Opinion ~ May 4, 2019

My opinion: Since September 25, 2018 life in Lee’s Summit has forever shifted. For anyone who has followed the news or lived in the community you are aware that the Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan (CFMP) and Equity discussions have been identified as uncomfortable at least and pandemonium at worst.

The hyperbole with which people have approached these topics has been somewhat embarrassing. Social media has been inundated with posts, tweets, texts, and tirades of people’s opinions. We have witnessed support and dissension, assistance and avoidance, passionate pleas and political undermining. Despite what some have argued, this is not just a school issue; it is a community issue. So, where shall we go from here?

First, we must seek to serve the whole community, especially the children who are most vulnerable. Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” As the parent of 3 children in LSR7 schools, I have a dream that my children will have an opportunity to serve side by side with all students in an inclusive and equitable community. I pray that they are judged not by the hoodies they wear or the natural texture of their hair, but by the content of their character. I pray that families of all economic status are welcomed and have an opportunity to thrive in Lee’s Summit. What is your hope?

Second, we must acknowledge the fact that pervasive disparities exist between African-American and Latinx student groups in educational outcomes and social and emotional well being compared to their white peers in LSR7. According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, an achievement gap between students of color and white students exists across LSR7 at every grade level and across every content area. Many experts believe a primary and essential way of addressing these achievement gaps is to create a culture and provide structures that encourage everyone to discuss race, equity and inclusion openly, honestly, and as safely as possible in the community and school environment. We must be a community that listens to the truth about people’s lived experience, even if it is not our own. And we must be able to listen without judgement and without feeling attacked.

Finally, we must commit to collaboration – not separation. We have a history of tackling tough systemic issues in Lee’s Summit and making progress through a commitment to working together and supporting our school district. This is not the time to divide and conquer, usurp power, or start over with new leadership. We must stay the course and collaborate as a community to implement the Board approved Equity Plan. I support the work of equity and believe that our school district has the right leadership to continue work that supports ALL students.

As parents, residents, and leaders we have the opportunity to serve, acknowledge, and collaborate. How will you respond?

Lia McIntosh, Lee’s Summit parent and resident
Equity Task Force leader for over 200 families of Suburban Balance
Founder, LaShawn Walker, Lee’s Summit resident