Hundreds of Douglas County teachers plan to call out in protest of recent board moves, union president says

Hundreds of Douglas County School District employees, including teachers, are requesting substitutes for Thursday as they plan to call out of work in protest of recent actions taken by the newly-elected school board, said the president of the teacher’s union on Tuesday.

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The protest comes a day after three members of Douglas County School District Board of Education alleged that other board members are trying to force out Superintendent Corey Wise.

The allegations along with the board’s recent decision to change the district’s equity policy is leading employees to take collective action and hold a rally on Thursday, said Kevin DiPasquale, president of the Douglas County Federation.

“It was necessary to make a statement that draws attention to what’s going on,” he said.

The board has undergone a shakeup after November’s election when four new conservative members were elected. They now hold the majority on the board and have moved quickly to implement changes, including to the equity policy and lifting a mask mandate for schools.

DiPasquale did not know exactly how many of the district’s more than 8,000 employees – including 3,400 classroom teachers – will participate in the call-out but said he has heard more than 900 people have requested substitutes for Thursday.

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A spokeswoman for Douglas County School District confirmed a “large number of staff” are submitting absences for Thursday, but declined to provide an exact count, saying the number is changing constantly.

“We will continue to monitor those absence submissions and should we reach a point where the number of absences will impact our ability to provide a safe and supervised learning environment for students, we will advise families should school closures become necessary,” said Paula Hans in an email.

The district has already canceled classes for Wednesday as a snowstorm is hitting the metro area. DiPasquale said the snow could also hamper the union’s plans for a rally at 1 p.m. on Thursday at the district’s administration building in Castle Rock.

On Monday, three members of the district’s school board — Elizabeth Hanson, Susan Meek and David Ray — held a public meeting in which they alleged that the president and vice president of the board told Wise to resign by Wednesday or otherwise be voted out  —  a move they said was made without informing the rest of the board.

They also said they believed these actions violated Colorado open meeting laws, which govern how decisions are discussed and decided by public officials.

“That threw a big wrench in people wanting to even stay here because we finally have a superintendent who listens to staff,” DiPasquale said. “He’s bringing about some calm and consistency to what’s best for kids and staff.”

Any formal decision about Wise’s employment status will take place during a public meeting, said Mike Peterson, board president, in a statement.

“There has been no action taken on the superintendent’s contract or employment status,” he said. “ Last week’s conversation was to provide our superintendent with information needed to participate in an ongoing discussion. I will continue to engage all board directors on this matter.”

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