When Corey Wise, the ousted superintendent of Douglas County Schools, received a text asking for a coffee shop meeting among him and the school board president and vice president, he thought the request seemed odd.
“The setting up of the meeting was out of character,” he said.
The board president and vice president wanted to meet out of the blue and quickly, Wise said, requesting to speak early on Jan. 28 before Wise left town for some planned time off. They also wanted to meet in person.
“I was worried about what that was about,” Wise said.
So Wise recorded the conversation. The former superintendent said he wanted to be factual and have an accurate record about what was said to him that day.
In the meeting, Wise said he was clearly told the new board majority was committed to removing him as superintendent if he did not retire or resign. By Feb. 4, the board terminated Wise without cause in a split 4-3 decision.
Direct quotes from Wise’s recording help make up a portion of a legal complaint Wise brought against the district on April 13, alleging his firing was illegal, discriminatory and retaliation for his advocacy behind universal masking and the district’s equity policy.
The complaint offers the first in-depth look at Wise’s perspective about the way he was fired and why board members said he was no longer the right leader for DCSD.
Wise also alleges he was fired because he would not support what the complaint describes as discriminatory and racist policies the new board majority — Mike Peterson, Becky Myers, Christy Williams and Kaylee Winegar — wanted to pursue by unraveling the district’s equity policy and banning mask mandates.
As an example of what the legal complaint calls the majority’s unlawful views, the complaint cites comments from Peterson during his campaign, in which he disapproved of his daughter’s math homework referencing a same-sex couple.
The complaint also comprises four charges of aiding and abetting workplace discrimination against the newly elected board majority individually, and the team will soon file a whistleblower claim. Under a recently passed state law, the Colorado Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Act, whistleblowers are protected from retaliation if they report public health concerns.
Wise’s testimony during a federal lawsuit the district brought against the local health department — which sought to shield the district’s ability to require universal masking on behalf of students with disabilities — was protected activity, said Iris Halpern, one of Wise’s attorneys from Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC.
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