Federal Way school board appoints Hiroshi Eto

Hiroshi Eto - Contributed
Hiroshi Eto
— image credit: Contributed

The Federal Way Public Schools board of education chose Hiroshi Eto as their new board member for District 5. Eto replaces former board member Tony Moore, who resigned in April after he was convicted of seven counts of felony theft.

“We’re very excited to have him on and know he’s very committed to giving the time,” said board president Carol Gregory.

Eto, a retired civil engineer with the U.S. Army, impressed the board with his knowledge in long-range and strategic planning, his desire to open up “two-way” communication and his ability to negotiate and find middle ground on issues.

“I was certainly surprised because of the strengths of the other candidates,” Eto said in an interview. “I’m honored the board has the confidence that I can help them in terms of moving forward and helping with the community and the educational system.”

Before the board unanimously voted for Eto, the process for picking the candidate was discussed.

After the five candidates were interviewed in a public setting on June 3, the board met privately in an executive session to discuss their qualifications. Gregory said no decisions were made prior to Tuesday’s school board meeting.

“It was pretty obvious from that there were two or three people that we were particularly interested in,” Gregory said, noting they were looking for planning skills and those who could dedicate enough time to the position.

Nearly every board member stated each candidate was qualified in their own way to serve the school district, but it was about matching the candidate’s skills to those that were already represented on the board.

“I’ll just say I appreciated the five board members we interviewed,” board member Claire Wilson said. “And each of them came to the panel with a perspective and area of expertise that really kind of showed and shined and it was really a conversation and a thought process in my mind to think about what currently and who currently sits on the board and the skill set that each of us has here …”

Some of those current skills include a broad knowledge of the educational system and community involvement at the schools, or an understanding of the current education initiatives, Gregory said.

Board member Geoffery McAnalloy, who put forth the motion to appoint Eto, said he first wanted someone on the board who had children in the school district. However, the more he thought about it, he thinks it would be valuable to see how things were with the school district in the past, as Eto’s two grown children attended multiple elementary schools in Federal Way in the early 90s.

Gregory was impressed with Eto’s project management and leadership skills in which he oversaw the regional civil and military construction programs that totaled $2 billion.

“We’re five people but we’re only really one person when it comes to the board,” Gregory said.

McAnalloy and Wilson pointed to how Eto focused on workforce development and their Career and Technical Education programs and how there needs to be options and opportunities for every student in the district.

“I would also say one size doesn’t fit all and we know we have an incredibly diverse district and we need to have representation of that diversity on the board as well,” said Wilson at the school board meeting after Eto was chosen. “That was critically important to me.”

Gregory said while having ethnic representation on the board is important to all of the board directors, it wasn’t the deciding factor.

According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Hispanic children in the Federal Way school district make up 24.4 percent, Asian or Pacific Islander children make up 12.5 percent, black children make up 11.4 percent and white children make up 35.3 percent.

“We felt we needed someone who could work with us and could be an asset to the board and in addition we felt that we are a very diverse community and an all white board wasn’t the ideal but that wasn’t the number one determination,” Gregory said.

Eto first came to Federal Way in 1988 when he purchased his home. He and his wife sent their children to Mark Twain, Sherwood and Green Gables Elementary schools in Federal Way until they moved in 1997. Keeping the home, Eto’s work led him to Japan and other parts of the U.S. While in Japan, he helped coach wrestling and baseball at his children’s Department of Defense Schools at Camp Zama.

Eto returned to Federal Way in 2012 with his wife as his daughter teaches in Portland and his son works at the University of Washington.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a heavy ramp-up,” said Eto, joking about the whole new set of school district acronyms he’s eager to learn.

Eto will be officially sworn in to the Federal Way Public Schools board of education on June 24 at the school board meeting.

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