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.

Nancy M. Dumas June 23, 2011 at 07:29 PM
Actually, my position on filming the Q&A is that in the intrest of full transparency, it should have be allowed to be filmed. However, Greg would not allow the meeting to happen if Katharine did film so she reluctently agreed. Additionally, because I, as a individual from the public, called a public forum requesting the school board to be present, it does not fall under a board meeting and the quorum issue. Is it a "Board meeting" when they all show up at a graduation (planned meeting) or the supermarket (unplanned meeting)? But, in light of the contoversy about filming, I was not about to give them reason to not continue. Just picking my battles! I did speak with Greg Hanon this morning a) to thank him for his time and b) to press for the requested meeting this coming Mon or Tues. I have left a voice mail for Sherm regarding the same. Greg told me that I would have a confirmation of a meeting time by this afternoon. I may be the forever optomist but I hope, for the sake of our kids and our community they keep their word. I will post here first. Thank you to all who showed up, dropped a letter by my home or e-mailed me in support of Dr Mendoza.
Kathleen June 24, 2011 at 04:32 AM
As I conduct Board Meetings in other venues, I can say that two or more Board members at this gatherng is in no way a School Board Meeting in any legal sense.. School Board Meetings are set for formal published Meetings or can be called by individual Board members with Quorum of members present as set by their own guidelines. Minutes must be taken of any regular or called meeting. It was, however, very nice and impressive that they did take the time to attend. You can attract more flies with honey.....
Nancy M. Dumas June 24, 2011 at 05:32 AM
Plan to attend the next Sumner School Board meeting on July 13 6pm at the Central Office (1202 Wood Ave) and bring coffee. It'll be a long one and be sure to pack your voice. Disappointed in the lack of value our residents and parents hold with our school board...yes. Shocked...no. I just spoke with Sherm and it appears that although no board meeting was called to discuss an emergency board meeting, a quorum was met anyway regarding our request for a meeting early next week. Greg and (I am sure) Rick are in favor of calling a meeting yet Sherm, Mike and Jeff did not feel it was necessary. They felt that to "call a meeting and sit up there listening, knowing that they were not going to change their decision would be disengenuious". Can't get any clearer than that on their lack of respect for input of parents and residents in our district which trickles to our 8100+ children in our district. Get out and Vote for Casey, Paul and Rick in November. And, the opinions of the many, many teachers who are the bulk of the district's work force who work with our children in the trenches and interact with Dr Mendoza don't matter to our school board either. I know because I have asked before and asked again this evening because I find that incredulous. These are the same teachers who have expressed interest in going to our forum last night in support of Dr Mendoza but were concerned about retaliation. That culture makes me sad. See you July 13th, District Office.
Katharine Rode June 29, 2011 at 07:40 PM
PART 1 of 2 I didn't get that Greg would be in favor of the proposed emergency meeting, he seemed completely against it even though he suggested it himself before the meeting started. This whole thing makes me sad as a parent, frustrated and angry as a tax-payer and feeling a little lost as a human being. On the one hand we were repeatedly told that he(Mendoza)wanted this to work and until the end was working really hard at it. I am also baffled that he was brave enough to bring to the table an evaluation study that ulimately seems to have been his demise. I get that there were people that didn't like his work style, so what. I deal with people all the time that I don't particularly care for and that don't care for me. At the school I hear conversations between teachers and kids like, "If you can't say something nice... or If you don't want to play that game that's OK". We are trying to teach our kids to get along, play fair, and respect each other and our differences.
Katharine Rode June 29, 2011 at 07:41 PM
PART 2 of 2 How can we effectively do that when at the very top of the ladder they are setting such a bad example? The Sumner School District mission statement -"We believe it is our responsibility to ensure the best education for all of our students. We believe in success for students and staff every day". I spoke with board member Mike Plavik yesterday and after four times of asking him to tell me the mission statement, he repeatedly said, "It is our job to set policy". The fifth time I asked him I prefaced the question with"It's about the kids, isn't it?" He replied, "Oh yes, it's absolutely about the kids!" After all of the people I have spoke with, teachers, staff, parents, community members, and Dr. Mendoza himself it is still a mystery as to how this is beneficial to any of us, especially the kids. Lastly, I'm not sure how during the current economic times letting a beloved superindendant go, bringing in an Interm, and then searching for a replacement is going to give anyone the piece of mind our tax-paying dollars deserve. Until otherwise proven, it is becoming clear to me that the only ones they are serving is the board themselves and from now on they will be watched and hopefully voted out when the time comes.
H/H July 04, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Katharine Rode, You are so wrong on many levels, it's humorous! P.S. Check your spelling.
Scott W. Anderson July 05, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Obviously "Beloved" may not be the correct term. It certainly appears that there were many who felt far differently then the vocal majority. We should also consider that no matter how much the board members are cajoled to provided further explanation concerning the early dismissal of Mendoza, there are contractual reasons they can not. So where does that leave us...leaving our trust in those who we all voted into office to represent our's and our children's best interest. You have an opportunity to make a change if you believe it best coming this November. But remember, these positions are not the place for personal vendettas or agendas. They are positions to affect change for the greatest good for the largest percentage.
Kathleen July 05, 2011 at 05:27 PM
Scott, I agree with everything you said, as having no personal agendas and working for the bext interest of children is the ideal. In practice it does not always work that way. Your comment about "contractual reasons" is one glaring reason we who pay for the school district are never given clear pictures of what is going on TO be able to intelligently vote for our school representatives. It is because of contractual reasons that we never know the lawsuits the school district settles. It is for contractual reasons we often are stuck with poorer teachers that should be removed. These contracts are part our our (public) record and there should be no secrets from us in my opinion. Ever watch "Waiting for Superman"? You should, as they make a valid point that real change can never occur with those "Contracts" in place. New Board members would just be more status quo. Our forefathers did not trust in the King either, and demanded OPEN representatation. I never met Dr. Mendoza, though I knew Don Eisemann, even before he came to Sumner, well. My complaint is that with a school district that declares they have extreme budget shortfalls, they release Dr. Menzona at a waste of $178,000 of our money. Because he did not, as they say, play well with staffers. A clear case of the staff running the school, not us or the Board. We don't get to vote for staffers.
Scott W. Anderson July 05, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Well unfortunately Kathleen we live in a litigious society where contracts are binding and enforceable by law. You may not be happy with it but that is the nature of things today. While yes, we may never know all that we would like about certain occurances and happenings and alike, there is really only one way to change that. Step up and look to gain enough votes yourself to become a board member or State Representative. Then and only then will you be able to really make some meaningful change. We live in an society where we are represented by others who we elect to do so. Please, by all means, look to step up and see if your beliefs and convictions are shared by the majority. If so, then I am sure you will go far. I do believe that there may need to be a changing of the guard but publically playing sideline quarterback without being "in the know" is not a course of action I deem prudent.
Rebecca Giles July 06, 2011 at 03:16 AM
Sorry, but the board is not wrong on this issue!
Rebecca Giles July 06, 2011 at 03:18 AM
Here, Here!
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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