Aurora school board members called Rico Munn “not Black enough,” report says

Aurora’s school board “more likely than not” removed former Superintendent Rico Munn from his position because of his race, according to an outside investigator’s report, which also found that certain board directors called Aurora Public Schools’ leader “not Black enough.”

Munn, who was hired in 2013, had a good working relationship with the Board of Education until the fall of 2021 when four new directors were elected. He “clashed” with two Black directors — Stephanie Mason and Tramaine Duncan — about not prioritizing the hiring of Black employees over other people of color, according to the June 6 report by Doug S. Hamill.

The investigation was conducted after Munn, who is Black, filed a complaint against the school board, alleging he faced racial discrimination from certain directors.

Evidence shows “that certain influential board members convinced a majority of the board to favor the non-renewal of Mr. Munn’s contract based upon their discriminatory belief that Mr. Munn failed to conform to the stereotypes of his race — i.e. that he was “not Black enough” to advance the board’s mission of hiring and retaining Black employees,” Hamill wrote in the document, which was first reported by Sentinel Colorado.

The report recommended that directors Mason — who is the board’s vice president — and Duncan be publicly reprimanded and censured by their colleagues and declared ineligible to hold officer positions on the board for the remainder of their terms.

“The Board of Education has not had a chance to talk about the report yet,” board President Debra Gerkin said in an email.  “We will meet together with counsel on June 28, at which time we will determine next steps.”

She declined to comment further. The rest of the directors on the seven-member board, including Mason and Duncan, did not immediately respond to requests for comment by The Denver Post.

“I am proud to have led the most diverse team in the state as we served one of the most diverse communities in the nation,” Munn said in a statement.  “Over the last 10 years, we created and championed efforts to support the achievement of the BIPOC, disabled and LGBTQIA communities as well as the economically, linguistically and neurologically diverse families who call APS home.  We must fight against any person or ideology that positions success as a zero-sum game.  In a just world, there is room for all of us.”

Multiple witnesses, including other board members, told the investigator that certain directors believed Munn “was ‘not Black enough’ to adequately execute Board initiatives.”  A consultant to the board, AJ Crabill, also told to investigators that Munn’s “’Black Card’ was constantly questioned or ‘up for examination’ and that this occurred on multiple occasions,” Hamill wrote.

Crabill could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mason frequently told Munn that he wasn’t doing enough to respond to Black employees’ concerns and challenged the accuracy of the former superintendent’s data on retention rates for employees of color, according to the report.

The board met behind closed doors last August to discuss whether to renew Munn’s contract, which was set to expire on June 30. A majority of members were not in favor of renewal, but two board members — Michael Carter and Anne Keke — were. Keke told the investigator that “there was no factual basis for not renewing the contract,” according to the report.

The school board told Munn in late September that the district would not renew his contract.  Munn then negotiated a separation agreement with the board, ending his superintendent duties on Dec. 31, after which he was placed on administrative leave with pay through the end of his contract.

The board has since hired a new superintendent: Michael Giles, who previously served as assistant superintendent of equity, culture and community engagement for the Cherry Creek School District. He will start as superintendent on July 1, according to the district’s website.

Munn will become Colorado State University President Amy Parsons’ chief of staff on July 1.

Get more Colorado news by signing up for our Mile High Roundup email newsletter.

Source: Read Full Article