Douglas County Schools names two superintendent finalists

Erin Kane and Danny Winsor advance to panel, forum portion of search process

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The Douglas County School Board has announced two finalists for superintendent — American Academy charter school director Erin Kane and a DCSD Executive Director of Schools Danny Winsor.

The board met Wednesday to publicly name finalists in the search for DCSD’s superintendent. The finalists now move on to panel interviews with staff, parents, students and the community on March 10. A livestreamed community forum will also take place that evening.

At American Academy, Kane oversees three campuses serving approximately 3,000 students in preschool through eighth grade. She was the district’s interim superintendent from 2016 to 2018. Before working in education, Kane worked in the technology industry in project development, management and consulting, among other duties.

Winsor is an executive director of schools for the district’s Parker region. He oversees the choice programming department and postsecondary readiness programs. A former principal, counselor, teacher and coach, Winsor joined the district in 2013. He has been in education for 20 years.

In their March 2 meeting, the board turned down a motion made by Director David Ray to add Highlands Ranch High School Principal Chris Page to the list of finalists. Page was one of four finalists in the district’s last superintendent search. Directors vote 4-3 against adding Page as a finalist. 

The board also voted 4-3 against a motion made by Director Elizabeth Hanson to name Winsor as the sole finalist. Hanson said Winsor could help bridge gaps in a divided district community.

"What I saw today from Mr. Winsor was an incredible opportunity to come together as a group of seven,” Hanson said.

Director Kaylee Winegar said she saw the conversations with the three candidates as an initial screening process and was prepared to move to the next stage of the search with two finalists.

"I would agree that we had three great candidates today," she said. 

The board held an executive session on March 1 as it began screening candidates, and a second executive session on Wednesday to conduct screening interviews. A district spokeswoman confirmed DCSD received 23 applicants, but did not say whether the pool comprised local, regional or national candidates.

Directors said on March 2 they reviewed 15 of the 23 applicants in the screening process and spoke with three candidates before selecting finalists.

Ray noted the last superintendent search in DCSD garnered 100 applicants and took roughly four months. He repeated his stance that the superintendent search is being rushed and that screening 15 out of 23 applicants was not sufficient recruitment.

“I feel that our process has not truly honored this incredibly critical position to our district,” Ray said.

The board voted 4-3 on Feb. 4 to terminate former Superintendent Corey Wise without cause. In line with the district’s succession plan, the two assistant superintendents Andy Abner and Danelle Hiatt are acting superintendents.

Directors Ray, Hanson and Susan Meek voted against removing Wise and condemned ousting him, saying he was a beloved district leader. Wise had spent his entire 26-year career in DCSD.

But majority Directors Mike Peterson, Becky Myers, Christy Williams and Winegar said they did not believe Wise was the right leader for the district.

Among their concerns were his involvement in a lawsuit against the Douglas County Health Department seeking to preserve DCSD’s ability to require masking, his management of the district’s masking policies during the pandemic, and the implementation of DCSD’s equity policy.

Although supporters of the newly elected majority have praised removing Wise, the decision came with significant brushback, sparking protests and walkouts. That reaction was partly fueled by allegations made by minority directors, saying the majority planned Wise’s removal during private meetings in violation of open meetings law.

The board officially approved its superintendent search timeline on Feb. 22, but not without more controversy. The originally proposed timeline suggested selecting finalists in roughly a week, drawing criticism that the search would be too hasty. DCSD spent four months selecting Wise as its permanent superintendent.

Adding to the furor was speculation majority directors had predetermined Kane to be Wise’s replacement. Peterson confirmerd in a previous board meeting he reached out to Kane personall to see if she had interest in applying for the superintendency if it became available. 

Majority directors have expressed their desire to fill the position quickly, especially as the district is considering putting a mill levy override on the November election.

The board agreed to extend the timeline, from selecting finalists by Feb. 25 to March 3. The final timeline was adjusted again to include two days for applicant screening rather than one. A sole finalist is expected to be named March 22.

Danny Winsor, Erin Kane, Douglas County School District, Mike Peterson, Colorado

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