Kent School Board members Leslie Hamada, Joe Bento, Awale Farah and Tim Clark. COURTESY IMAGE, Kent School District

Kent School Board members Leslie Hamada, Joe Bento, Awale Farah and Tim Clark. COURTESY IMAGE, Kent School District

Group seeks recall of four Kent School Board members

‘Repeated violations of law and policy have led to this,’ according to community organization

A Kent group plans to file a petition to recall the Kent School Board.

Shannon Jephson-Hernandez, spokesperson for the group 27KSD4change, told the board at its Aug. 24 meeting during the public comment period that the group would be filing a recall petition in King County Superior Court.

Jephson-Hernandez, a Mill Creek Middle School teacher, also said the group would file in court a violation by individual board members of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.

“Repeated violations of law and policy have led to this,” Jephson-Hernandez said. “It is the position of 27KSD4Change that open public meeting violations and conflicts of interest do nothing to serve the students in the Kent School District, taxpayers and the broader community.”

The current board members are President Leslie Hamada, Tim Clark, Awale Farah and Joe Bento. The board plans to appoint one of four finalists Aug. 31 to the vacant board seat. Voters elected Clark, Farah and Bento in November to four-year terms that expire in 2025. Voters elected Hamada in 2019 to a four-year term that expires in 2023.

Jephson-Hernandez said in an Aug. 24 email to the Kent Reporter that the group will file to recall the current four board members.

“It is our position, members who adhere to the law with a record of following policy and procedure along with attempting to guide their fellow board members to ask questions to ensure they are following policy and procedure, will ultimately be safe from the recall based on that record,” she said. “This direction allows all parties to remain objective and limit bias. We maintain the value of transparency and believe it is the responsibility of the individual board members to ensure they operate within the law.”

The group doesn’t have a specific date yet of when the recall petition will be filed.

“We are updating our quantified record of violations at this time and are drafting the required docs,” Jephson-Hernandez said. “We do not have a date set, but plan for an immediate submission pending the documents are ready.”

Jephson-Hernandez said the group has monitored the Kent School District and its board of directors in regard to their operations within their policies, procedures and state RCWs (Revised Code of Washington).

“We have consistently asked all parties to prioritize this legal issue,” she said. “Unfortunately, only a few board members over the years have aligned with the legal requirement.”

If a judge approves the petition, the group would have to gather enough signatures from voters to get the recall of each member on a ballot.

Heidi Williams, a parent of two Kent School District children and a member of 27KSD4change, said she would help get the message out.

“We will need to rally people within each district,” Williams said in a phone interview. “Hopefully, people will understand the process.”

Jephson-Hernandez said specifics of the recall and open public meeting act violations will be released as part of the filings.

“Families send their children to school every day trusting the district is following their policies and procedures for the safety and betterment of their students,” she said. “As issues arise in the public, parents are now learning the district is not operating as such.

“We see the community is frustrated with the districts lack of ownership in their failures, along with their lack of transparency when they discover these mistakes. Our community is frustrated with years of mismanagement and conflicts of interest. There are many within the community who feel the overall needs of staff and students are not being met despite the call for action by those staff and students.”

Hamada responds

When asked for her response to the planned recall, Hamada, the board president, issued the following statement:

“Personally, it deeply saddens me,” Hamada said in an Aug. 26 email. “I also know that citizens have the right to any recourse they feel is necessary to find justice for their issue. I am glad I live in a country that protects the rights of all.

“I will continue to work as I have from day one for the citizens and kids in the Kent School District. This has been my community for over 30 years, and it is imperative for citizens to serve if they have the time and resources to do so. I have been volunteering over 53 years in all the communities I have lived in and worked while professionally working because I believe I have been given a lot of opportunities and I want everyone to also have those opportunities if at all possible.

“Now retired, I have continued trying to better my communities. I am not going to list a resume of all I have done as right now passions and tensions are running high on some very real issues that are way beyond the school board. In doing the work I have been given back so many wonderful memories.

“As a board president, I can only speak for myself on this issue. Every board director that I have dealt with, even those I may have had opposing views with, I strongly believe tried to do what they felt was right.”

Board members Clark, Farah and Bento have not yet responded to a Kent Reporter email for comment about the potential recall.

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