Rico Munn discrimination complaint linked to long-simmering disagreements

Black and Hispanic teachers in the Aurora school district have complained for years of mistreatment and discrimination — even as the district was led by a Black superintendent and equity efforts to hire and retain more teachers of color ramped up.

Whether that superintendent, Rico Munn, did enough to support Black educators is behind a discrimination complaint Munn filed as he departed the district under a negotiated agreement.

According to two independent investigations, Munn alleged that Black board members Stephanie Mason and Tremaine Duncan called his Blackness into question and expected him to act in certain ways because he was Black while holding him to unwritten expectations — actions that he said ultimately created a hostile work environment and led to him being unjustly removed from his position.

Rodrick D. Holmes, an outside investigator who interviewed Munn, the seven board members, and a consultant who has worked with the board for years, concluded that poor leadership, interpersonal conflicts and an intense focus on race all contributed to the board’s decision not to renew Munn’s contract. But Holmes did not find evidence of racial discrimination.

But a second outside investigator working off the Holmes fact-finding report reached the opposite conclusion.

Doug Hamill found that the board as a whole — and specifically Mason and Duncan — engaged in a pattern of discrimination, calling Munn’s “Black card” into question and that the board as a whole essentially fired Munn. That investigator recommended that the board censure Mason and Duncan, post the conclusions of the investigation online for the public to read, and that the board undergo training.

On Wednesday, the Aurora school board voted unanimously, and without discussion, to take no action on the recommendations related to Rico Munn’s discrimination complaint. School board members refused interviews ahead of that meeting. Munn said he is dealing with a family medical issue and was not doing interviews.

The two investigations and conflicting conclusions shed light both on Munn’s departure and on long-standing challenges faced by one of Colorado’s most diverse districts when it comes to hiring and retaining educators who reflect the students they serve.

Read the full story from our partners at Chalkbeat Colorado.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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