Madsen explains reasons behind Kent School Board recall

He wants members who advocate for parents, students rather than the district

Bryon Madsen, File Photo

Bryon Madsen, File Photo

Kent resident Bryon Madsen says he filed a recall petition against four Kent School Board members because he wants representatives that advocate for the parents and students rather than school district administrators.

Madsen filed the petition May 7 with King County Elections to recall Leslie Hamada, Michele Bettinger, Denise Daniels and Maya Vengadasalam. Election officials removed petitions against Daniels and Vengadasalem because they are up for reelection this year. Daniels and Vengadasalem are not running for reelection, so their terms will end in November.

A sufficiency hearing to determine the merits of the petition will be at 3 p.m. on June 8 in front of King County Superior Court Judge Sandra Widlan, who will decide if a petition drive can start to recall Hamada and Bettinger.

“My reason for finally getting around to a recall petition is simple, that of having a board that advocates for the parents and students,” Madsen said in a May 24 email to the Kent Reporter. “A board exists to keep the governance of an organization in check. It exists to ensure the direction and goals of the organization meet the expectations, in this case, of the Kent community.

“While my personal direct experience has been much less over the last two years, it was and still is the experience of those who attend and direct concerns to the board, that it is like talking to the district. A student or a parent who directs comments and concerns to a board should feel that the board is their advocate. In the case of the Kent School District, for a number of years now, the view is that the board does not advocate for the student and parent, but advocates for the district. Somehow, the role got reversed.”

The charges listed in the petition include failed to publicly follow-up, investigate and resolve the concerns raised in the no confidence votes (in Superintendent Calvin Watts); failed to comply with the state-mandated duties related to the setting of policies ensuring quality in the content and extent of its educational program; failed to comply with a large number of board-approved policies, including policy review, duties of board members, meeting conduct, order of business and quorums. The petition lists violation dates from 2018 to 2021.

Madsen said he didn’t know how far reaching within the Kent School District community that view is held. He said he knows of others who feel the same and have been or are highly frustrated.

He said filing a recall petition, if granted by the court, in essence puts that office up for reelection.

“That allows the community to decide now whether or not that particular board member is meeting the expectations of the community,” Madsen said. “If so, the community will reelect the person back into office.”

If voters recall a member, assuming others wish to run, the community will vote in a different candidate that seeks as their first and maybe even the sole priority, that of the interests of the parents and students, Madsen said.

Madsen said filing a recall petition also creates a portal for community members to raise their voice.

“The voice will either be in support or not in support of the recall,” he said. “Therefore, either way, it sends the message to the district.”

Madsen didn’t file a recall petition against Joseph Bento because he was just appointed by the board to a vacant seat earlier this year. Bento is running unopposed for the seat in November.

“Joseph was more recently put in office and, thus, in general, not a part of the charges included in the recall petition,” he said.

Madsen said he understood why Daniels and Vengadasalam were removed, but he wanted to be consistent in his message to file to remove the remaining four members.

“If this recall petition is granted, it then creates the ability for the Kent community to vote for all five board members,” Madsen said. “If the community wants a change, it opens the door to create change. If the community is satisfied, as a whole, the community will reelect those under recall.”

Because Vengadasalam and Daniels have chosen not to run again, he said that will mean at least two new board members.

“The recall petition, if granted, does serve the purpose in the case of Leslie Hamada and Michele Bettinger’s case as their positions would not be up for reelection this November,” Madsen said about the two members who were elected by voters to four-year terms in 2019.

Madsen is uncertain if a judge will grant the recall petitions.

“There are numerous legal hurdles to overcome,” he said. “And, even if overcome and the recall petition is granted by the court, there has to be a petition filed that carries the requisite number of signatures based upon the number of votes cast in the previous election.”

For Bettinger, 10,991 signatures would be needed, according to King County Elections. For Hamada, it would be 8,802 signatures. The number of signatures required is equal to 35% of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for the office to which they were elected.

Madsen running for seat

Madsen filed last week to run for a school board seat. He is up against Bradley Kenning, Awale Farah and Willie Middleton Sr. to replace Daniels.

”I ran four years ago,” Madsen said. “When I lost to Denise Daniels, I was fine with it. Never had any intention to run again.

“The only reason I took the time to submit my name was to provide an option to the Kent community to vote for a person who will put the parents and students as the complete focus. I have no loyalty to the district nor any group.”

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