June 17, 2019

By Mallory Herrmann

The Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education has scheduled another special session to discuss equity training for the school district.

At a June 17 work session, board members asked additional questions of members of the RFP committee, who had worked with Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter to recommend Educational Equity Consultants (EEC) for the contract.

“This is a somewhat dangerous precedent,” Carpenter cautioned the group, noting that it is not standard practice for board members to apply this level of scrutiny, particularly throughout multiple meetings, to a contract recommended by staff and proposed by the superintendent.

The questions and concerns voiced by the board members opposing the contract with EEC include ensuring that the training will address all subgroups and not just one race, the timeline of training across all buildings and staff, other school districts’ experiences and recommendations, and the inclusion of evaluation or modifications throughout the program.

Board Member Mike Allen requested the option to cancel the one-year contract early if the board is not satisfied with progress, a suggestion that did not gain much traction with district staff due to the nature of this type of training, which is likely to require long-term engagement to succeed.

Board President Julie Doane prefaced her own question by saying, “Don’t think that this is about me,” before asking how the board can ensure that teachers are given the opportunity to speak openly without being ridiculed.

District staff again emphasized the need for relationship-based and small-group discussions to encourage engagement in open and honest conversation, free of shame or blame. They said it was this focus in EEC’s training that led them to recommend their proposal to the board, adding that the other proposal they considered was more academic-based with a primary focus on lectures to staff, rather than conversation with them.

After about an hour of discussion, the board voted unanimously to schedule a special session for Wednesday, June 19. The only agenda item will be consideration of the EEC contract and no public comments will take place.

The additional consideration comes after the board heard from numerous parents desperate for action to be taken toward training for teachers, administrators and staff on unconscious and implicit bias at the June 13 regular session. But the board took no action toward either approving a contract with EEC or identifying another way forward.

The board voted 4–3 against the EEC contract at their May 16 meeting, during which Doane made racially insensitive comments that garnered national media attention and fueled an already tense discussion of racial inequity and bias across the district.

At a scheduled work session on June 14, the board decided to add EEC to their Monday work session agenda. The board reportedly agreed at that meeting that bringing the proposal forward for a second no vote would be likely to cause further division in the district.

The special session is schedule for 6:00 p.m. at the Stansberry Leadership Center on Wednesday, June 19.