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School Board Extends Interim Superintendent Contract, to Dismay of Incoming Members

The Sumner School Board voted to extend Craig Spencer's contract as interim superintendent of the district for one more year. Incoming members Paul Bucich and Casey Chamberlain expressed unhappiness with being excluded from the process.

Does winning an election gain you trust?

According to Sumner School Board president Sherm Voiles, the answer is no.

Last night, the Sumner School Board, including outgoing member Jeff DeMarre, gathered in an executive session and voted to extend interim superintendent Craig Spencer’s contract for one more year. Spencer’s contract now extends through June 2013.

Casey Chamberlain and Paul Bucich, the board’s newest members to be sworn in next month, vocalized their unhappiness with the board’s decision to make the move without their input. Bucich said he hadn’t received a phone call from any board members regarding extending Spencer’s contract.

“I feel like the action tonight is being done to cut the legs out from under the new board members,” said Bucich. “It shows you do not trust us. Give us an opportunity to learn what you have learned and discuss it with the remaining board members for action in December or January.”

Voiles told Bucich and Chamberlain he had a “crazy busy” week and meant to call them regarding the contract extension but didn’t find an opportunity. He said that regardless, they should trust the longstanding board members to make the right decision on behalf of the district.

“There is 100 percent support amongst the principals in our district for extending [Spencer’s] contract,” said Voiles. “All of us sitting up here have been involved in the Sumner School District for a very long time… Trust has to be earned; it doesn’t just come from winning an election.”

Extending Spencer’s contract was DeMarre’s last decision as an acting board member. He pointed out that there is a combined 40 years of experience between himself, Voiles and Mike Pavlik in the school district.

“Typically you make wiser decisions when you have experience,” said DeMarre. “If you [Chamberlain and Bucich] were to act on this at your first meeting, you would only have two hours of experience to go off of. The best decisions are made by those with the most experience.”

Chamberlain expressed his dismay at the board’s decision and urged them to wait a month so he and Bucich could participate in the decision.

“Let us, as a new board, make this decision. Trust me, do not make this decision out of fear,” said Chamberlain. “Waiting 30 days will make no difference. It will start a rift if you do this now.”

Voiles said he wanted to extend Spencer’s contract because the district needs more time to consider the right candidate and “heal” from the and the . Reading from a yellow tablet of handwritten notes taken during his interviews with district principals, Voiles noted that the whole leadership team supports Spencer and the work he’s doing in the district.

“We just need to slow down the process… a one-year extension means we could wait until August and get back on the timeline for optimal recruiting. Staff wants a stable work environment,” said Voiles. “If we did not have an outstanding interim, we would be moving a lot faster. Craig has done an outstanding job and it will allow us to take our time.”

Rick Hendricks spoke in opposition of extending the contract without including the new board members in the decision and said there has been a lack of communication between him and the district leadership team.

“We’ve never done any type of evaluation in the time that [Spencer] has been [superintendent]. I think he is doing a good job, I’ve heard he’s doing a great job, but shouldn’t we be doing some sort of evaluation?” asked Hendricks. “There are some people who I have talked to who said there have been concerns. To say it’s all warm and fuzzy, that isn’t always the case… I’ve heard some people say that no, it’s not all that great now, it’s just different.”

While Greg Hanon was not present for his last meeting as an acting member of the school board, Hendricks said Hanon disagreed with the decision to extend Spencer’s contract. Hendricks also voiced his opinion about the exit of Mendoza, who attended Bonney Lake Elementary’s 50th anniversary party earlier in the evening.

“I was never in favor of letting Gil go to begin with,” said Hendricks. “We should have let his contract finish out and we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Voiles pointed out that finding a new superintendent takes time and the extension allows everyone, including the new school board members, an opportunity to participate in a more in-depth interview process.

“This isn’t undercutting your role on the board, or cutting you out of the interview process. If nothing else, it’ll increase your role,” said Voiles. “We just need to slow down the process a bit and continue to heal and give you sufficient time to learn about your role as new board members. We want to position the Sumner School District to get the best person possible for the job.”

