Douglas Benevento, one of the four conservative reformers on the controversial Douglas County Board of Education, announced this morning he’s stepping down, effective immediately.
Benevento has served on the board since the 2009 election that transformed Douglas County schools into a national model for conservative reform efforts in public education. The board since has set up a voucher system that intended to provide taxpayer dollars to students attending private and/or religious schools, including schools outside the district. That voucher program was ruled unconstitutional by the Colorado Supreme Court and is now awaiting review from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since 2009, the board also has ended the district’s collective bargaining contract with its teachers’ union and implemented a pay-for-performance system. And, as reported last week by The Colorado Independent, the district has developed a controversial software program that cost taxpayers at least $5.6 million and which the district is now marketing to other schools in hopes of turning a profit.
Benevento has been a driving force behind those reforms, for which he has been a vocal advocate. He took heat for an exchange earlier this year between himself and fellow board member Wendy Vogel in which he promised to make her time on the board as difficult as possible.
In his resignation letter, published in Wednesday’s Denver Post, Benevento said he was resigning because after seven years, his “priorities have been largely accomplished and the next year won’t reverse that.”
So who replaces Benevento? So far, no one has filed with the Secretary of State to run for his seat in 2017, when he would have been term-limited, anyway.
Vogel, a member of the minority three, said today the board will post the vacancy, interview all eligible candidates and then vote on a replacement, who will hold the seat until November of 2017. Given that Benevento said his resignation was effective August 17, that means the board is now split 3-3 between the conservative reformers and minority members elected last November. However, in the event of a tie, which is expected, the president – conservative reformer Meghann Silverthorn – will make the final decision.
“We hope to have a great pool of candidates and a robust conversation, and we’ll try to pick someone who will be a voice of the people,” said Anne-Marie Lemieux, a member of the minority three. “Our community has spoken very clearly about their wishes, and I’m hopeful our board will honor that” with who is chosen to be Benevento’s replacement,” she added.
“We want what’s best for our kids.”
Jason Virdin of Douglas County Parents told The Independent that historically, the board president has picked replacements for other vacancies that align with the conservative majority’s ideology, and that he doesn’t expect this situation to be any different.
Photo courtesy of Douglas County School District.