Nobody likes getting fired. Few of us enjoy seeing someone else get fired either – especially someone we love. There is a tendency to side with whoever has the axe, to call the boss a jerk and to demand that the employee be reinstated. It’s probably human nature.
But getting fired is also part of life. And when it comes to our public servants, it’s quite often unavoidable. In some cases, it’s not a question of if, but when.
All it takes is for voters to swap their elected officials for newly elected ones with a new agenda — and the top appointees who serve those elected officials could get pink slips by the end of the week. Nothing personal; just diet change. And that’s OK.
New elected leadership needs appointed leaders who share their vision.
In the past two months, two top school superintendents and a prominent police chief, serving in three different Front Range communities, have been ousted by newly elected elected leaders. Two of the named officials — Douglas County Schools Superintendent Corey Wise and Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson — were fired outright. The third, Michael Thomas, superintendent of School District 11 in Colorado Springs, saw the writing on the wall and agreed to part ways with his new bosses.
Each development garnered widespread media coverage, thanks in part to orchestrated outcry from some high-profile politicians and other activists whose side had lost previous elections. And each departure drew recriminations from the losing side that ranged from overworked to off the charts. Now is the time for them and their fans to put things into perspective and move on.
Voters in Aurora, Colorado’s third-largest city, overturned a soft-crime majority on their city council last November in favor of a council majority that aims to put public safety first. The council and its city manager felt that Wilson was not up to this change of course. Among other considerations were comments from numerous cops who had quit; they said that Wilson had lost the trust of his department’s base.
In Colorado Springs, voters have ordered a policy flip-flop in their city’s downtown school district. They had grown tired of a fashionable “equity” program to which Thomas was married. It fed their children woke buzzwords – while their baseline achievement scores plummeted. The school board knew that its first task was to find a new resource person.
Douglas County parents and other voters had some of the same beef – but were particularly galvanized last year by Wise and the previous council continuing to impose an unpopular mask mandate on schoolchildren. Again, a new super had to match the priorities of a new council.
Disappointingly, Wise now appears to be laying the groundwork for a lawsuit, as The Gazette reported the other day. He claims he faced discrimination from the board because he says he stood up for students and staff of color, the LGBTQ community, and children with disabilities. It’s unclear how he’ll connect those dots for a jury, but it’s a shame he insists on hanging on.
The three departing public servants are no doubt competent and conscientious administrators who deserve the public’s thanks for their service. But that’s really not the point. What matters is that they did not share the vision of the leaders who were elected to chart a new course.
These leaders have a duty to pursue voters’ priorities and meet their expectations – not to guarantee job security to well-paid public servants who will fall on their feet anyway.
It is a public service, after all. This is no place for sore losers or sour grapes.
Denver Gazette Editorial Board