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Discontent Over Mendoza Decision Lingers

Community members approached the School Board at the July 13 meeting to express their opinions on the separation with former superintendent Gil Mendoza.

More than a month after , some community members still feel that the mutual separation between the former superintendent and the Sumner School District Board of Directors has not been adequately explained. This issue was broached during the audience comments portion of the school board meeting Wednesday night.

Nancy Dumas, a member of the Sumner School District budget committee , approached the podium with copies of emails from Mendoza supporters and public records, including reviews of former Superintendent Donald Eismann.

After requesting all of Eismann’s evaluations, Dumas reported that she had discovered all of the evaluations from 1999 to 2007 were missing.

“We had eight years of a superintendent with no accountability,” said Dumas. She continued to bemoan the lack of comments on the evaluations that she had found and compared these evaluations with the , which had extensive comments.

“I really want to hear your thoughts,” interrupted Legislative Representative Greg Hanon, “but I don’t think the discussion of Dr. Eismann is part of this conversation … The issue is Dr. Mendoza and our concern is Dr. Mendoza.”

Dumas also expressed disappointment that the decision to part ways with Mendoza had been made without consultation of the 8,100 children in the district, the parents or the teachers.

After Dumas stepped down, Carol Cole, who has grandchildren in the district, stepped up.

“Many, many people ask for reasons not to continue Dr. Mendoza’s service, and I don’t really think that a valid reason was given,” said Cole. “I just don’t understand. If it’s not broken, why did you want to fix it?”

Voiles replied, “The problem was, from our perspective and the perspective of the leaders in our district, things were broken.” He cited lack of knowledge about district operations, failed leadership, issues of integrity and trust, and the inability to prioritize as reasons for the board’s dissatisfaction with Mendoza.

Debbie Campbell then spoke to the board, not as the business services executive director, but as a citizen who has been employed by the district for 25 years in different capacities. She thanked the board for the long hours and effort that went into making the decision to separate from Mendoza. She expressed the sentiment that SSD has “a long history of doing what’s right when it comes to employment issues,” and concluded, “I think it’s time to look forward and move on.”

SSD volunteer Debbie Norris agreed with Campbell, and added that although Mendoza has been lauded for volunteering for and attending a wide range of school events, many people do not realize that he was paid for appearing at those events.

Finally, Voiles read a statement. “Regardless of your experience … your involvement with the former superintendent, this is a personnel matter.” He admitted that he believes the opinions of the 43 school district leaders who made the final decision to separate with Mendoza are more important, in this case, than the opinions of the teachers, parents and students.

He said that the school board had discussed their issues with Mendoza, “providing him every opportunity for improvements,” but no improvements were made. So, “we chose a mutual separation.”

“The decision has been made by the board and the board stands behind it,” said Voiles. He changed his statement to “majority of the board,” when vice president of the board Richard Hendricks expressed his disagreement.

Kathleen July 15, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Time for new School, Board Members
dadX2 July 17, 2011 at 07:35 AM
As a parent with two kids attending schools in the Sumner School District I am confident that if a MAJORITY of the staff directly reporting to Mendoza did not have trust or confidence in his ability to lead our schools, and the school board after careful consideration determined it necessary to end the contract that this was the best path for SSD to move forward. Having seen Mendoza make appearances at functions around the district he was always pleasant enough, however, this does not make a good leader. Only those who worked under him know what type of leader he was, and only his superiors (the school board) know if he was meeting his job performance standards. The decision is made and it is time to move forward.
Kathleen July 18, 2011 at 04:09 AM
DadX2, Exactly who runs the school district? The staffers? Excuse me if I think that the first mission of the school district is to educate the children we taxpayers send to the school. If Dr. Mendoza was insufficient after only two short years this was a failure of the school board. Remember they hired and vetted him and fully knew his background. I am a senior supervisor in my job...my staffers who have no trust in me or confidence in me either do their job anyway or get fired. It's their job to follow my leadership not dictate to me my leadership style. The WEA wishes do not supercede the taxpayers wishes and their hard earned funds. My issue remains that better to have let Mendoza go at the end of his contract rather than WASTE $178,000 of our taxes. Money that is SORELY NEEDED for our kids. He did nothing egregious to let him go before his contract ended. That the school board could WASTE $178,000, when they say they can't afford a new boiler for the pool is telling. As a note, even before Mendoza SSD has been failing to meet NCLB benchmarks. We will move forward...at the election box. And if the school district is not more careful they can be recalled as a group. The decision IS made, and $178,000 WAS lost!
Monica G. July 25, 2011 at 07:41 PM
As a parent in the district, the loss of Dr. Mendoza is a travesty. My high school students had a better connection with him than their own school administrators. He made an effort to get to know them, listened to them, validated their concerns and ideas, followed through, and gave great advice. One of my daughters is very upset that the Speech and Debate program is being cut (among other programs) - hard to explain when $178,000 is factored in. As a part-time employee of the district, the loss of Dr. Mendoza is a disappointment to me at best. I'm speechless.

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