By Eric Stoyanov
As the new school year begins, parents, teachers, administrators and students are feeling lucky to live in Lee’s Summit. The city offers a wide array of educational options. The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District is consistently ranked among the best school districts in the country. St. Michael the Archangel High School is entering its second school year; and The Missouri Innovation Campus is offering students exciting new opportunities that were not previously available.
“I think we’re really fortunate in Lee’s Summit to have so many options,” said Kristen Seelbrede, a parent whose daughter attends Our Lady of the Presentation Catholic School.
Jodie Maddox is the principal of St. Michael the Archangel High School. She’s been amazed at the outpouring of support the new school has received. Maddox also added that she’s excited to be a part of a great community.
“Lee’s Summit has great things to offer when it comes to education. They’re very family-focused. They understand how important it is to really know what industry and colleges are looking for,” Maddox said. “I feel privileged to be a part of the Lee’s Summit community because of the good work they’re doing in education.”
St. Michael the Archangel opened its doors with 300 students. In its second year, the school will have about 340 students and is hoping to grow to 450 students within the next two years.
Among the unique offerings that set St. Michael apart from others schools, according to Maddox, are its SMILE Program and Learning Academies.
The SMILE Program helps students of all abilities to learn and grow. Juniors and seniors are picked to mentor students who need more help in the classroom. Students can also choose to take part in learning academies if they have a specific field of interest. Those learning academies include aviation, business technology, computer science, engineering and healthcare.
“We partner with Lee’s Summit Airport and we’re working with Saint Luke’s East. We’re working really hard to involve other stakeholders outside of our school,” Maddox said.
The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District also has big plans for the new school year. The district recently announced its priorities for the 2018-2019 school year. The top priority is to increase the achievement of every child through a focus on innovative practices, student well-being and equity in program design and implementation.
“How do we create school spaces that are innovative, that allow kids and teachers to work on real-world problem solving? That type of problem-solving is going to be commanded of them when they inhabit their future,” said Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter.
Dr. Carpenter also noted the need for more engagement and collaboration with families and the community. The school district plans to increase opportunities for the community to be involved.
“Communication is what undergirds all of those priorities,” Dr. Carpenter said. “We have to hear our community voices.”
The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District is one of only four school districts in the Kansas City area to receive an A+ score in Niche’s 2019 Best School Districts in America ranking. The district was No. 321 overall in the rankings. The Blue Valley School District and Blue Springs School District were the only Kansas City area school districts to rank higher.
“We chose Lee’s Summit intentionally because of the quality of the school district, the community and it’s definitely a great place to raise kids,” said Teri Curp, a parent with a child in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District. “As a parent and as an educator, I wanted to be in Lee’s Summit.”
While the school district continues to gain national attention for the quality of education it provides, Dr. Carpenter knows teachers and administrators need to work hard daily to ensure all students receive the best educational experience possible.
“Each and every day, we report that our mission is to prepare each student for success in life. When we do that well, young people thrive. When we do that well, the community thrives,” Dr. Carpenter said.
One way the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District is helping prepare students to excel at the next level is through The Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC). MIC is a collaboration between the district, Metropolitan Community College and the University of Central Missouri. The program allows students to start earning college credit during their junior year of high school. Students can then receive their bachelor’s degree just two years after graduating from high school or complete a workforce certificate program.
The goal of The Missouri Innovation Campus is to reduce the amount of time it takes students to complete their degree, which in turn reduces student debt. Students also participate in internships, helping them gain real-world experience.
Summit Technology Academy (STA) is another program designed to help students excel that’s located at the Missouri Innovation Campus. STA is a shared campus of students in their junior and senior years, who come together for a half-day program as an extension of their home high school. STA shares the facility with the University of Central Missouri – Lee’s Summit, creating a professional collegiate atmosphere for students from 30 public and private high schools sent from 18 school districts.
The educational opportunities available to students in Lee’s Summit extend beyond St. Michael the Archangel, Lee’s Summit R7 School District and The Missouri Innovation Campus.
Summit Christian Academy serves 800 students from preschool to 12th grade. It’s accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International and AdvancED. Summit Christian Academy offers dual-credit courses to give students a jumpstart on their college education.
“We have over 70 dual-credit courses available to our students. Most of our kids graduate here with about two years of college under their belt,” said Linda Harrelson, head of school at Summit Christian Academy.
Summit Christian Academy has seen its enrollment steadily climbing. One of the priorities for this school year is expanding the number of classrooms to accommodate all of the students.
“We have the opportunity to touch kids’ lives and make a great difference one kid at a time. And that is why we’re here and we look forward to serving many, many more students in the coming years,” Harrelson said.
Our Lady of the Presentation Catholic School is for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. It’s been named one of the best schools in the country and received a Blue Ribbon Award from the Department of Education in 2014. Our Lady of the Presentation was one of just 50 private schools to receive the award.
“The teachers are very dedicated and the parents are highly involved at Presentation. I think there’s so much focus on every student to do well and be successful, not only in academics but also in their spiritual and social well-being as well,” Seelbrede said.
There are many options available for students entering college. Metropolitan Community College-Longview gives students the opportunity to complete their associate degree. Degree programs include teaching, engineering, business and computer science. The University of Central Missouri also has a campus in Lee’s Summit offering both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
While the options available to students and parents in Lee’s Summit are endless, there’s one common theme that unites all of the institutions: preparing students for the next phase in their lives. Education is quickly changing as are the needs of future employers. The goal of all the schools in Lee’s Summit is to make sure students are ready for whatever comes next and developing the next generation to be thoughtful, engaged and ready to confront any challenge they may face.