(Mennonite Church USA/Mennonite Education Agency)—A task force convened in July 2014 to address concerns about the administration and financial ethics of the Hopi Mission School (HMS) in Kykotsmovi, Arizona, presented a list of recommendations to the HMS school board and staff in early June 2015.
The recommendations, approved by the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board in April, included informing the current HMS board, administration and staff that, effective June 30, 2015, the organization as it is currently structured and operating would not have permission to use the Mennonite property the school is situated on.
HMS is a K–8 school affiliated with Mennonite Education Agency and located on land that was deeded to Mennonite Church USA specifically for the purposes of Anabaptist education and mission. The school was founded in 1951 to meet the interests of Hopi Christian families desiring alternative education for their children.
The recommendations asked the current school board and administration to cooperate with the task force on audits and strategic planning that would address concerns about the school’s financial dealings and structure.
“One message that we want to say loud and clear is that Mennonite Church USA is committed to the Hopi Mission School,” said Carlos Romero, executive director of Mennonite Education Agency and chair of the task force. “We believe this is a valuable ministry, and we have no intentions of walking away. We want to walk alongside the Hopi Mission School to ensure that its legacy of quality Anabaptist education continues.”
The Task Force’s April report also included the following recommendations:
- Until further notice, Mennonite Church USA individuals and congregations should not make donations directly to the Hopi Mission School; all donations for the Hopi Mission School should be directed to Mennonite Church USA or to the Hopi Mission School Foundation.
- Further conversations will take place with the school board, Hopi Nation Tribal Council, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Arizona Department of Education about the school.
- Effective June 30, 2015, the Hopi Mission School organization, as it is currently structured, does not have permission to use the Mennonite property unless the school administration cooperates with the Task Force on a number of requests for reforms and information.
The task force stipulated that, should the HMS board and administration refuse to cooperate with the Mennonite Church USA task force and to make it clear that they are operating in a transparent and fiscally responsible manner by June 30, Mennonite Church USA would assume responsibility for restructuring the way in which the school is organized, ensuring that the school’s educational mission is carried out.
The task force was formed by the Executive Board to gather information and facts related to concerns about the HMS, including allegations of financial misconduct and deteriorating connections between the school board, the Hopi Mission School Foundation and several Mennonite Church USA agencies. The task force had many conversations with HMS staff, board members, community members and others. Members of the task force included Romero; Ed Diller of Cincinnati (Ohio) Mennonite Fellowship; Paula Killough, advancement director for Mennonite Mission Network, Elkhart, Indiana; and Carol Roth of Open Door Fellowship in Jackson, Mississippi.
—Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Education Agency staff