Douglas County Superintendent Thomas Tucker resigned Tuesday evening.Tucker cited personal matters as the driving force behind his resignation during an emotional emergency meeting, which he called with school board directors. Tucker’s family still lives in Ohio, he said, and his mother is battling serious health complications.
“It has been my pleasure, my distinct pleasure, to work with the board and school staff and serve the students and parents of Douglas County,” Tucker said. “I am proud to serve as your superintendent.”
Tucker will leave his post Sept. 30 and will work with the district to help with the transition to new leadership. Chief Assessment Officer Matt Reynolds and Executive Director of Schools Corey Wise will share leadership duties until the board selects an interim superintendent.
The superintendent began his tenure with the district in the spring of 2018, coming on board to help the district pass its first bond and mill levy override in more than a decade.
Tucker noted numerous other major events during his rollercoaster of a time with the district, including a debate over arming teachers in classrooms, the STEM School Highlands Ranch school shooting in 2019 in which student Kendrick Castillo was killed, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Putting family first and making sacrifices on their behalf are something that all of us emphatically support,” board President David Ray told Tucker at the meeting. “While we are terribly disappointed in the timing of this, I would be remiss if I didn’t express genuine gratitude for the role you have played with all the accomplishments that you just listed.”
As Director Krista Holtzmann broke into tears, Ray thanked Tucker for his time with the district. Ray pointed to the hiring of a counselor in every elementary school and the launch of the district’s strategic plan as some of Tucker’s accomplishments.“You have helped us get through some storms,” Ray said.
Tucker’s resignation comes as the Douglas County School District rounds off a turbulent start to fall classes.
The district is offering two different learning models this semester — a “hybrid” model and a completely online model called “eLearning.” Both experienced setbacks during the launch of the school year.
Roughly 6,300 students chose the e-learning option for their first semester. But the start to their classes was delayed at the last minute.
The district announced the Friday before e-learning classes were set to begin, originally on Aug. 24, that it was pushing back the start date by one week.
Leading up to the delay, online teachers including members of the Douglas County Federation, the local union, reported significant concerns with schools’ ability to begin online classes.
Some teachers did not have login credentials for the online curriculum. Others did not know what classes they would be teaching or have final student rosters.
At the Sept. 1 board meeting, Tucker said he took full responsibility for the delay but also that he believed the district would “smooth things out” moving forward and weathered staffing shortages as it worked to stand up its online learning program.
Douglas County Federation President Kallie Leyba issued a statement following Tucker’s resignation.
“The members of the Douglas County Federation wish Dr. Tucker the best and our thoughts are with his family and in particular, his mother,” Leyba said. “Fortunately, due to the professionalism of our teachers and staff, our students and community members shouldn’t notice any negative impact on instruction as educators will continue to teach and guide our students with the support of their building leadership.”
Records show hybrid learning faced hurdles of its own.
During roughly the first full week of hybrid classes, 11 schools were affected by quarantines. Hybrid classes officially began Aug. 24.
In some cases, quarantines affected a handful of students, but in others, well more than 100 students were quarantined after presumed or known COVID-19 exposures, in addition to school staff placed in quarantine.
On Sept. 6, the district asked 174 people to quarantine at Legend High School in Parker after confirming two COVID-19 cases in the school.
Tucker took a sudden leave of absence in the days leading up to his resignation, which according to a district statement was to visit his ailing mother in Arkansas.
Rumors quickly spread in the community and on social media that Tucker was being ousted from his post after a rocky few weeks in the district.
Tucker and board directors appeared to address that speculation head on during the emergency meeting.
“The Douglas County School District board of education has not asked me to resign,” Tucker said. “Please, do not be so quick to judge.”
Ray also addressed rumors about Tucker’s departure, telling Tucker he knew the superintendent carefully weighed the decision, also adding: “There will be some that have incorrect speculation about this or ignite some conspiracy theories.”
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