Douglas County Schools financial chief leaving over frustrations with school board, records show

Chief Financial Officer Kate Kotaska cites support of educational equity, and concern about superintendent's firing

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Records show the Douglas County Schools chief financial officer is the second high-ranking official to resign out of frustration with the new school board majority’s actions.

Kate Kotaska, the chief financial officer for Douglas County Schools, will be leaving her cabinet position in June, just shy of two years with the district.

Kotaska formally notified Superintendent Erin Kane of her decision on April 5. Colorado Community Media obtained her resignation letter in a public records request.

The financial chief wrote in her resignation letter that the district “quickly felt like home, and my team like family,” when she joined DCSD in July 2020. She also believes she and other district employees “have made a difference” in the district, she wrote.

“When the decision was made to terminate former Superintendent Wise, I began to question whether I’d continue to have the ability to make a difference. I began to question whether my values, that center deeply around equity for students, would continue to have a place,” Kotaska wrote.

The newly elected board majority of Mike Peterson, Becky Myers, Christy Williams and Kaylee Winegar opposed the district’s educational equity initiatives during their campaign.

An equity policy the previous board adopted in 2021 became a local center of controversy as national debates surged regarding critical race theory in schools, the teaching of American history and equity in education.

The district has repeatedly emphasized it does not teach critical race theory, and the policy was seen as a major milestone for DCSD among its proponents.

Once seated, the majority considered repealing the district’s equity policy but instead passed a resolution requiring the superintendent to return in September with potential amendments.

The board later fired former Superintendent Corey Wise, who had supported the equity policy, through a 4-3 vote. Majority members said part of their concern with Wise was how he implemented the equity policy.  Wise's firing spurred protests and walk-outs and ended his 26-year career with the district, where he began as a student teacher. 

The board majority has also said the district needed new leadership because they want DCSD to move in a new direction, although they have not specified details of what that might entail beyond a focus on academics.

“The events of the last several weeks have made it clear that the only direction DCSD will move in is the direction the board chooses. While the agenda still remains uncertain, the message is clear that nothing will stand in the way of that agenda,” Kotaska wrote.

In her letter, Kotaska expressed support for Kane as someone "incredibly capable of making change in the district." 

"It is unfortunate that, through the series of events that led to your appointment, you have become the embodiment of an agenda rather than a celebrated leader," Kotaska wrote.

Kane's selection as Wise's successor was mired by allegations that Wise's firing was illegal and that the majority had predetermined her for the superintendency before ousting him. 

Kotaska's last day will be June 30. Kotaska has not announced her next role. She declined an interview regarding her departure.

A hallmark of Kotaska's time with the district has been working with the human resources department to draft a new compensation schedule for licensed employees. The plan gained board approval in March and is aimed at making the district's teacher pay more competitive — a top priority for the school board. 

Before coming to the district, Kotaska worked for a technology and consulting firm that provides K-12 financial software.  She also spent a decade working for Denver Public Schools in financial management. Kotaska is the second DCSD leader to leave a cabinet position this year.  Former Special Education Services Officer Sid Rundle resigned in February, the day after Wise was terminated, in condemnation of the board majority’s actions. 

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