Douglas County Schools

Board president likely to appoint new member after vacancy left off agenda

Several board members upset over omission of appointment on Nov. 1 agenda


The Douglas County Board of Education did not fill its empty board seat as expected at the Nov. 1 meeting, because the vacancy was left off the meeting's agenda.

That means board President Meghann Silverthorn will most likely appoint the replacement on Nov. 7, which is 60 days after board member Doug Benevento announced his resignation. State law requires the board president to choose a replacement if the board has not decided on one after 60 days.

Since Benevento's departure, the board has been evenly split between the three more-tenured members who have supported sometimes contentious policies implemented over the past few years and the three new members elected in 2015 in opposition of many of those initiatives.

The board nominated four candidates at its Oct. 18 meeting but had deadlocked on a choice after a series of gridlocked votes and discussion.

When the Nov. 1 agenda was published Oct. 29 without the vacany item on it, board member David Ray wrote a lengthy Facebook post, accusing Silverthorn of developing the agenda without participation from other board members.

Silverthorn insisted that, during the Oct. 18 discussion, she offered to hold a special meeting several times, but that "every member (of the board) said they were not going to change their vote."

"I did leave the meeting with a clear notion that no member wanted a special meeting," Silverthorn said.

Board member Anne-Marie Lemieux said she tried to have the Nov. 1 agenda changed to include a discussion of the candidates after calls and emails with Silverthorn on Oct. 29. But she was told the deadline to change it had passed. Lemieux said her primary concern was the lack of community input in the process.

"My concern is that we cut off the voice of the people and I'm not OK with that," Lemieux said.

Silverthorn pointed out there was public comment at the first meeting.

Board member Wendy Vogel described the situation as a "miscommunication," but agreed there should be additional public comment.

"Folks haven't had a chance to weigh in since we deliberated," Vogel said, "and I think that's the distinction that has to be made."

Ray said he entered the process in good faith but feels mislead by how it played out.

"I believed we had a common goal of putting forward candidates that could potentially unify our Board, as opposed to continuing the contentiousness," Ray wrote on his Facebook post. "I believed Director Silverthorn when she indicated that there were candidates who we could agree on - even if it meant letting go of our first choices. I was wrong."

Benevento vacated his District E seat - which encompasses Lone Tree, Acres Green, Castle Pines and eastern Highlands Ranch - on Sept. 8.

The 60-day period for the board to appoint a replacement ends at 3:45 p.m. on Nov. 7, Silverthorn said. State statute says, at that point, the replacement will be named by Silverthorn.

"That person would join us on the dais at the Nov.15 meeting," Silverthorn said.

Whoever is chosen will be apponited and sworn in before the Nov. 15 meeting.

Of the six candidates who interviewed for the seat, four were nominated:

  • Steve Peck, of Highlands Ranch, a former officer in the Navy who works as a health care executive at UCHealth Anschutz.
  • Deborah O'Dell, of Highlands Ranch, vice president of business intelligence at Catholic Health Initiative.
  • Bob Kaser, of Castle Pines, a retiree and Vietnam veteran who worked as regional vice president for America's Cash Express.
  • John Freeman, of Highlands Ranch, a retiree who worked as a central office administrator at Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky.

Silverthorn, Vice President Judith Reynolds and board member James Geddes supported Peck for the position.

However, Ray, Vogel and Lemieux questioned Peck's affiliation with the program Leadership Group of the Rockies, which they said is politically partisan and would be divisive to the community.

Geddes said he had received much feedback from the community in support of Peck.

Ray, Vogel and Lemieux each nominated a different candidate, but said they would support any of the other three.

Ray detailed his frustrations with the division of the board in his public post.

"Apologetically, it has taken me a full year to come to the conclusion that our Board of Education is broken," Ray wrote on Facebook. "And while I subscribe to the notion that 'you are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem,' today I am at a loss."


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Michael Arnold

The common denominator among Steve Peck, Meghann Silverthorn, Judi Reynolds and Jim Geddes is Houston billionaire Alex Cranberg. Cranberg is on the board of the Leadership Program of the Rockies, which counts Peck, Silverthorn and former Board President John Carson as alumni. In 2013, Cranberg donated $25,000 to each of the campaigns of Silverthorn, Reynolds, Geddes and former Director Doug Benevento. Why is a Texas billionaire meddling in DCSD? Because Cranberg is an ardent supporter of diverting public school funding to private schools. The degree to which outside forces are influencing the Board of Education is disgraceful.

Thursday, November 3, 2016 | Report this

Thanks so much to Ray, Vogel and Lemieux for keeping the best interest of the students and teachers of DCSD! Thank you for keeping us informed!

Thursday, November 3, 2016 | Report this

Everyday, I see the rights of decent people being eroded by those on the school board (minus 3), and I am both appalled and frustrated that more is not done to erase these 3 from the board, either by means of a recall, or a petition. We cannot continue to allow these monsters to drive our schools and our students into the abyss. We cannot. I don't care how much money, time, whatever, something has to happen to throw these monsters off the board. I am so done, and so over them. I am ready to visit an attorney!

Thursday, November 3, 2016 | Report this