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.