Oct. 26, 2019

Mallory Herrmann

Parents again vocalized support for equity initiatives within the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District at the board of education meeting this week.

The recent departure of Dawn Smith, assistant superintendent of equity and student services, from district leadership and encouragement from the Lee’s Summit R-7 business roundtable to delay the search for a new superintendent are stoking concerns in the community that the board is not taking action on equity swiftly enough.

Smith has joined the North Kansas City School District. Her resignation was announced last week.

The R-7 eNews Update on Oct. 15 read, in part, “The district will be working through this adjustment in the next several months. With this, we have appointed Dr. Rexanne Hill to fulfill additional responsibility in the student services area and Dr. Christy Barger to fulfill additional responsibility in the equity area. More information will be forthcoming as future decisions are made regarding these areas of responsibility.”

The minutes from the Oct. 16 business roundtable meeting show that member Bill Brown suggested the district delay the search for the superintendent. Dr. Dennis Carpenter resigned as Lee’s Summit’s superintendent in July after months of turmoil related primarily to racial bias and equity issues.

As part of the board’s consent agenda, they approved an added cost of $400 in advertising the superintendent search at two additional sources: NASBE (National Alliance of Black School Educators) and ALAS (Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents).

Michael Shaw, a district parent, said he is disappointed in the implications of the business roundtable meeting and concerned about the status of the superintendent search, particularly given the current representation in district leadership.

“You need diversity of thought and understanding,” Shaw said.

Mary Humphreys said that while she is a teacher for the district, she was addressing the board as a parent. Citing the district’s swift enactment of a vaping policy in the 2018–2019 school year and changes to strengthen the disciplinary actions for the current school year, she said it’s clear that the district has the ability to act swiftly – just not with equity – and that she is concerned the equity plan will stall yet again.

“Speeding up the equity plan is, in fact, possible if you, the board of education, decide to make it a priority,” Humphreys said.

Megan Goss, a language arts teacher at Lee’s Summit West High School, identified herself as a straight, cis-gendered ally and requested that the board add sexual orientation and gender identity to the district’s nondiscrimination policy. Referencing the addition of such protections in other area school districts and the current transition of equity leadership in Lee’s Summit, Goss advocated for a more inclusive policy that she said would benefit both students and staff.

During the public comments portion of the board of education meetings, board members do not typically respond to any comments made and that was the case at this month’s meeting.

All board members were present; Jackie Clark attended via teleconference.