Mallory Herrmann

The Lee’s Summit R-7 board of education voted during a closed session last week to enter into negotiations with Dr. Dennis Carpenter, district superintendent, to extend his contract.

The board heard comments from seven members of the public, including teachers and district parents, regarding Carpenter’s performance at their Jan. 17 work session. The feedback was largely positive, thanking the superintendent for his passion and his efforts to close achievement gaps.

Some who spoke specifically referenced a letter submitted to the board from members of the Lee’s Summit chapter of the NEA (National Education Association), which called on members to delay the vote or to oppose a contract extension. The email was signed by three NEA members, including the chapter’s interim president, who later apologized for sending the letter on behalf of the group. Many members said they didn’t know about the email until after it had been sent and that no vote was held on whether the chapter agreed with its message.

The concerns voiced in the letter include Carpenter’s request to have a diversity training presentation from the Pacific Education Group (PEG) last fall, an initiative that was removed from the board’s agenda after public backlash. It also suggests that student achievement gaps “should be addressed with all our minority populations, and not just focused on our black population.”

Erica Wilson, parent of a student at Great Beginnings, acknowledged how difficult and uncomfortable this work can be, but thanked Carpenter for his commitment to facing equity issues.

“Lee’s Summit is growing and changing rapidly—we know that—but we cannot afford to ignore the fact that some of the most critical issues we face as a community and as a school district intersect,” Wilson said.

She said that her child is at the intersection of some of our most vulnerable populations, as a child of color and as someone who has learning differences.

“Significant populations of our students live in these margins and we have many opportunities ahead of us to do right by our most vulnerable,” Wilson continued. “We’re lucky that Dr. Carpenter is so uniquely suited to help us continue tackling and facing these issues.”