Renton High School health education teacher Joe Bento will fill the vacant seat on the Kent School Board.
The board voted 4-0 on Tuesday, Feb. 2 to appoint Bento over three other candidates after virtual interviews with each of them. Bento will be sworn in at the Feb. 10 board meeting.
Bento, in his 19th year of teaching, will replace Leah Bowen as the District 1 director. Bowen resigned in December after one year into her four-year term on the board to spend more time with her family. Bento will serve in the appointed role until the next regularly scheduled school board election in November. He is eligible to run for the seat.
“I appreciate the effort and time all of the candidates put into this,” Board President Denise Daniels said after the group came out of an executive session to discuss the candidates. “It was a difficult decision, but we came to a consensus and I think it will benefit the Kent School District moving forward.”
The other candidates were Russell Hanscom, Inal Tshovrebov and Thomas Williams. Hanscom resigned from the District 1 seat in 2017 for personal reasons after he was elected to his second four-year term on the board in 2015. He ran for the Kent City Council in November 2017 but lost to incumbent Brenda Fincher.
“I thought everyone of the candidates we interviewed were quality people,” Board Director Leslie Hamada said.
The board allowed Bento just a brief comment before ending its three-hour meeting.
“I appreciate this opportunity and look forward to working with all of you,” Bento said.
Bento, who moved to Kent seven years ago and bought a home in town, is teaching health and psychology this year at Renton. He is a national certified health education teacher.
Bento served as vice president from 2014 to 2018 of the Renton Education Association, the union for Renton teachers.
“I want to be more active in the community and ultimately I want to support students and the positive experiences I’ve had in public education,” Bento said during his interview. “I want to make sure that the students in the Kent School District get that same experience.”
Bento is chair of GLSEN Washington state, a chapter of the nonprofit national organization that envisions a future in which every child learns to accept and respect all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, according to its Facebook page.
Bento emphasized the importance of educating all students.
“It shouldn’t matter your zip code, your background, your family dynamics, your race, your ethnicity, everyone should have a good strong public education and that’s why I’m here with you all today and want to be a part of it,” Bento said.