School board member says work remains

Benevento wants focus on finances, educational options

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Disagreements aside, Doug Benevento finds serving on the Douglas County School Board gratifying — so much so he’d like to do it another four years.

“It’s rewarding when we’re at board meetings and you see wonderful kids and the things that they’ve accomplished, the wonderful teachers that have done great things,” he said. “It’s rewarding we’re putting more money in the classrooms, and we’re paying our best teachers more.

“When we walked in, we were in the teeth of the recession. We worked as a team on the board to solve that challenge and solve it in a manner we felt was best for the district.”

Benevento, elected to the District E seat in 2009, is one of four candidates endorsed by the Douglas County Republicans in this year’s election.

An attorney for Xcel Energy, the Colorado native previously served as Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment director and U.S. Senator Wayne Allard’s senior policy adviser. His two daughters attend Platte River Academy charter school.

Benevento credits fatherhood for his interest in public service.

“I thought of (school board) as returning something to the community,” he said.

Parenthood also has guided his decisions thus far, he said.

“I believe parents are the best decision-makers for their children,” Benevento said. “That was my theme four years ago and it’ll be my theme this year as well.

“Each child is an individual and we need to provide as many choices and educational options for students as possible. Then we put them in the best position to succeed in education as possible.”

Pleased as he is by the current board’s accomplishments, Benevento said more needs to be done.

“I think we need to continue to look for efficiencies in the district to return more money to the classroom,” he said. “I think we need to look for that next increment of parental choice. How can we make sure that child can access the school that works best for them?

“We need to continue to develop the pay-for-performance system, (one) that is going to attract the best and keep the best teachers.”

While Benevento acknowledges dissension surrounding some board decisions, he said he hasn’t yet heard convincing arguments from opponents — particularly on the voucher program.

“There seems to be obstacles to any increment of choice because that’s too much,” he said. “They’re not raising substantive arguments about what’s the matter with (the voucher program).”

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the voucher program cited several concerns, including the use of public money by private schools.

Benevento said he’s open to discussion if the focus is on the quantity of educational options — not eliminating choice altogether.

“I would like everybody to be completely happy, but I think the vast majority are happy with the direction of the district,” he said. “Objectively, if you look at how the district is performing, clearly we are moving in the right direction.”

Benevento acknowledged his acceptance of campaign funds during the 2009 election from private-school and school-choice supporters, but said, “I guarantee you there is not a significant supporter I know of that has come to the district for anything."

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