By Mallory Herrmann
The school board had planned to discuss the approval of a contract with an equity consultant at their regular meeting this week. Pacific Educational Group (PEG) was prepared to offer a staff training regarding white privilege and issues of race in schools. The board received pushback from the community after publishing the agenda for their Sept. 25 meeting the Friday before. The PEG agenda item was removed on Saturday.
Eight residents, who all identified themselves as parents of current or former students in the Lee’s Summit R-7 district, spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. Many expressed concerns about the level of transparency provided by the board in addressing issues of equity, discussions of the Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan (CFMP) and possible boundary changes.
Some raised concerns about the possibility that their kids will end up in different schools from their current peer groups and friends if the boundaries are changed. Others were skeptical that PEG was an appropriate vendor choice to meet the district’s needs. Lindi Todd, president of the Lee’s Summit National Education Association, inquired why three bids had not been sought before deciding on PEG as a vendor.
Glenn Singleton is the author of Courageous Conversations About Race and the founder of PEG. He was prepared to come to Lee’s Summit the first week of October for the workshop, pending the board’s approval of the $7,000 expenditure. The program is designed on the PEG website as a “a process to understand and discuss race explicitly.”
Superintendent Dennis Carpenter said that Singleton’s and PEG’s work is designed to support communities grappling with issues of race and to reflect on strategies that can be employed.
“We’re not ready as a community to begin that conversation,” Carpenter said. He continued that the board would still hear the planned data presentation regarding demographic achievement gaps on Oct. 3, but asked, “Then what?” His intent was to bring in Singleton as an expert to discuss the information as presented.
The board of education will meet again on Oct. 25.