Douglas County School District names Erin Kane as new superintendent

Douglas County’s school board voted Tuesday to hire Erin Kane, executive director of schools for American Academy, as the embattled district’s sole finalist for superintendent.

Kane was one of two finalists for the job, which became vacant when the Board of Education fired former superintendent Corey Wise in February. Kane has a long history in Douglas County School District, including serving as interim superintendent for two years.

The school board was divided in its decision to hire Kane, voting 4 to 3. The vote was led by the board’s majority conservative directors, who were also behind the decision to fire Wise — a move they said they made because they did not feel supported by him and wanted to take the district in a new direction.

Board director Becky Myers, who nominated Kane as the sole finalist for the job, noted that Kane had a “proven track record” for leading the district and she gave “choice to the parents” by offering both in-person learning and remote classes during the pandemic.

“Erin Kane, during COVID, had the exact opposite of fear,” Myers said. “She doesn’t shift to the current trend, the progressive movement. And she cannot be bullied.”

Since firing Wise, the board has moved quickly to hire a new superintendent and turned a process that often takes multiple months into one that has lasted just over a single month. The district has more than 63,000 students.

Kane was asked to apply for the job by board president Mike Peterson earlier this year. She was named as a finalist earlier this month along with Danny Winsor.

“For me, one (candidate) was more confident, courageous and not afraid to challenge the narrative,” said Kaylee Winegar, who participated in the meeting virtually from the hospital because she had given birth earlier in the day.

She voted for Kane.

Winsor is the district’s executive director of schools for the Parker region. He has more of a traditional educational background, having worked as a teacher, coach and principal.

He received support during the hours-long meeting from the three minority board members, including David Ray, who nominated Winsor as the sole finalist.

Kane is an exceptional leader but there are so many “unfortunate circumstances surrounding her candidacy” and Winsor would help bridge the gap between the board members, he said.

“For me, the question really becomes who can provide the calm and stability we desperately need in this organization,” Ray said.

As superintendent, Kane will be tasked with bringing together a district that is deeply divided on issues, such as COVID-19 policies and equity, and guiding the district through a possible period of budget cuts as schools across Colorado face declining enrollment.

“The distance between us is not anywhere near as much as you would be led to believe,” Kane said during Tuesday’s meeting, adding, “I would be privileged to lead bridging that divide.”

The district has faced protests by students and teachers since Wise was fired and the board is in the middle of a lawsuit that was filed following allegations that members violated the state’s open meeting law. Earlier this month, a judge issued a preliminary injection prohibiting directors from having one-on-one meetings to privately discuss district business.

Kane referenced her time as interim superintendent during her public interview with the school board as a reason why she is well-suited for the job. She was asked to lead the district in 2016, which was another divisive period for Douglas County School District following the implementation of school reforms, such as the controversial voucher program.

“I thought (trust) was really important in 2016 when we had a similar situation of conflict and I think it’s actually even more critical today to begin to build trust,” Kane told the school board during her public interview earlier this month. “I think for starters we need to be honest about each other’s intentions and really listen to each other.”

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