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Doug Benevento (Denver Post file)

Doug Benevento (Denver Post file)

Douglas County school board loses prominent conservative voice

One of the most influential conservative voices on the Douglas County school board resigned Wednesday, putting up for a grabs a seat on what has become a bitterly divided board.

Board member Doug Benevento was elected in 2009 and again in 2013. He was barred from running again next year by term limits. His resignation was effective immediately.

In a guest opinion piece published in The Denver Post, Benevento wrote that he told the board president several months ago he intended to leave at the start of the school year “because my priorities have been largely accomplished and the next year won’t reverse that.”

Benevento was part of a conservative majority that swept into office in 2009, bringing contentious changes including a pay-for-performance system for teachers and a much-litigated voucher program.

The politically split nature of the board absent Benevento — there are six members now with his departure — means that the appointment of a successor could fall to board president Meghann Silverthorn, a fellow conservative.

The board at its next regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 6 will publicly declare the vacancy and outline the timeline and process of naming a successor, district spokeswoman Paula Hans said.

The board will accept applications over a period lasting no longer than 30 days, choose candidates for interviews and nominate finalists. If a majority of the board cannot settle on a successor, the issue will be tabled for that meeting.

If the board doesn’t select a new member by the 60th day after the vacancy is declared, Silverthorn will make the appointment, as required by law. The new board member would be up for reelection in November 2017. (You can read the full board vacancy process here).

Last November, three insurgent candidates swept conservative incumbents out of office, significantly shifting the political dynamic in the state’s third-largest school district.

Earlier this year, Silverthorn and another board member were embroiled in a controversy over their private meeting with a student activist. Critics called the board members’ actions inappropriate and intimidating. An independent investigation found they did not violate any district policy.