New faces for school board

Posted 11/4/09

Three new faces, and one familiar one, will round out the Douglas County School Board, tasked with important financial decisions along with the …

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New faces for school board


Three new faces, and one familiar one, will round out the Douglas County School Board, tasked with important financial decisions along with the responsibility of hiring a new superintendent.

After more than 45,000 mail-in ballots were calculated at the Douglas County election headquarters Nov. 3, it was clear that Doug Benevento, Meghann Silverthorn and Dan Gerken will be the newcomers to the board. Incumbent John Carson will continue serving the parents, students, community and facility of Douglas County.

Gerken entertained the newly elected candidates at his home, Nov. 3, along with more than 50 friends and supporters. Carson got word of his victory via phone while he sat in the school board meeting that was currently in session.

“I thought it would be closer, now we have to fulfill our commitments,” Carson said. “We gave the voters a clear choice, and the turnout was huge.

“It is great to get people energized, great for the system.”

Wendy Holmes, public information officer for Douglas County, said the voter turn-out this year was almost double from two years ago, with only one issue on the ballot this year.

The Douglas County Republicans and elected officials formed a committee in the spring to “recruit conservative candidates for the upcoming Douglas County School Board election” and chose Benevento, Silverthorn, Gerken and Carson.

The Douglas County Federation of Teachers chose to endorse Emily Hansen, Sue Catterall, Keving Leung and Kristine Turner because of “their genuine interest in the growth and success of Douglas County schools and students”.

Silverthorn, serving District G, works for Lockheed in the defense contract agency and brings the experience of attending many schools, overseas as well. She has a masters in public administration , and as a taxpayer, with no children of her own, believes the taxpayer deserves to know just as much as parents do. Silverthorn beat Emily Hansen, 57 percent to 43 percent.

Doug Benevento, who will be responsible for District E, is an attorney in private practice, has children in the school district next year, and said after speaking with many parents, students taxpayers and administration, he believe there was a lot of frustration with the current school board.

“We worked hard to get the word out to the people about transparency, rewarding great teachers, and I think the message was heard,” Benevento said.

His opponent, long time school board member and current president, Kristine Turner, lost by about 13 percent.

“Our kids aren’t going to be competing with kids from just Jefferson County, but from China, Brazil and Europe,” Benevento said. “We need to prepare them to be the best they can be, with arts, science, history and mathematics.”

In response to the partisan pre-election campaigning, Benevento said it was behind them now, the election is over and he believes that people can tell a lot about a person by the groups they are involved with. He said not only were there candidates supported by the Republican party, the teachers union, but by the Douglas County Democratic party as well.

District D representative Dan Gerken, winning over Kevin Leung by about 20 percent, believes that as a school board member, the district needs to set the bar higher.

“We need to compare ourselves to the best schools in the country, if not the world.” A strong advocate of charter schools, Gerken said, “Presently, for every child that is lucky enough to win the lottery and gain admittance to a charter school, at least one to two kids are turned away.”

Leung commented after the elections by saying, “Voters in Douglas County have spoken and I respect their choices. I wish the new members the best of luck. The school district has real problems for them to solve immediately. Let's put partisanship and bad feelings aside, and work together to come up with the best solutions for the school district.”

Carson, representing District B, said his three children are what has motivated him to run for the school board. He is an attorney in Denver working with affordable housing issues. Carson came in with 57.8 percent of the votes, compared to Sue Catterall with 42.2 percent.

“Also, the teachers are the most important — study after study shows the quality in the classroom, you remember.”

Carson wants to work toward better salaries for the teachers as well.


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