Aug. 17, 2019

By Jordan Russo-Hicks
Intern for the Tribune

A farewell and birthday reception was held Aug. 13 for former Lee’s Summit R-7 superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter. It was a night filled with kind hearts and blissful exchanges.

“Your absence from this school district is going to be a huge loss, but I also believe your legacy will live on when history is written on LSR7. Your legacy will live on through the students and the parents right here in this room, and your legacy will live on through your work that you and your team championed,” Lashawn Walker said as she opened the ceremony.

Recent Lee’s North High School graduate Cydni Stanford recited a riveting passage from one of Theodore Roosevelt’s most beloved speeches, “The Man in the Arena,” a favorite of Carpenter’s.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.”

The evening was spent discussing many of Carpenter’s achievements and the adversities he has faced throughout these past two years with the school district.

A man that is battle-tested will soon have to step back into battle, as Superintendent of Lawrence Public Schools Dr. Anthony Lewis, remarked, “You have much more work to do.” If that battle holds the same journey as his last, who knows, what is known is that he is more than ready and equipped for it.

Eric Lowe, former board member and president of the Hickman Mills school board, served on the board when Carpenter was brought to Kansas City. “Everywhere Dr. Carpenter goes he leaves a lasting message and a lasting effect on people,” he said. “Dr. Carpenter shines a light on the things we want to hide the most.” He has more than left his mark on the city of Lee’s Summit, regardless of where one stands on the issues at hand.

In a sense, he played the role of martyr well. The work he started upon his arrival to the school district sent a shockwave through the city. And his ambition to stay the course, no matter what, was forceful. He was the wakeup call this city so desperately needed to address its unconscious problem with inequity.

Woeful ignorance is what sparked this trailblazer’s journey to racial equity. The ignorance not only lying within race issues, but also the intrinsic importance of all students, all ages. His care for the community’s youth has always been astounding.

Laurie Betts, a former teacher in the district, spoke briefly about the crucial relationship between leadership and students. “For him to reach out to kids, some of which didn’t even attend his school [is amazing].” His mission has always been about putting the kids first. Through it all, he was a beacon of hope for all students around the district.

“This bad boy who spent two years in Lee’s Summit, purposefully got himself into some good trouble on behalf of young people who deserved a leader that might get into some good trouble,” said Carpenter.

Carpenter planted a seed in a school district that was dehydrated and in denial. But he remained committed to watching it grow. What he reaped was good trouble and he promises to get into more of it.

He concluded with lyrics from a P. Diddy song: “We ain’t goin’ nowhere, we ain’t goin’ nowhere, we can’t be stopped now, cause we are Bad Boys for life.”