About 50 community members gathered in a circle at Rainier View Park in Sumner on Wednesday, June 22 for an informal meeting about the mutual separation agreement between
“Forty-three people made a decision for 9,000 students and I thought we should have a meeting because parents are the only advocates for children,” said Nancy Dumas, who organized the event.
The two-hour conversation, however, seemed to have only hinted at the answers parents hoped to receive.
“I wanted answers and [the school board members] were vague,” said Heather Roland, a Sumner School district parent. “I wanted to hear what he [Mendoza] did, and I didn’t get that.”
The meeting was and created by Dumas, a member of the Sumner School District budget committee and former president of the Maple Lawn PTA. School Board President Sherm Voiles and board legislative representative Greg Hanon were present.
If more than two members had been present, last night’s impromptu meeting would have had to been an official board meeting, which Voiles and Hanon were not prepared for, they said.
As people began arrive, a community member began setting up her video camera to record the meeting. Hanon asked her to not record for personal reasons. Voiles and Dumas had no opinion on the matter and neither did the crowd. However, Hanon insisted the meeting not be recorded and the community member obliged.
Hanon addressed the crowd by first praising Mendoza for his efforts as superintendent.
"Mendoza was a visible member who excelled at relationships with students, staff and community members," said Hanon.
He explained that the reason the school board did not inform the public sooner of problems with Mendoza’s leadership because of the nature of his contract. They couldn’t bring the conflict to the public because of legal issues.
“We couldn’t be public until the decision was finalized,” Hanon said.
He then gave an outline of Mendoza’s performance as superintendent, outlined the district’s superintendent evaluation process and shared comments he submitted during the 2008-2009 rating period.
"There was great concern by administrators, principals and vice principals in how Mendoza was doing his job," said Hanon.
To resolve the issues in spring 2010, Hanon said Mendoza created an improvement plan to work on his issues, but Mendoza did not have a sense of shared vision, causing a move to action.
"I'm not asking for you to agree with me, I'm just trying to tell you the course of the issue,” said Hanon repeatedly throughout his speech.
When asked who will replace Mendoza, Voiles said the interim is “highly respected throughout the district.” However, they are not allowed to release the person’s name yet.
Hanon said he did not take the decision to let Mendoza go lightly. He added that he had extensive conversations with Mendoza about his improvement plan and the school board just wanted him to be successful.
Voiles assured the community members that “every student in Sumner School District will be in good hands.”
Community members asked for a follow-up to the gathering by calling an emergency meeting with all the school board members present. Voiles and Hanon could not give a yes or no answer to the request and said they would talk to the other members and will have an answer by the end of the week.
After the meeting, community members gathered in small group to talk amongst themselves.
Roland and Charissa Montano, who both have children in the Sumner School District, did not feel that their questions were answered.
“There is more to the story and they [Voiles and Hanon] are not giving it to us,” said Montano. “If they gave me a valid reason, I would support the school board.”
Mickey Kohlman also felt that the information she was given was vague. Kohlman has three children in the Sumner School District and one who just graduated from Bonney Lake High School in May.
“As politicians, they were doing what politicians do best – cover up their mess,” said Kohlman.
Carol Cole, who has lived in Sumner for 18 years, voiced hopes that the emergency meeting will take place. She feels the informal meeting went well and is counting on the board members to do what is right. She felt that Mendoza should be allowed to serve his last year.
“Unless there are serious [financial] reasons, he [Mendoza] should serve out his contract instead of hiring an interim,” Cole said.
Voiles and Hanon said if they emergency meeting does take place it will be posted on the Sumner School District website.