Embattled Marysville school leader Michael Kundu says no to legislators meeting

MARYSVILLE — Embattled Marysville school leader Michael Kundu won’t meet with state lawmakers who condemned him for comments linking race with learning ability.

Those Democrat and Republican lawmakers sought the sit-down days after they sent Kundu a letter expressing outrage and indignation at his assertions. That June 14 letter signed by 23 legislators urged him to apologize and “act with honor in bringing closure to this appalling incident.”

Kundu said last week he saw no value in meeting with them as none tried to get his side of the story before signing the letter. Instead they “jumped at a chance to play ‘politics,’” he wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

“They acted rash and viscerally without doing their homework,” he wrote. “They were quick to judge, without exercising judicious diligence in learning of my actual track record, nor proactively seeking clarity or context of our discussion.”

Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, who did not sign the letter, had tried to arrange the meeting. Kundu has also responded to him expressing his reticence, Sells said.

“That’s his choice,” Sells said. “If he doesn’t want to meet, I can’t force him.”

This doesn’t extinguish the firestorm ignited by Kundu.

He’s under pressure from community leaders and board members to resign. He has not said yet if he will step down or try to serve his full term, which runs through 2013.

Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, one of the initiators of the letter, said Kundu’s refusal to meet “shows his arrogance and why he should not be there.

“He’s failed to meet with Marysville community leaders. He’s failed his colleagues on the school board and he’s disgraced himself,” Hope said. “He should have resigned.”

Kundu, who works in external affairs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is the center of attention because of e-mails he wrote to school officials last month in which he argued racial genetics were a “definitive factor” in learning ability. As support, he cited a much criticized study by a Canadian psychologist ranking the intellect of the races.

He has since apologized for making a definitive conclusion and faulted the original study, calling it the work of a racist. He said he was trying to spur debate, not promote discrimination.

On June 21, his fellow school board members voted to censure Kundu, calling his comments on racial genetics and academic success “inexcusable, utterly baseless and highly offensive.” They requested his immediate resignation from the board, which he was first elected to in 2003.

Last year, voters elected Kundu to a new four-year term.

Kundu has said he won’t announce a decision until later this summer.

Reporter Andy Rathbun contributed to this report.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623, jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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