Marysville School Board votes 4-0 to ask Kundu to resign

Michael Kundu - Courtesy Photo
Michael Kundu
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

MARYSVILLE — On the same day that Marysville School Board member Michael Kundu suggested that he might be willing to resign his post, his fellow Board members voted unanimously for him to do exactly that.

Although Kundu was in Washington, D.C., he spoke to The Marysville Globe by phone June 21 and reiterated his position that "the case is still out" on research he cited in a June 3 e-mail which claimed evidence of a genetically derived link between ethnicity and potential intelligence.

"It was wrong of me to say that it was definitive," Kundu said of the research he cited. "Hearing that the kids have started questioning whether their potential might be predestined has made me think seriously about standing down because of the impact that my remaining on the Board might have on the students. I don't want them questioning their own abilities because of this."

Kundu nonetheless noted that his eventual decision, which has not been made yet, would not be affected by any Board vote calling for his resignation, and expressed concern about the precedent that his resignation might set in future politically-charged policy discussions.

One of Kundu's only two defenders at the June 21 Marysville School Board meeting, John Campbell, echoed these concerns in his own remarks. He joined Marysville School District employee Hugh Fleet in suggesting that Board President Sherri Crenshaw bore the blame for circulating Kundu's e-mails. Tulalip Tribal Board member and former Marysville School Board member Don Hatch Jr. credited more than just Crenshaw with distributing the e-mail and pointed out the public nature of e-mail as a form of correspondence.

"Don't give him a leave or a sabbatical," Hatch told the Board members in reference to Kundu's submitted request. "If he doesn't resign, it's just going to escalate and if this Board doesn't vote 4-0 to call for his resignation then we'll know there's more problems."

Not only did all four of Kundu's fellow Board members vote to censure Kundu and ask for his resignation, but they also voted unanimously to approve a draft of the Marysville School District goals for 2010-14 that included the goal of closing the academic achievement gap for Native American, Hispanic, African American, English Language Learner, Special Education and low income students. Board Vice President Cindy Erickson explained her previous hesitation to approve a draft of these goals that specified the groups in need of achievement gap support.

"I wanted to close the achievement gap for all students, but it was explained to me that many times in our nation's past 'all' has not included students of color," Erickson said of the reversal in her position.

Although the Board can ask for Kundu's resignation, they can't remove him from office. Unless Kundu chooses to resign, that would require a recall from the voters.

In the meantime, the Marysville School Board heard testimony from educators and civil rights activists from across the state at its June 21 meeting. Retired Tacoma educator Delois Brown, Edmonds educator Sandra Toussaint, Kent's Ray Lee and Lynnwood's Tiffany Sims all condemned Kundu's comments while urging the Marysville School Board to close the achievement gap.

"It is unacceptable for someone who holds the views stated in that e-mail to be in a position of power affecting students," said Sims, a member of the leadership team for Families Advocating for Students of Color. "Whatever his intent, his words have had an impact."

Dr. Thelma Jackson, president of the Washington Alliance of Black School Educators, echoed the calls of her fellow speakers for the Marysville School District to live up to its vision statement of equitable educational opportunities for each of its students, "which must not be implied, but explicit." Miss Black Washington, Calista Phair of Renton, contradicted the research cited by Kundu by pointing to the academic contributions of African Americans to America as a whole throughout its history.

"It doesn't sound like a brain infraction to me," Phair said, before telling the Marysville School Board, "You are failing more Native Americans than any other district in the state."

Oscar Eason Jr., four-state area conference president of the NAACP, returned to the Marysville School Board, the day after the NAACP's 101st birthday, to repeat his dismissal of the research cited by Kundu as "hundred-year-old pseudoscience with no credibility," while Monikka Mann, a mother of three students in the Marysville School District, deemed Kundu a "modern-day Machiavelli."

"The ends do not justify the means that he's suggested," Mann said. "What he said was fertilizer, but let's use it to grow some love by getting more Tribal representation on the Board and more people to show up to Board meetings."

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