Kent School Board members from left to right: Joe Bento, Awale Farah, Tim Clark, Meghin Margel and Leslie Hamada. Superintendent Israel Vela is on the far right. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Kent School Board members from left to right: Joe Bento, Awale Farah, Tim Clark, Meghin Margel and Leslie Hamada. Superintendent Israel Vela is on the far right. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Farah delivers tirade during Kent School Board elections

Group takes 20-minute break after heated discussion so board member can cool down

The Kent School Board shook up its leadership roles after a contentious discussion where Awale Farah became so heated with his comments that the group took a 20-minute break in the middle of its debate so he could cool off.

The five-member board then returned and unanimously elected Joe Bento as president and voted 3-2 to elect Meghin Margel as vice president for the rest of the year.

The board, however, traveled a long, rough road to reach that consensus at its April 26 regular meeting.

Farah, elected vice president in December 2022, had been filling the role of president since Tim Clark resigned as president March 24 after public outrage following an insensitive comment he made about Somali families at a March 20 study session. Clark remains on the board.

The board is required to officially elect someone to fill the role of president, which it decided at the last minute to add board elections on the April 26 agenda as the item wasn’t on the released meeting agenda. The board voted 4-0 to add the item. Clark abstained.

Filling in for Clark as vice president, Farah ran the meeting and opened up nominations. Clark nominated Farah to be president. Then Leslie Hamada nominated Bento.

That’s when the fireworks began.

All of a sudden, Farah said he didn’t want to be vice president and he was resigning as vice president. Bento questioned Farah about his immediate resignation.

“I am resigning as vice president, let’s vote for president,” Farah said.

Farah said he didn’t want to be vice president, so the board will need to elect a president and a vice president.

Bento remained puzzled about the resignation.

“I feel like it’s manipulative. ...I don’t know how to process it,” Bento said.

Farah let loose after that comment.

“How more can I say, I am the only person of color on the board,” Farah said. “I stepped up because director Clark resigned. You decided that I don’t qualify to be the president, it is well and done You have decided that so you have to live with that.

“Don’t tell me I should be OK with being vice president. I am not OK with being vice president.”

Farah continued his attack against Bento.

“I don’t feel that you even value me as a person that has been running this,” Farah said. “I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t feel any collision with you anymore. let’s move on, let’s not beat around the bush, we know why this is happening, let’s go.”

Farah’s rant seemed to shock most of the board.

“Can I call for a break or recess?” Bento said.

“Yeah, I don’t like this tone,” Hamada said.

“I don’t like it either,” Bento said.

Farah sent the meeting into a break.

“Let’s call for a recess, fine,” he said.

When the board returned 20 minutes later, Farah said he wanted to decline his nomination for president, apparently aware he didn’t have the three-vote majority needed to be elected.

Clark nominated Bento and all five members voted him to be president.

Clark then nominated Hamada to be vice president and Bento nominated Margel. Bento, Hamada and Farah voted for Margel to give her the position. Clark and Margel voted for Hamada.

Board reports

The meeting continued with board reports from each member.

Clark seemed to downplay the earlier outburst by Farah.

“Democracy is often messy, it is a search for leadership in terms of getting through a situation and looking forward to the future,” Clark said. “As awkward as this process has been and what occurred tonight (April 26), we collectively did work through a difficult process and arrived at a conclusion. All board members up here are committed to the goals of equity and excellence and support of the belief that teachers are the critical feature of the educational process in this public agency and they need to be supported.”

Clark also spoke about Superintendent Israel Vela.

“I believe the superintendent is doing the best he can to work though multiple issues in a difficult and trying year,” Clark said. “And we are hanging together and I hope that the public can recognize that.”

Bento, whose term ends this year, said he may or may not run for his position this year due to his application to get into a career and technical education program in order to become a director. If he gets accepted into the program, he said he won’t run.

“If I don’t get in, I will probably run again,” said Bento, who also encouraged candidates to apply for the school board during the May 15-19 filing period with King County Elections.

Bento, a Renton High School teacher, looks forward to being president of the board.

“I’m hesitant, but excited,” he said. “Thank you to my colleagues.”

Hamada in her report thanked Farah, as vice president, for holding down the fort since Clark’s resignation as president.

Farah went last with his report.

“I have no report,” he said.

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