Awale Farah and Brad Kenning are running for the District No. 4 director position on the Kent School Board to replace Denise Daniels.
Farah had 44% of the vote and Kenning 31% out of four candidates in the August primary to advance to the Nov. 2 general election. Farah is a small business owner and telecommunications engineer while Kenning is a real estate agent.
The Kent Reporter emailed the same four questions to each candidate.
• Why should I vote for you?
Farah: I am a long-time Kent resident and asking for your support for Kent School Board. I am an immigrant who benefited from becoming an American. Instead of keep taking, I have decided to give back to my community. All four of my children have graduated from Kent public schools. It would help if you voted for me because I know what families are struggling with. My background as a leader is needed as we work our way through this pandemic. We need dedicated leadership to see us through. I will make sure to be an advocate for all families. I will always be transparent no matter of the issues. Our student’s education and future success will be my top priority.
Kenning: You should vote for me. Honestly. I have two wonderful girls attending school here in KSD (Kent School District). Do you think I care about what happens in the community and in this district? Absolutely. We are a part of an unprecedented time where our kids are being taught that “their” past is evil, their present is fraught with danger and that their future is an existential threat to existence. How can we expect this to be a successful baseline for our kids to thrive, flourish, create, to become leaders, problem solvers, independent and self-reliant? We should be educating and encouraging these children to be proud to be part of such a thriving and diverse community here in Kent, not victims.
Together as a community and especially as parents; every one of us needs to make the necessary changes for our children to excel in this nanosecond screen time culture. Not only the school board, but everyone in this community is going to have to chip in. All of this can be done if we collaborate and communicate transparently. With transformed hearts we can all make the progress that our children deserve. No excuses.
• If elected, what specific things will you look to change?
Farah: Our school district is facing significant challenges. One of my first priorities will be to make sure we have virtual options for our students. Also, I want to make sure KSD is implementing equity policy and being transparent to families and educators. I will make sure that we have a way to communicate and responding to emails and answering questions. The more informed families, the better we serve. We also need to make sure our kids are safe and have testing available for COVID testing.
Kenning: An expectation of transparency: crystal clear transparency. I have a few recent examples of non-transparency that is currently in this district.
The number one question I’m asked, the other candidates are as well (don’t believe me?, ask them) is how we feel about Critical Race Theory (CRT). We are told… “Oh no, we don’t teach that here.”
On Wednesdays the teachers are being taught several things and one of them is CRT. Yes, there are “team meetings, planning, collaboration using best practices” but there is also a series of instructions by Bernardo Ruiz; https://www.racingtoequity.org. If you look at “About us”, one of its “core components” is Critical Race Theory by name (at the time of this writing).
How about third grade children at one of the elementary schools, around 8 years old having been read the book, “He, She, They” (a link sent to me from a teacher as an example: https://youtu.be/UQedEI6LrFA). I’m not here to attack or critique these programs and lessons. The point is, do the parents know about it? Is it transparent? It is fundamental that parents are briefed, informed, and have an honest awareness of what is being taught to their children in school.
• What key skills will you look for in hiring a new superintendent?
Farah: Hiring a new superintendent will be one of the pressing issues for the board next year. Kent is a growing city and becoming more diverse. The new superintendent should have experience in managing a district that is the same size or similar. The new superintendent should have experience in leading a similar diverse school district as KSD. The new superintendent should be someone that can deal with the historical issues in KSD. The new superintendent needs to have a successful track record. No one knows everything but the willingness to learn and be honest when things do not work out. A thoughtful leader who understands the neighboring school districts are KSD allies.
Kenning: The school board is a tough and thankless, nonpartisan position to hold in any community. For us to be inclusive and productive we need to be capable of including opposing viewpoints that differ from our own. The teachers have a union and the parents have the school board. As we select new board members, our next superintendent should have a comprehensive on-boarding program for new members.
The board holds the superintendent accountable but only if the board knows how to utilize its position on behalf of the community. What we need to see from the next superintendent is an understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their own personal interest. They need to show that they too are invested in our community. We haven’t experienced that in a while.
Unlike the superintendent who has a highly paid position, the board is not making a living serving their community. In order for us to achieve a higher standard of performance in KSD, the superintendent must demonstrate that when it comes to accepting substandard performance with no one being held accountable (without consequences), the poor performance becomes the new standard. Unacceptable.
• Should the district continue to have police officers at schools? Why or why not?
Farah: This is a very sensitive issue. My kids had a great experience with the resource officers. We need to make their roles and responsibilities clear. And they should be working closely with the educators. I support having police officers in the schools, however many families of color fear the police. The fear is based on many years of developed mistrust between police and people of color. With all of that said, we have one of the best police chiefs in the region. I trust Chief Rafael Padilla and the program he implemented. This is a very sensitive issue. There has been incidents in other schools with mass shootings, and we need the protection for our kids. Having a police officer available might deter a shooter.
Kenning: The police officers should be at schools if they have the bandwidth to do so. There are not as many potential officers who desire the occupation these days. The first reason is safety. With crime on the rise, having law enforcement be a productive part of our community is an absolute asset to all of us.
Second is that these officers and their families are beloved members of this community just as much as we are. They too have children attending schools here in KSD. When I was a kid you could go up to the police officers and ask them for sport cards. At the time they were classic era Seattle Supersonics and the Seahawks. My favorite card to get from the police was “Downtown”Freddy Brown, an amazing 3-point shooter before Steph Curry was even born.
The crime rate is increasing with alienation and prejudgment toward mostly amazing people holding an occupation on behalf of our community. These enforcement officers are sons, daughters, fathers and mothers. We need to change the narrative, have proper reform, consistent and comprehensive paid training and work together as a community. For heaven’s sake, these are our first responders.