Marla Benavides says her background as a former DPS staff member who now homeschools her son, as a reading advocate, and as the author of a book teaching students to read sets her apart from other candidates for the board. “I’m a homeschool mom and a taxpayer,” she said in an interview with this paper.
Benavides grew up in Miami in a Cuban-American family and moved to Colorado in 1994. After working at Kepner Middle School, testing students to determine their language proficiency levels, she became concerned about the percentage of students who were not reading at grade level.
She said her background helps her relate to DPS families. She was an English language learner herself. She’s been in the schools, and she left them. Like other parents who have either opted out of the district or have stayed with DPS but are frustrated, she’s explored the options for her family. “Charters are too far, private schools too expensive,” she explained when asked about her decision to homeschool her son. She believes she can “Bring homeschooling perspectives” such as reaching reading skills and creating curriculum.
She’s also attended DU law and worked as a paralegal with an immigration law firm. She explained she’s continually learning new education theories and loves discussing education with other parents and educators.
She would also like to see DPS more decentralized, including having Denverites elect the superintendent directly, instead of being hired by the board. She hopes it would help the superintendent become more independent. In that sort of arrangement, she sees the superintendent like the executive branch and the board like the legislative branch, comparing it to the governor and legislature.
All candidates were asked about the consent decree regarding English Language Learners, a federal court ruling that said DPS needs to provide additional education time to tens of thousands of struggling students. DPS has repeatedly failed to meet the requirements. Benavides said she draws on her time in the schools to understand the problem: she doesn’t believe enough students are placed at the right level for English instruction, which hampers them long term. She’d like to see more focus there.
All candidates were also asked whether they would have voted to censure Director Anderson. “It should be censor — not censure,” she responded. She would have liked to see the board censor his Twitter account and ban him from meeting with students privately for the remainder of his term.
Benavides said she’s not focused on raising the sums of money her opponents are. She’s been campaigning at community events like farmers markets and trying to do interviews in papers like this one. She doesn’t want to chase the larger organizations for support because she believes they try to buy support from board members. She is especially critical of the teachers union, which she describes as a “powerful force in why education is failing.” As of October 5th, the most recent filing, she doesn’t show any significant fundraising.
You can read more about her at Marla4schoolboard.org