Board Secretary Linda Ismert swears in new Board Members Megan Marshall, Kathy Campbell and Kim Fritchie

June 13, 2020

Mallory Herrmann

Change is happening in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District. At a June 9 meeting, two new board members were sworn in and a new president and vice president were elected by the seven-member board.

Board Members Megan Marshall and Kathy Campbell joined the board after winning seats in the June 2 election. Board Member Kim Fritchie was reelected to a new term.

Board Member Ryan Murdock was elected by his fellow board members to serve as president; Fritchie was elected vice president for the upcoming year. Murdock, who served as the board’s vice president during the 2019–2020 school year, was approved with a unanimous vote.

The board and the district have been through a dramatic year, including the forced resignation of its first African American superintendent (and its second superintendent to resign amid controversy in three years), hesitancy from the board in supporting equity training, racially insensitive marks from the board’s own dais, and a recently trending hashtag on social media (#OurStruggleLSR7) used to recount stories of racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and other exclusionary behavior from teachers, staff and students.

Board Member Mike Allen nominated Fritchie for the vice president spot, and Marshall nominated herself.

Board Member Julie Doane, the outgoing board president, asked both nominees what the board could expect from them as leaders.

“We have an opportunity to fix what is broken,” Marshall said, acknowledging that she likely wouldn’t have the votes to be named board vice president but saying that it was a symbolic moment. Marshall is the first African American board member in the district’s history.

She handed out packets to each board member that included a copy of a petition requesting “a clear framework for disciplining teachers, administrators, and staff for perpetuating and tolerating harmful, prejudice behavior”; “hiring practices that foster diverse teaching and support staff”; “coursework that highlights marginalized communities and authors, and not just in a negative manner”; and other policies to promote diversity and inclusion.

As of the board’s Tuesday night meeting, the petition had been signed by more than 500 people, including current students, alumni from as far back as 1980, district teachers and parents, and community members. Many of them, Marshall said, were part of a demonstration in support of the petition in the parking lot of the Stansberry Leadership Center before and during the meeting.

Another petition on asks the district to “add resources on multicultural awareness and racism to LSR7 schools.” That petition had more than 2,500 signatures as of Tuesday evening.

Citing “missteps” over the last few years, Marshall said that the problems the district is facing cannot be ignored any longer. She read from a recent statement from the Blue Springs School District that promises to work with specific committees to develop anti-racist and equity-focused action plans for the 2020–2021 school year. Marshall said it was “embarrassing” that our own school district hadn’t taken similar steps, instead simply offering to “listen and learn.”

“Our students deserve better,” Marshall said, advocating for direct action. “Our community deserves better.”

Fritchie said that she is qualified to serve as vice president, pointing to leadership roles in the community, her history of helping students and her experience teaching kindergarten Sunday school for 18 years.

“I’m all about helping our students,” Fritchie said. She said that her long history and involvement with the district meant that she is very familiar with each of the schools and that she is eager to put the focus back on the kids.

“I know this community and I know our schools,” she said.

She also wanted to set the record straight when it comes to her voting record on the matter of equity training, saying that she initially voted against the contract only because she felt more information was needed before making a decision on “big ticket items” that cost the district a lot of money.

The one-year contract with Educational Equity Consultants (EEC) to provide equity training for administrators, teachers and staff costs $97,000.

Fritchie said that the board remains committed to equity and, in response to Marshall’s call for action, that the equity plan approved by the board in Feb. 2019 does address curriculum and policy revisions.

“It’s a timeline issue,” Fritchie said. “We will get to that.”

Fritchie was elected vice president with a 5–1 vote. Marshall voted for herself and Campbell abstained, saying she believes Fritchie has the best experience for the role but that she’s concerned that change needs to happen at a faster pace.

Allen commended Marshall for her passion and commitment and said he believes serving as a board member, not in an officer role, will offer more “a little more latitude” to promote change.

“You have a tremendous opportunity,” Allen told her.

The board adjourned after the vote to begin a work session.

A statement from Dr. David Buck, superintendent, following the meeting acknowledged the hashtag and the demonstration.

“LSR7’s Equity Plan approved in February 2019 provides a framework to enact long-term, sustainable change in the district, and we have communicated our firm commitment to that plan,” the statement read, in part.