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Former Douglas County Schools superintendent settles unlawful termination lawsuit

Former Douglas County School District Superintendent Corey Wise, who filed an unlawful termination lawsuit against the district and the board of education, has settled his claims for more than $830,000.

Wise was fired, without cause, by the school board on February 4, 2022.

Wise filed a civil rights complaint claiming he was unlawfully terminated for supporting students and staff of color, the LGBTQ community and students with disabilities.

His attorney, Iris Halpern, announced Monday that Wise had settled with the district for $832,733.61.

Wise was earning $247,500 annually, Halpern said.

The settlement money paid to Wise was through the Douglas County School Board’s insurance policy. No funds were diverted from students, Halpern said in a statement.

“Change, I think, is a complicated process,” Wise told The Denver Gazette Monday. “This, I think, makes a statement.”

Wise had been with the district since 1996, when he started as a teacher.

“It’s a statement that you can’t discriminate,” Wise said.

Filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Division and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Wise alleged in the complaint that he was discriminated against by the conservative majority on the school board for implementing a school COVID-19 mask mandate in 2021 and for supporting the district’s equity policy.

At the time of his firing, Wise had two-and-a-half years left on his contract. He has since taken a job as an assistant superintendent with the Cherry Creek School District.

Wise was unilaterally fired without cause by a 4-3 vote on Feb. 4, 2022. The district already had to pay him a year’s salary, nearly $250,000, after the firing.

The board’s four conservative members at his firing said Wise’s leadership didn’t align with their vision for the district and they could no longer work with him.

School board President Mike Peterson — who was named in the suit with members Becky Myers, Christy Williams, and Kaylee Winegar — declined comment.

Last year, Peterson said he tried to work with Wise, but that he had lost trust in his ability to lead.

“Trust is essential for any employee relationships. I have concerns about the superintendent being able to make decisions for our children,” he had said.

In March 2022, the board voted 5-1 to appoint Erin Kane as the superintendent to Colorado’s third largest school district.

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