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GALLUP — The Central Consolidated School District Board of Education has appointed Daniel Benavidez as the new superintendent of the school district.

Benavidez has 21 years of experience in public education in New Mexico and will arrive to CCSD from the Zuni Public School District, where he has been superintendent since 2016.

A press release from CCSD states that Benavidez will lead the district starting on July 1, pending contract negotiations.

The five-member school board tentatively scheduled a special meeting on June 23 to discuss the his contract.

Board President Gary Montoya, Vice President Suzette Haskie and members Charlie Jones Jr. and Sheldon Pickering voted in favor of appointing Benavidez while Secretary Christina J. Aspaas opposed the selection during a regular meeting in Shiprock on June 16.

"Mr. Benavidez impressed the board of education with his compelling background and his belief that every student is entitled to an excellent free public education, which is what all of us at CCSD consider as our main goal. We look forward to collaborating with him and continuing the work of creating great schools and great learning in the district," Montoya said in the press release.

Amanda Sutherland will remain acting superintendent until the contract for Benavidez is finalized and approved.

Sutherland, director of student support services for CCSD, was named acting superintendent on May 19, after the board placed interim superintendent, Dave Goldtooth, on administrative leave.

Goldtooth remains on administrative leave, according to the district.

Benavidez was selected as one of the three finalists for the superintendent role on June 12 after a nationwide search was conducted by the superintendent search committee led by Prather Consulting of Albuquerque.

The superintendent search was conducted in accordance with public health orders for the coronavirus in New Mexico, including using video conferencing and practicing social distancing.

This process did not sit well with Aspaas, who expressed her sentiment during closing comments at the June 16 meeting. Still, she hoped parents and employees are pleased that a superintendent was named.

"Hopefully we satisfied people who were really looking forward. There were people out there that really looked forward to this type of superintendent search. It's been done and let's hope that things work out," she said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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