Task group files legal complaint regarding Hopi Mission School

(Mennonite Church USA/Mennonite Education Agency)—More than one year ago, Mennonite Church USA’s Executive Board appointed a task group to address concerns about the Hopi Mission School (HMS) — a K–8 school in Kykotsmovi, Arizona, affiliated with Mennonite Education Agency.

On Sept. 14, 2015, a lawyer retained by that task group on behalf of Mennonite Church USA filed a complaint to recover the land on which HMS has been operating. In the complaint, Mennonite Church USA requested that the court order the current HMS board and administration to vacate the property and return it to Mennonite Church USA.

The task group and Mennonite Church USA are committed to ensuring future Christian educational opportunities in partnership with the Hopi people in Kykotsmovi. In its complaint, Mennonite Church USA has stated its intent to operate a school at the current site of the Hopi Mission School. The exact nature of the governance of that school has not yet been determined, but Mennonite Church USA is prepared to move forward alongside the Hopi people as soon as the court confirms that Mennonite Church USA owns the land and that the current HMS board and administration must leave the property.

The task group was convened in June 2014 to address concerns about alleged financial and administrative improprieties at HMS. In June 2015, the task group sent a notice to the HMS school board, administration and staff, which included informing them that unless certain conditions were met by June 30, 2015, the organization as it is currently structured and operating would not have permission to use the Mennonite property on which the school is situated.

After many attempts to contact the HMS school board and administration, with no communication in return, the task group contracted with an Arizona lawyer to work through legal channels.

“In many ways, we are disappointed that we’ve reached this point in the process,” said Carlos Romero, executive director of Mennonite Education Agency (Elkhart, Indiana) and chair of the task group. “However, the current board and administration have not produced adequate documentation to make sure that they are operating in a safe, transparent and fiscally responsible manner. Our task group remains committed to engaging the board, administration and any other stakeholders in conversation and dialogue, and we hope to continue to partner with the Hopi people on educational initiatives in the future.”

The task group hopes to build on the many hours of service donated to HMS by volunteers across Mennonite Church USA. The group is gathering stories and information from Mennonite volunteers about their work with HMS. Individuals who have volunteered at HMS in the past or present can fill out a form about their experiences online.

Mennonite Mission Network has a long history of relating to the Hopi people at the mission school through decades of committed volunteers serving with Mennonite Voluntary Service and SOOP,” said Paula Killough, senior executive for advancement at Mennonite Mission Network and a task group member. “We are hopeful about the future of the school under new leadership.”

HMS is 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. Members of the task group include Romero; Killough; Ed Diller of Cincinnati (Ohio) Mennonite Fellowship; and Carol Roth of Open Door Fellowship in Jackson, Mississippi.

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—Mennonite Church USA staff

Prior news releases are available online.