Kent Vallier November 17, 2011 at 08:13 PM
A very wise choice. Mr. Spencer has been a primary and an intermediate grade teacher. He was a highly successful elementary principal and started the movement of professional growth for teachers at his school (Victor Falls). After the retirement of the distinguished and highly respected William Noland, Craig oversaw the Jr. High/Middle School transition. He had very much earned the respect and trust of the leadership team and the district's teachers. What other superintendent can teach a kindergarten lesson?! Great job Sherm, Mike and Jeff.
MC November 17, 2011 at 08:15 PM
Again, the current school board has not followed basic human resource procedures with evaluations. This is part of what created the mess to begin with is not properly documenting a paper trail for personnel on the previous Superintendant. First, I am not convinced whatsoever that Gil should have been let go and certainly the school board did a horrible job documenting what they called problems with his performance. Second, here we go again not doing an evaluation of the interim superintendent. This is basic management 101 and our school board is failing its constituents. I have had experience in the mid 90’s that were negative when he was the principal of Victor Falls Elementary along with many other parents on his report with young children and his rather abrupt leadership style. Lastly, what have they done so far in the way of recruitment process to begin the hiring process of a permanent superintendant? They are missing the big picture which concerns me that they will make a thorough and educated decision for replacing the position. I hope the new board members go into their tenure with their eyes wide open as it is time to get to work!
Mickey Kohlman November 17, 2011 at 09:04 PM
MC, I agree with you about the school board and what they are doing. Rail-roading a lot of what they want, not what is good for our kids.
Gary November 17, 2011 at 09:22 PM
Well said Kent! Why were the Casey Chamberlain and Paul Bucich so opposed to to the contract extension anyways? It is pretty scary to think that these two might actually have considered reinstating Gil Mendoza. It says a lot about their character and their ability to serve objectively on the school board if that is indeed the case. Let's keep in mind too that neither of these two would even have even been elected if it wasn't for the misleading flyer that Gil Mendoza sent out on their behalf. This is all very troubling... :(
Concerned Citizen November 17, 2011 at 09:49 PM
MC I am sure there is a proper paper trail in regards to Mendoza’s departure from the district—it is the government for goodness sakes. There needs to be a little more common sense around these comments. Do you think companies release reasons for separating with their employees? Would that be appropriate? Honestly, Dr. Mendoza probably prefers that the information isn’t shared. In regards to Craig Spencer, if he is doing a great job then keep him in his position. Who says he isn't what is right for the kids? He was good enough to be interim superintendent so he should be good enough as full time for another year. I also hope that the new board members do enter into their tenure with their eyes wide open and that they are fully informed of what has happened in the past so they can move forward. Also, if these ranting posts are some sort of way to try and get Mendoza back into the position that is absurd. Do you think ANY company would hire back someone that was fired? I just hope everyone can pull their heads out of the past and move on.
Gary November 17, 2011 at 11:04 PM
To answer the question that begins the article "Does winning an election gain you trust?" in this case the answer is unfortunately no. Not in the way that this election was won. A very misleading flyer from an imaginary organization was mailed out to over 20,000 households in the district. We don't know how many votes this swayed, but it obviously gave Bucich the win and probably affected the Chamberlain outcome as well. The fact that Paul Bucich will not distance himself from Gil Mendoza (after his involvment with the flyer came to light) is not only absurd but it is very troublesome for our district and our children. Additionally, Mr. Bucich has stated in another article that he would happily support Gil Mendoza's appointment again as superintendent, and would give him as much consideration as any other candidate. Mr Bucich are you serious?!?!?!!
Julie November 18, 2011 at 12:52 AM
Mr. Voiles, you and your outgoing board members have not earned our trust or our respect. That is exactly why your fellow board members just lost their positions in the last election. I have absolutely no problem with Mr. Spencer and have actually been quite pleased with what I've seen so far. I do have a problem with the board dismissing Dr. Mendoza without any type of explanation to the voters as to why. You cost the taxpayers over $100,000 yet you feel no obligation to tell us "the real reason". What do I have to do to find out? Get a job at the Parks Department? I think the only ones who need to "heal" from Dr. Mendoza's terrible flyers are you and your buddies that just lost their jobs. It kind of stings knowing that you'll soon be losing yours as well doesn't it?
