decision to fire superintendent Corey Wise has been both crazy — and crazy expensive. The Douglas County School District appears to be on the hook for at least a quarter-million dollars, and the meter is still running.

The terms of Wise's contract reportedly obligate the DCSD to pay him $247,500 if he's dismissed "without cause" — a term used during the February 4 special meeting at which he was sacked, in a move engineered by the board's conservative majority bloc of Becky Myers, Mike Peterson, Christy Williams and Kaylee Winegar, and opposed by members Elizabeth Hanson, Susan Meek and David Ray. The Wise-related costs aren't the stated reason that the board is laying the groundwork for a bond issue this November. But clearly, a little extra cash couldn't hurt.

Meanwhile, Wise has already landed a new gig. Late on February 23, news broke that he had been hired by Jeffco Public Schools as a community superintendent. The position was vacated by Dave Weiss, who's now the district's chief of schools; the temporary position runs through the end of the 2021-2022 academic year.

But Wise isn't done with Dougco. A February 18 release confirmed that Wise had retained the services of Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, one of the Denver area's highest-profile civil-rights law firms (its attorneys represented the mother of Elijah McClain in a $15 million settlement over the young Black man's 2019 death after a brutal encounter with Aurora police officers), as well as a second legal partner, Allen Vellone Wolf Helfrich & Factor P.C. Accompanying the announcement was a letter to Douglas County School District general counsel Mary Klimesh that was said to serve as "a record request pursuant to the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) and notice of your duty to preserve evidence related to this matter for future litigation."

Among the items the district is asked to keep rather than discard: "all records, emails or other digital communications received or sent by current or former Douglas County School Board members" related to the board's equity policy, the termination of Wise, discussions of Kane, and a lawsuit filed by Douglas County resident Robert C. Marshall against the board and the district, claiming alleged violations of Colorado open-meetings laws in Wise's dismissal.

Marshall's legal team, headed by Steve Zansberg of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, has pressed a motion for a preliminary injunction. The case has been assigned to District Judge Jeffrey K. Holmes, who's expected to hear it at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, February 25.

Dealing with the Marshall suit and motion, as well as gathering material in advance of a possible complaint from Wise, won't be easy or cheap — and the same is true of the process of hiring a replacement for Wise. According to an accelerated timeline approved by a 4-3 vote on February 22, hopefuls for the job are slated to be screened during a March 1 special meeting that could be extended to the next day, if necessary, with interviews and public comment both wedged into March 3 — after which the board will announce the finalists. Feedback will be accepted beginning on March 10, with the announcement of a contract offer — and another salary — possibly coming as soon as March 22

Should the board hire onetime DCSD interim superintendent Erin Kane, as is widely anticipated, more legal action could follow; an article by Colorado Community Media reveals that Kane was in the loop about Wise's fate a week before he was pink-slipped.

The boardmembers who sent Wise packing said they'd made the move because they wanted to take the district in a new direction — and it's proving to be an expensive one.

Click to read the Corey Wise Colorado Open Records Act preservation letter to the Douglas County School District, Robert C. Marshall v. Douglas County School Board, et al., and the motion for a preliminary injunction.
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