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Douglas County school board names 2 finalists in superintendent search

Board expected to interview finalists Erin Kane and Danny Winsor in public meeting Thursday
Posted at 5:49 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 23:34:46-05

DENVER – The Douglas County School District Board of Education named two finalists for the superintendent position Wednesday afternoon and is expected to interview them in a public meeting Thursday.

The board voted unanimously to name Erin Kane, the executive director of schools for American Academy whose name has previously been floated for the position, and Danny Winsor, the executive director of schools for the Parker region of the DCSD who also oversees the district’s Choice Programming Department, as the finalists for the position.

The school board met Tuesday evening and in an executive session screened the people who have applied for the superintendent job. The board met again Wednesday at noon and almost immediately went into executive session for several hours before returning around 5:30 p.m. to name their finalists.

Board Director David Ray had called for a motion for Dr. Chris Page to also be included in the group of finalists, but it was defeated by the board majority in a 4-3 vote.

Ray also voiced his displeasure that there were only 15 final applicants – something he called “unacceptable.” Board President Mike Peterson said there was at one point 23 applicants, but some people had withdrawn their applications.

A motion from Director Elizabeth Hanson to move Winsor forward as the only finalist was also defeated. Hanson said she believes Winsor is the person to bridge the gap in the community that will be necessary moving forward.

After that motion was defeated, the board directors voted unanimously to move forward with Kane and Winsor as the sole finalists, then approved the resolution in another unanimous vote before adjourning Wednesday’s meeting.

The board is expected to meet again at noon on Thursday, where the board will interview the finalists for the superintendent job in a public session.

At next Tuesday’s board meeting, the board will take public comment on the finalists, and an interview panel will quiz the finalists on March 10. There will also be a community forum on March 10, during and after which the public will be able to submit their comments on who should be hired.

The final public comment session before a new superintendent is hired will take place March 22 and the regular school board meeting, according to the district, after which the board could vote on a new superintendent.

The board approved a new timeline for hiring a new superintendent at a meeting last week that draws the process out a little longer than originally planned. Some of the members on the minority of the board had objected to a faster hiring timeline.

On Feb. 4, the newly elected “Kids First” school board majority — Peterson, Vice President Christy Williams, Becky Myers and Kaylee Winegar — voted to fire now-former Superintendent Corey Wise without cause.

Before the Feb. 4 meeting at which Wise was fired, news leaked that the majority was trying to fire him without consulting with the full board and without cause. When that news was made public in news reports and on social media, hundreds of DCSD educators called out of school on Feb. 3 in protest.

A court last week heard testimony regarding a lawsuit alleging the board members violated Colorado’s open meeting law, and a judge is expected to issue a ruling on the matter in the next few weeks.

At a Feb. 17 board meeting, some people said Peterson already had a new superintendent in mind because he had spoken with her before Peterson was fired: Erin Kane, executive director of schools for American Academy. She previously served as interim superintendent for DCSD from 2016 to 2018, according to her biography on the American Academy's website.

In a statement to American Academy families the next day, Kane confirmed Peterson had asked her to consider the position. She said she was honored to have been asked.

Attorneys representing Wise filed a wide-ranging open records request on Feb. 18 for all records, emails and digital communications surrounding Wise’s firing and other communications and decisions involving the district and wise. The attorneys also gave notice to the district to preserve evidence related to Wise’s firing.

Wise last week accepted a job as part of the team of Jeffco Public Schools superintendents.

On Feb. 22, the Douglas County News-Press broke the story about conversations regarding the majority board members discussing firing Wise. The story also detailed how Kane sent a text message to Wise with language of his contract while Wise was speaking with some of the minority board members.

Wise was named superintendent in April 2020 after a months-long, nationwide search that included 100 potential candidates and four finalists. After the election in November 2021, the new conservative majority, initially said they were confident Wise could do the job.