Newly obtained phone calls detail conversations the day Superintendent Wise was asked to step down

Phone calls obtained by Colorado Community Media's Jessica Gibbs
Douglas County School District
Posted at 5:10 PM, Feb 23, 2022

DENVER — Phone calls obtained by Colorado Community Media this week paint a picture of conversations between Douglas County School Board members on Jan. 28 as they discussed firing the then-superintendent.

“My goal was to get some clarity on what exactly was communicated between directors,” said Jessica Gibbs, the Douglas County News-Press reporter who broke the story about the phone calls Tuesday.

Gibbs built a timeline of events based off the public records that led up to then-Superintendent Corey Wise quietly being asked to step down by the new "Kids First" board majority several days before he was formally fired without cause — all of it starting at a Parker coffee shop.

“The president and vice president relayed to the superintendent that there were four directors who had independently come to the conclusion that the district needed to go in different direction with leadership,” said Gibbs.

FULL STORY: Records offer detailed look at day DCSD superintendent was asked to step down

Immediately after that meeting, Board President Mike Peterson called Director Elizabeth Hanson to inform her of their conversation.

“She says she became emotional. She felt blindsided [and] ended the call abruptly,” Gibbs said.

Director Hanson did not record her conversation but the other two minority board members did. In one conversation obtained by Colorado Community Media and shared with Denver7, Director David Ray questions Board Vice President Christy Williams’s and Peterson’s decision to go out on their own.

“How do you feel that you have the authority, that you and Mike have the authority, to deliver this message to the superintendent without the authority of the board or giving you that authority?” said Director Ray.

Director Williams responds saying, “Well, we didn’t. What we said to Corey is that we do have a strong four that are prepared to move forward.”

Director Williams later said their decision had already been made.

“So your statement to him was we have a strong four board members who are considering your resignation, or we want to go in a different direction?” said Director Ray, to which Director Williams responded, “We are going to go in a different direction with leadership.”

The majority board members maintain they followed open meetings and other law to the letter. However, a lawsuit has been filed claiming the majority violated open meetings law.

“Like we heard in those recorded phone calls among directors, President Peterson said, we spoke one-on-one. He was being very conscious of open meeting laws and they've also defended their decision to ultimately fire former Superintendent Corey Wise,” said Gibbs.

The school board met Tuesday after the story published, and the board majority set a timeline that potentially could have the board offering a candidate the job on March 22 despite protests from some of the minority board members that such a timeline was too fast, as The Denver Post reported.

Denver7 also previously submitted open records requests for records regarding those conversations and others tied to Wise’s firing.

Gibbs’s story and the records will also likely come up again, as Wise has retained counsel that sent a wide-ranging open records request and gave notice to the school district to preserve evidence related to his firing.

Benjamin DeGolia, of Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, said in a statement last Friday that the two law firms had been retained to represent Wise with respect to his firing by the board.

The request calls for the district to provide all records, emails and digital communications involving the following:

  • Anything sent or received by current or former school board members regarding the board’s equity policy between Oct. 1, 2020, and Feb. 17, 2022.
  • Anything sent or received by current or former board members relating to the district’s lawsuit against the Douglas County Public Health Department between Oct. 1 last year and Feb. 17.
  • Anything sent or received by any board member regarding Erin Kane, the executive director of schools for American Academy whom Board President Mike Peterson said he had spoken with about taking the now-open position, between Oct. 1, 2021, and Feb. 17.
  • Anything sent or received by a current or former board member regarding Wise’s termination between Oct. 1, 2021, and Feb. 17.
  • Anything sent or received by a current or former board member regarding Wise’s performance between June 1, 2020, and Feb. 17.

Among the request to preserve electronically stored information, the attorneys also requested that any discussions of the ultimatum Wise be fired be preserved.

Wise has already landed a new job, even if it is temporary. Jeffco Public Schools announced Wednesday he joined the district’s team of community superintendents through June 30.

"We are fortunate to have an experienced leader joining the team to provide support to our schools and principals during a time of transition," a school district spokesperson said in a statement to Denver7.