CCSD Superintendent Daniel Benavidez put on administrative leave as contract is not renewed

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Daniel Benavidez adjusts his hard hat before the groundbreaking ceremony on April 30, 2021 for new teacher housing in Shiprock. The Central Consolidated School District Board of Education did not renew Benavidez's contract as superintendent on March 3.

FARMINGTON — The Central Consolidated School District Board of Education has decided by a 4-1 vote not to renew a contract for Superintendent Daniel Benavidez.

Benavidez has been overseeing CCSD since July 2020. The vote took place during a special meeting on March 3.

Board President Marion Wells, Vice President Suzette Haskie, Secretary Cheryl George and member Christina J. Aspaas voted in favor of the motion and member Gary Montoya voted against.

Wells, Haskie, George and Aspaas also supported a motion to place Benavidez on administrative leave.

Before that vote, Wells explained the leave was "not for any disciplinary reason but instead to pay out the superintendent's contract."

The district did not respond to questions about Benavidez's contract for the current school year and how much would be paid for the remainder of the contract.

Benavidez did not answer The Daily Times' call on March 4 for comment about the board's decision. The Daily Times left a message on his voicemail and he did not return the call by deadline.

The board named Kirtland Central High School Principal Rebecca Benedict as interim superintendent.

Benedict has been with CCSD for several years, including serving as assistant superintendent for two years before transferring to Kirtland Central, according to the district.

"I'd be happy to take the position as interim and fulfill the board wishes and whenever you need direction and whatever help that you need," Benedict said after her appointment.

Kirtland Central High School Principal Rebecca Benedict was named CCSD interim superintendent this week.

The board's decision came after they discussed an evaluation of Benavidez and a possible contract renewal in executive session for about five hours.

Because the conversation occurred behind closed doors, board members did not explain their reasons for releasing Benavidez.

However, Montoya asked Wells if he could explain his vote, which also opposed placing Benavidez on leave and Benedict's appointment.

"I just can't support the actions. I really can't. I'm in full support in trying to keep to him," Montoya said then added he thinks Benavidez filled his responsibilities.

Aspaas, George, Haskie and Wells also commented about their vote before the meeting concluded.

"I just want my community, my constituents to know that I back you," Aspaas said. "I'm in full support of you and I heard what you have said and carried out what needed to be done."

George and Haskie stated that their decision was based on concerns they received from constituents about Benavidez.

"Because of the overwhelming desire (of) my constituents, I chose to make this move with the understanding that this is not a disciplinary action but just a realization that we need a change in leadership at this time," Wells 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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