June 22, 2019

By Mayor Bill Baird

For many Lee’s Summit citizens there was a sigh of relief this past week when the school board passed an equity training and moved our community forward.

The board sought to listen, understand, and discuss by doing their own face to face communications to come to a consensus. All board members but one moved forward in a collaborative and pragmatic wayand by doing so they reassured that we are dedicated to being an inclusive and equitable community. It took some additional time, research, and discussions, but the board and superintendent moved forward together. On behalf of the City of Lee’s Summit, I thank the LSR7 School Board for their actions.

For more than a year the citizens of LSR7 have had difficult and uncomfortable conversations about equity, equality, the achievement gap, race relations, and poverty. We will have more conversations because we are an engaged and passionate community.

As we continue these conversations, let us focus on the “way” we do so. The way we conduct ourselves is what builds and reinforces our reputation and brand as a community.

We cannot look to bring out the worst in others when we disagree. We cannot fall into the trap by allowing others to bring out the worst in us. We must discuss and debate to challenge ourselves to be better and not make decisions in haste.

We should debate the issues and push back on coded language, insensitive words, or rationale based on false assumptions. What we cannot do is condemn someone in their entirety, a group in its entirety, or a community in its entirety.

The more we as citizens, organizations, administrators, and elected officials hold ourselves and each other accountable to respectful conversations, the more we will be seen as a community of inclusion and as a city that others aspire to emulate.

We are a welcoming, caring, and inclusive city with the finest school district and teachers in the state. The passage of the equity training simply reinforces this. It has been painful for our citizens to have our community’s character questioned locally, regionally, and even nationally.

The media coverage was at times biased or focused on the actions of a few. However, in many respects, we allowed our character to be questioned by letting social media feeds substitute for meaningful face-to-face communications, by not seeking to understand another’s point of view or even to listen to others, and by condemning people instead of their actions or words.

Our incredible reputation was built by stakeholders and civic leaders making highly debated, difficult, and bold decisions to move our community forward. No matter if you are an elected official, administrator, organization, or citizen, we all have a duty to protect our brand by behaving and debating with respect and civility.

The adoption of the equity training was a first step in the equity plan. As citizens, I ask that we allow the process to move forward as the school board has directed by supporting their decision, by listening and seeking to understand, by discussing and debating in respectful communications, and by exemplifying that we are a welcoming, caring, and inclusive community.

This is who we have always been. This is who we are. This is who we aspire to be. This is our brand.