Concerned Citizen November 18, 2011 at 01:53 AM
Julie- You seem like the only bitter one here. You should probably recognize that Mr. DeMarre only lost the race by 1% (~250 votes). It doesn’t sound like a public consensus of mistrust. I am happy to hear though that you appreciate Mr. Spencer’s achievements in a very volatile circumstance. Like I said before though, if you’ve ever worked in the state of Washington you would know that a person can be hired and fired at will. I’ve never heard of a company releasing details on an employee’s termination. I’m sure that if Dr. Mendoza were to have stayed in his position he would have cost the district more than his severance. I would also like to point out that if you consider being on the school board a full time job, I would suggest you not mock someone whom you consider just lost their job. That is absolutely disgraceful and deplorable in these hard economic times. If Dr. Mendoza is such a catch I would suggest he move forward and spend his time and energy finding another position outside the district.
Julie November 18, 2011 at 03:03 AM
No, Concerned Citizen, I am not bitter at all. Both of the candidates I supported won. Well, I guess you could say I'm about 50% bitter. I still want to know what was so terrible about Dr. Mendoza that made it worth over $100,000 to get rid of him. When Supt. Jesus Gandara from The Sweetwater Union High School District near San Diego was terminated the people were told why. When Ron Durbon of the South San Antonio Independent School District was fired, the people were told why. When Kathy Augustine of the De Soto Indepenent School District was fired, the people were told why. Now, I'm sure your next argument will be that this is Washington State and it's different here. If so, how would you explain that when Maria Goodlowe -Johnson from Seattle Public Schools was fired,the people were told why? How are you so sure that if Dr. Mendoza had stayed in his position he would have cost the district more than just his severance? Why are you privy to information that the general voting public is not? No, I do not consider a school board position a full-time job (at least not on the Sumner School Board). If that were the case, Dr. Mendoza probably would have had better luck meeting with the board members that were too busy riding the train to speak with him. Honestly, I don't know if Dr. Mendoza is "such a catch". All I know is that I liked him. I saw him visiting my kids' school a lot. I saw him at sporting events and plays. Test scores improved. Why was he fired?
Terry Miller November 18, 2011 at 04:38 AM
Concerned Citizen, You might want to check results again. Jeff lost by 2% (275 votes). Also I would like to point out that what’s absolutely disgraceful and deplorable is how the combined 40 years of experience on the school board between Sherm, Mike and Jeff, is how they have become arrogant, vindictive and unwise with reckless behavior. The first thing the new incoming board needs to do is gather in an executive session and vote to remove Sherm as president of the school board. I would like to also point out that the flyer did not sway the vote, the unwise reckless comments that Sherm publicly made about the flyer did. The flyer was bait and Sherm bit, he generated additional free controversial publicity for the flyer (I bet 85% of the flyers were trashed) Jeff would have one if flyer was ignored. Concerned Citizen not drinking the Sherm, Jeff and Mike Kool-Aid
StudentVoice November 18, 2011 at 05:19 AM
Dear Concerned Citizen, Have any of the adults on the school board asked what the students want? Dr. Mendoza was extremely loved by the students. He attended all of the sporting events, book/science fairs choir/band concerts and even was seen at the SHS community dinner. He worked on getting homeless kids into school and showed true servant leadership. He supported the pool when the rest of the board sat there and simply wanted to give up on it and shut it down.I am confident when I say that the students were extremely outraged and disappointed in the decision to let him go. I hope you are aware that our school district is seen as "the good old boys club" in other districts and to teachers. I hope you see that as an insult, because they mean it that way. The board failed to give the VOTERS a GOOD reason as to why they release Dr. Mendoza. Maybe the Board should have remembered that who put them in their positions. On the topic of Mr.Spencer the students are happy with him too. He is a very nice man and is also doing well leading, but I am sure that if the public were to vote they would vote Mendoza back in. We the students, the consumers of YOUR product want Mendoza back and would love to see him there with Craig along side him. Sadly what was said by other parties in the administration tells me that most likely Mr. Spencer wouldn't like that. Hopefully the student get what they want and our community can agree again <3 Love, The Students.
