Douglas County Schools

Douglas County Board of Education at stalemate after vote on new member

The District E seat will be discussed again at a special meeting Nov. 1


Douglas County Board of Education member David Ray said the election of a new board member is an opportunity to show the community the directors can "find common ground."

Instead, they have found another disagreement.

The divided board of education was unable to elect a new member to represent District E during its meeting Oct.18 after a series of gridlocked votes and discussion. The position was vacated by Doug Benevento, whose resignation was effective Sept. 8.

Of the six who interviewed, four candidates 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 the Catholic Health Initiative.
  • Bob Kaser, of Castle Pines, a retiree who worked as the regional vice president for America's Cash Express and is a Vietnam veteran.
  • John Freeman, of Highlands Ranch, a retiree who worked as a central office administrator at Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky.

Candidates to represent the district — which encompasses Lone Tree, Acres Green, Castle Pines and eastern Highlands Ranch — were nominated and then voted on individually. All four finished two rounds of voting with 3-3 ties. A candidate needs a 4-2 majority to be selected for the position.

The three board members who have largely opposed the school district's reform measures of the past several years each supported a different candidate during the meeting. David Ray nominated Kaser, Wendy Vogel nominated Freeman and Anne-Marie Lemieux nominated O'Dell.

Meanwhile, the three pro-reform board members were in agreement on their choice. Board President Meghann Silverthorn, Vice President Judith Reynolds and board member James Geddes supported Peck for the position.They pointed to the fact that he has a young family and a different background from other board members as positive attributes.

Peck's candidacy faced opposition from Ray, Vogel and Lemieux, who voiced concern about his lack of familiarity with the district, general opposition to new tax measures for district funding and community concern about his involvement with the program Leadership Group of the Rockies, which they said is politically partisan and would be divisive to the community.

"What you're doing is you're saying to everybody that picking somebody that shares your particular point of view, your particular political ideology, is more important than coming together," Vogel said.

Silverthorn defended the program, saying it is a leadership-training program that promotes freedom and liberty and said the members of the board who said it was as an issue don't fully understand what it is.

"They don't know what its goals are," Silverthorn said. "They don't understand that it is not a partisan organization by law. It does not advocate for political campaigns. It does not advocate for issue causes. It advocates for a certain point of view. Because someone goes through LPR, does not mean they are going to show up and start causing controversy."

Lemieux said community members had voiced concerns about Peck to her and she didn't think it was smart to elect a controversial candidate to the board.

Ray and Vogel offered to vote in favor of any of the other three candidates in order to fill the seat and show the community they were willing to compromise.

When asked if they were willing to support another candidate, Geddes said no, Reynolds said "not at this time" and Silverthorn declined to comment.

"I'm not here to always compromise and end up with something that doesn't represent what my beliefs are," said Geddes, who nominated Peck. "I agree with Mr. Peck."

Benevento said he resigned because he had accomplished what he set out to do in his seven years on the board and didn't believe there was much else that could be accomplished before the 2017 board election.

A special meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 1 to continue the discussion to find Benevento's replacement, who would serve out the remainder of his term, which was set to expire in November 2017. If the board does not agree on a replacement by the end of the 60th day following the declaration of the vacancy - which would be Nov. 7 - Silverthorn, as president of the board, will appoint a person to fill the vacancy, as required by law.

"You know that you have the power as president to just let the clock run out and you will have the authority to pick your guy," Vogel said. "You are showing an inability to listen and to show this community that we, once and for all, can actually come together and have an agreement."

Silverthorn said she was simply advocating for her candidate and that supporting him did not mean she was not listening to the community.

"People are trying to paint me into a box that I'm not necessarily interested in climbing in to," Silverthorn said.


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DCSD Parent

Oh, Meghann! You climbed into that box a LONG time ago. You have never made a move that was beneficial to kids since you've been on the board. You only follow your political ideology, lock step. Whatever Leadership Program of the Rockies taught you about being a school board director is a complete FAIL! We, the community, don't want any more of your kind on our school board.

Sunday, October 23, 2016 | Report this