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Community Members Call Informal Meeting, Raise Questions Regarding Mendoza's Departure

Almost 50 community members met with Sumner School Board officials at an outdoor meeting to discuss Dr. Gil Mendoza's mutual separation from the district.

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.

Kathleen July 11, 2011 at 06:19 PM
Scott, So you say we live in a litigious society? Does that mean that change should only happen by lawsuit? That is an expensive endeavor as the Sumner School District already knows in their past settlements near in the millions. I am very knowledgeable about politics and the process, thank you. But your comment that I am playing "sideline quarterback" without being in the "know" as perhaps a select chosen few in Sumner are, is disturbing on so many levels. I have paid taxes faithfully for that school district for 42 years. It is a "PUBLIC" school district. For and by the public. Perhaps a comment by our founding father, Bejamin Franklin, might explain my position better: " Without Freedom of Thought there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as Public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech."
Nancy M. Dumas July 13, 2011 at 08:25 PM
I know this is listed under "Events" on the home page but for those that get an update on your phone...this is a quick little reminder that your Sumner School Board has a meeting this evening at the district office in the Board Room at 6pm. While the request for a "special" meeting following the Public Forum regarding Dr. Mendoza's separation was not granted, this is your opportunity to have the voice you were not given. Please keep in mind, the beauty of our country rests in the fact that we are all entitled to our thoughts and opinions. You may not agree with me and I may not agree with you, so we will just need to agree to disagree, shake hands and get along anyway at the end of the day. And yes, the purpose of attending tonight's meeting in this venue is skewed toward supporting Dr. Mendoza and his leadership with our children and in our schools, but if you feel differently, you should not feel like you can not be there to speak and to support your school boards decision. By not showing up and speaking in support of their decision, you are leaving them to blow in the wind and that's not very fair to them. See everyone tonight.
Rebecca Giles July 13, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Very well put, Nancy. If people could really wrap their arms and hearts around: "Please keep in mind, the beauty of our country rests in the fact that we are all entitled to our thoughts and opinions. You may not agree with me and I may not agree with you, so we will just need to agree to disagree, shake hands and get along anyway at the end of the day." People often say they can do this, but still go away angry. Life is all about change and life is really too short to be angry with one another. Take care.
Katharine Rode July 13, 2011 at 10:38 PM
H/H I've been away and now catching up. I am writing my opinion, not yours. I'm glad you had time to judge my spelling, I try to catch things but sometimes rush. Maybe you could share with the rest of the community just how wrong I am.
Katharine Rode July 13, 2011 at 10:40 PM
I chose to use the word 'beloved". It was intentional and my opinion.

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