Kathleen November 18, 2011 at 07:27 AM
I agree with Terry. I am beyond fed up with our school board and their power mongering. To quote Voiles. “All of us sitting up here have been involved in the Sumner School District for a very long time… Trust has to be earned; it doesn’t just come from winning an election.”. Mr.Voiles, let me be clear that that your length in office does not give you ownership of the Board. New Board members do not need to earn your trust, they earned OURS and we elected them. WE are the ones who matter. You are to represent us, not your own personal agenda or your fellow Board members. You have been unprofessional in your comments. ("Deceptive and Manipulative"). You are NOT to hand pick your own superintendent and you have a duty to interview and vet candidates to choose the best one for our District. You did that once before and you must have failed miserably because Dr. Mendoza only lasted two years. I knew Don Eismann since he came to Sumner but never met Dr. Mendoza nor know him. I have no interest in him but I do have interest that our Board of Directors get off their political high horse, put away their personal agendas and get to work for us in a responsible, OPEN and trustworthy manner or we will recall you. Limit the "executive meetings" to hide what you are doing. Odd that Mr.Voiles speaks so often about trust yet I find him to be so untrustworthy. Pot calling Kettle.
michael l November 18, 2011 at 09:22 PM
Simply put: If you are that tired of the Mendoza & SSD Board of Directors debacle, why are you posting hearsay comments and not letting this die its natural death? It seems to me that the best source of getting more accurate information is going directly to those that many of you are so eager to tear apart. Have any of you: - Personally talked face-to-face in a calm manner with Mr. (’s) Voiles, DeMarre, Hanon, Pavlik or Hendricks? - Attended SSD School Board Meetings over the last several years, several months? - Talked directly to the SSD Leadership and Executive Team? - Realized what the Superintendent’s job description and role is, for our small district? - Understood that this was a business and personale decision, not an emotional one - with attorneys’ representing all parties? - Realized that the SSD Board of Directors set policies and are not only stewards of our educational community; they protect ALL of its employees and act on their behalf? The longer that this bantering continues, the more difficult it will be for the former Superintendent to find work. If you have a comment or concern, I suggest you phone those above mentioned and stop hiding behind The Patch comments. Enough said.
Sherm Voiles November 19, 2011 at 12:02 AM
Since this ocurred in June only one person has called me to express concerns or to obtain more informatiion. I am willing at any time to address concerns or answer any questions. This had nothing to do with "power mongering" or the board's "wants". I have volunteered thousands of hours to the Sumner School District over 20 years and I care deeply about the success of our district. Just ask yourself, what would be my motive for "wanting" to push Gil out??? The reasons for Dr. Mendoza's separation were many, but the bottom line is that he had lost the trust and confidence of virtually every administrator in the Sumner School District. Sherm Voiles 253-335-0485.
Kathleen November 19, 2011 at 06:39 AM
Sherm, As it is 10:30PM and I am still at work from a long day, I will try to call you this weekend if I can. If you had clear and documented reasons that Dr. Mendoza broke his contractual obligations it could easily be reported to the District is simple language, enough let the served public know.
David Coutts November 24, 2011 at 07:40 PM
1.) The Freedom Of Information Act dictates that any and all information shall be made public; all one has to do is submit the proper paperwork to the district. 2.) A " combined 40 years of experience" is nothing to hang your hat on if you represented SSD lately; that IS the definition of a good- ol'- boys club. 3.) Or differences should not be settled on this wonderful blog site, it should be settled on your ballot as it was in this most recent ejection... oops... election. Darn auto-correct.
Kathleen November 25, 2011 at 03:51 AM
Under FIA, you have to know what to ask for when you submit the paperwork...many people do not know how to ask for correct meeting minutes, etc. The best course of for disclosure to the public in simple terms....good distributed communication solves many things. The recent election did not solve anything as tensions and mistrust is running high on the Board. And blogs are...well blogs...a place of multiple opinions.

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