Salt Lake City School District Mourns the Passing of Board of Education Member
This morning, Salt Lake City School District (SLCSD) Superintendent Dr. Lexi Cunningham released the following statement upon the passing of Salt Lake City Board of Education member Heather Bennett.Ms. Bennett passed away last night due to an unexpected vascular illness. She had been battling cancer for several months. Her husband and children were at her side, with her siblings and their families nearby.
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of our Board of Education member, former Board President, and dear friend, Heather Bennett. The residents, employees, and students of the Salt Lake City School District were fortunate to have had Heather in our service since her election to the Board in 2004. With her passing, we’ve lost not only a fierce advocate for our students but also a kind, compassionate, and exemplary public servant. I could expound on Heather’s many and notable achievements, but what she will most be remembered for is her commitment to all students in the Salt Lake City School District. Her passion for providing equitable opportunities for all SLCSD students drove her work on our Board. This is the legacy she leaves behind, and we at the district are committed to carrying on the important work that so fueled her. We will miss her dearly.”
During her time on the Board, Ms. Bennett was instrumental to many of the Board’s key achievements. She was passionate about early childhood education and early literacy and about expanding academic programs like the Extended Learning Program and many other initiatives that benefitted SLCSD students. As Board President (2015-2019), she oversaw the rebuilding and renaming of Liberty Elementary School (formerly Lincoln Elementary) and the opening of the adjoining Liberty Community Learning Center. Under her leadership as president, the Board passed the Salt Lake City School District’s Safe Schools Resolution, making SLCSD the first school district in Utah to pass a resolution of this kind.
While Mrs. Bennett served as Vice President of the Board (2009-2015), the Board supported the inclusion of domestic partners in SLCSD employees’ insurance coverage and approved Board Policy G-19, which reaffirmed the Board’s value for diversity in its students and employees and its commitment to providing a working and learning environment free from harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
Board Member Kristi Swett said, “It’s hard to find the words to adequately express what Heather meant to the Salt Lake City Board of Education, to our school district, and to me personally. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor and example of what it means to be a public servant. As a Board member, Heather was always focused on doing what was best for our kids. She had an ability to bring people together, even when they had differing opinions, and to deliberate productively to ultimately make the decision that would best serve our students. I learned so much from Heather, her grace, and her ability to look past what was on the outside and really dig for what was on the inside. I will miss her terribly.”
Ms. Bennett served as Vice President of the Board for six years, during which Ms. Swett served as President of the Board.
Board Member Katherine Kennedy added, “Heather made an enormous impact in the lives of students in the Salt Lake City School District. From her early work as a volunteer and leader at Lowell Elementary School more than twenty-five years ago, to her recent initiatives promoting literacy and emotional wellness as President of the Board last year, she demonstrated her concern for all students and their academic progress and growth. Her intellect, combined with her ability to consider issues and their impact, made her an invaluable member of the Salt Lake City Board of Education for fifteen years. She was known by teachers, administrators, employees, and parents as an advocate and friend. She will be dearly missed by all of us.”
Ms. Kennedy served as Vice President of the Board during Ms. Bennett’s time as Board President.
For those wishing to express their condolences, Ms. Bennett’s family is in the process of setting up a charitable fund reflecting her priorities. More information will be provided when it becomes available.