(CBS4)Former Douglas County Superintendent Corey Wise says the district discriminated against him when the board terminated his contract earlier this year. He filed the complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division Thursday morning.

(credit: CBS)

The complaint singles out the four newly elected board members, saying they conspired to fire Wise because of his advocacy for masking in schools to protect Douglas County students and staff with certain disabilities from COVID, and his perceived and/or actual role in developing and executing the school district’s educational equity policy.

The complaint alleges that board members Michael Peterson, Becky Myers, Christy Williams and Kaylee Winegar campaigned on a platform to get rid of mask mandates in the district and get rid of social justice reforms the district had undertaken. It then says once elected, two of the members asked Wise to meet at a coffee shop early one morning and tried to get him to resign his position. They also made it clear that if he didn’t they would pursue firing him with cause, which they eventually did.

Wise says he always performed his job to the best of his abilities and got positive feedback and that the decision to get rid of him caught him off guard.

“I honestly was completely surprised,” he said. “I’m confident in my work. I’m confident that they don’t have cause. I was doing a very good job.”

The complaint goes on to say that minutes after Wise left the coffeehouse, he received an inadvertent text message from former interim Superintendent Erin Kane, who was a close political ally of Peterson, Myers, Williams and Winegar. The text message from Kane contained photographs from two superintendent
employment contracts, including a superintendent contract for Douglas County School District.

Wise took that to mean that  Kane was consulted before even the other minority board members were informed and that the process had begun to find his replacement. According to the complaint, both Peterson and Williams have publicly admitted that Peterson asked Kane several weeks prior whether she would be interested in the superintendency if it became vacant.

Corey Wise (credit: CBS)

Wise says his removal disrupted the district and hurt students because it created fear amongst school employees.

“We lost a lot of great teachers and principals and leaders and you see people leaving now and the worry and the distrust,” Wise said.

Wise also says the whole ordeal upended his life.

“You lose sleep you stress your whole family does. You have to share it with them. You don’t know which direction. Then when you are actually like I was terminated without cause life is upside down,” Wise said.

He says he is grateful for the support he has received from the community and hopes Colorado has learned from his experience that much more is at stake than partisan politics when it comes to running a school district.

“We need to be better,” said Wise. “We sometimes let too many outside groups, agendas, (and) sometimes politics get into what is right and we’ve got to change that.”

Michael Abeyta