Aurora school board to weigh superintendent’s contract renewal before election

Update: The story has been updated to include details, and a link, to the proposed draft contract extension. A previous version of this story included incorrect information about the superintendent’s proposed salary.

The Aurora school board is taking up the question of whether Rico Munn should continue as superintendent months earlier than is called for in his current contract.

The Aurora school board has scheduled public comment on a proposed contract extension Tuesday, even though Munn’s contract doesn’t expire until June and the deadline for a decision isn’t until February, after an election in which three new people will join the seven-member board.

A final vote won’t happen Tuesday, but one is expected later in September.

The draft proposed contract extension would give Munn an additional three years with the district. The proposed contract gives a salary of $267,422, which is what district officials say Munn makes now.

Marques Ivey, the board president, said Munn had requested that the board take up the issue even sooner, but the board had refused until now. Making a decision as early as next month goes against a recent union request.

Bruce Wilcox, the president of the Aurora teachers union, asked the board at a meeting to wait on the decision so that voters could use the election to make their preferences known.

“Allow the electors, the voters in this district, to pick the school board and allow that school board to decide whether the direction is where it needs to be or not,” Wilcox said. “It’s about the process.”

The seven-member Aurora school board has three seats up for grabs this November. Two members are term-limited, and one, Monica Colbert, has said she will not run for re-election.

Colbert, who has been generally supportive of Munn and his reforms, said the majority of the board won’t shift after this election, so there is value to making the decision soon.

“Now is the right time,” she said.

The board’s four newest members were put in that position in April 2018. Just months after they were elected as a union-backed slate, they had to weigh whether or not to renew Munn’s contract, and they did. But they were criticized by some who said they thought their election would lead to a leadership change.

Ivey responded directly to the criticism at the time by saying at a board meeting that he did not run “to fire Rico.

Now those board members say that it’s better for members who have had more experience with the district to be the ones to make the decision.

“It was difficult for us,” Ivey said. “It would be difficult for anyone brand new to come on and have to make a decision about an employee they’ve never worked with.”

The board, as it does annually, has been evaluating the superintendent’s performance. District officials did not respond Thursday to a request for the latest evaluation.

In November, the Colorado Association of School Executives named Munn Colorado’s Superintendent of the Year for 2019, pointing to his reforms and district improvements.

In the past year board members have applauded Munn for the district’s improvements in graduation and student achievement, but have voiced concerns about how the district engages the community.

Munn has led the district since 2013, through a period of intense pressure from state education officials to improve school performance. He is controversial among some teachers, and staff surveys showed many teachers feel a lack of trust and communication. In response, the board created a new district goal last year to foster more collaboration. Initially, the board was going to create a personal rule for Munn, directing him on how to engage the community in district decision-making, but the board decided fostering collaboration should be a job for everyone.

Tuesday’s meeting is a regularly scheduled board meeting happening at 6 p.m. at the Professional Learning and Conference Center, 15771 E. First Ave.

For those who can’t make it in person, Aurora started livestreaming meetings this month. Instructions to set up the online stream are on the district’s website, here.