Israel Vela named 30-day interim superintendent for Kent schools

School Board to start process to replace Calvin Watts

Israel Vela

Israel Vela

The Kent School Board has named Israel Vela to a 30-day interim superintendent role as it begins the process to replace Calvin Watts.

Vela is the Kent School District’s chief school operations and academic support officer. He is one of four lead administrators under Watts. Vela’s interim role starts Aug. 2. The board voted unanimously to appoint Vela at a July 28 special meeting.

Watts is leaving the district to become superintendent of the Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia, where he previously worked as an assistant superintendent before coming to Kent in 2015. The Gwinnett County Board of Education voted unanimously July 15 to pick Watts as its superintendent.

Vela could have the role temporarily as the board potentially searches for an interim replacement for the 2021-2022 school year prior to hiring a new superintendent to start in the summer of 2022.

“In discussing an interim term, we all agreed with returning to in-person learning, boundary changes and looking at a levy, we want to assign an interim for the 2021-2022 school year and begin the process in January of a superintendent search with a new board coming on,” Board President Denise Daniels said at the special meeting.

The five-member board will have two new members after the November election. The terms of Daniels and Maya Vengadasalam expire this year and neither ran for reelection. Board members Leslie Hamada and Michele Bettinger have two years remaining on their terms. Joe Bento is running unopposed in November for the seat the board appointed him to in February.

Prior to hiring Watts to replace Edward Vargas, the board appointed Tony Apostle, a retired Puyallup School District superintendent, to serve as interim superintendent during the 2014-2015 school year. Vargas left in October 2014 and the board picked Apostle for the interim role the next month before hiring Watts in May 2015.

Daniels said she preferred a 60-day interim role for Vela with school starting Aug. 26. Hamada said she was frustrated with selecting someone for 30 or 60 days and then having to pick someone else for an interim role.

Bettinger said she wants to make sure all community stakeholders play a role in finding a new superintendent.

“Hopefully, we will be meeting again soon to talk about next steps,” said Bettinger, who earlier raised concerns about the board taking nearly two weeks to first meet about finding a new superintendent after Watts announced he was leaving.

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