Marysville school official Kundu resigns before meeting

MARYSVILLE — School board member Michael Kundu resigned from office Monday without addressing the controversy over race that forced his premature exit.

His departure came three weeks to the day after the board unanimously asked him to step down for “inexcusable” comments connecting racial genetics to learning ability.

Kundu e-mailed his resignation letter to the school board shortly before its Monday night meeting. He did not specify a reason for his resignation, which was accepted without comment 4-0 by the board. He did not attend the meeting.

Instead, he focused his resignation letter on accomplishments. He first won office in 2003 and was re-elected to a four-year term in November.

He singled out his work for minority students and encouraged the board to add a permanent seat for a tribal member.

The district has nearly 12,000 students. About 9 percent are American Indian. The school board has had tribal members in the past, but none currently.

“I have discussed and pursued this goal for a number of years unsuccessfully, but still hold firm that such a permanent position would only benefit the communication, engagement and accountability between the district leadership and the Tulalip students,” he wrote.

The Tulalip Tribes were among several groups seeking Kundu’s resignation. Tulalip Tribal chairman Mel Sheldon was at the school board meeting Monday.

“He did the right thing,” Sheldon said. “Now we can go on and heal from this whole episode and get back to education.”

Kundu ignited a firestorm of criticism in early June when he argued in two e-mails that racial genetics play a “definitive factor” in intelligence.

The remarks came during a broader discussion among school officials on the achievement gap — the way minority groups sometimes are perceived to lag behind their peers in school.

He cited a study by a controversial Canadian psychologist ranking the intellect of the races to support his point.

After the e-mails became public, dozens of people filled school board meetings in protest. Some carried signs with slogans such as “Kundu Can’t Do.” Some threatened a recall election. Most asked for him to leave office.

Kundu at first defended his remarks as free speech, but also issued some apologies.

He called the study he cited the work of a racist. He said he regretted damaging the self-esteem of minority students. In his resignation letter, he urged the board to “aggressively pursue the best available science” to aid student achievement.

While he now has left office, hurt remains over his e-mails.

Monikka Mann, 33, has three daughters attending Marysville schools. She said damage from Kundu’s comments will linger. She remains concerned that poisonous ideas exist in the district.

“Just because he’s stepping down doesn’t mean this issue is over,” she said.

Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455; arathbun@heraldnet.com.

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