Former Douglas County School District Superintendent Corey Wise has reached a more than $832,000 settlement for wrongful termination with the district.
“I think it sends a statement. It's validating that discriminatory acts, there's consequences,” Wise told Denver7.
Wise was a popular superintendent with 26 years of experience in education. He was fired as superintendent in February 2022 in a 4-3 school board vote — representing the politically-split DCSD Board of Education.
Wise's firing sparked protests from students, teachers and staff. DCSD classes were canceled due to a shortage of teachers.
The school board's president and vice president were caught in an audio recording giving Wise an ultimatum to resign before his termination.
Wise filed a discrimination charge against the district and the four majority board members who voted to fire him, claiming his termination violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The charge claimed Wise was fired for advocating for masks in DCSD schools and his "perceived and/or actual role in developing and executing the DCSD's Educational Equity Policy."
Ex-DCSD Superintendent Corey Wise speaks out after discrimination charge filed
“We have to stand up for them to protect them. That's our job as leaders,” Wise told Denver7 Monday.
The settlement includes $270,733.61 owed to Wise for the remainder of his contract, and $562,000 to resolve claims of unlawful termination and discrimination.
While Wise feels vindicated, he says the settlement sends an important message to every school district about the importance of keeping politics out of education.
“I think what we need to get back to, start getting those parents and community members who are involved in the district to understand to run for the right reasons — nonpolitical, nonpartisan, and to put students first,” Wise said.
Following his firing, Wise accepted a job within Jeffco Public Schools.
In a statement, Board President Mike Peterson, who voted to fire Wise and was named in the lawsuit, said he will "not allow this matter to distract me from focusing on our students."
“As one Director, I voted to terminate the former superintendent due to a lack of competency - period. He was paid out in full in accordance with his contract. In response to threatened civil rights litigation, the school district’s insurance provider agreed to settle with him. Per the settlement agreement, the former superintendent has agreed this is not an admission of liability on the part of the school district.
I will not allow this matter to distract me from focusing on our students and securing more competitive pay for our teachers and staff.”
Board Vice President Christy Williams, who also voted to fire Wise and was also named in the lawsuit, said in a statement she is "thankful we can finally move forward."
“Speaking as one Director, I voted to terminate the former superintendent over a year ago because I felt he was unable to meet the requirements of an efficient and effective leader.
After the former superintendent threatened litigation against the school district, the district’s insurance carrier agreed to a resolution including no admission of liability.
I’m thankful we can finally move forward and put the focus back on our students and staff.”