December 19, 2020
Dr. Jennifer Kephart has been named the School District of Washington’s new Superintendent, effective July 1, 2021. The Board of Education made the announcement during its monthly meeting on Wednesday, December 16.
Kephart replaces Dr. Lori VanLeer, who will retire following the 2020-21 school year after serving 13 years as the SDOW Superintendent.
Kephart currently is in her second year as Associate Superintendent of Academic Services of the Lee’s Summit School District. This is her fourth year in the Lee’s Summit School District after previously serving as Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education for two years.
“I am thrilled and honored to be a part of the Washington community and serve the district as the new superintendent. Through Dr. VanLeer’s leadership, a solid foundation has been established that will allow us to continue our growth into the future,” Kephart said. “The School District of Washington‘s vision, past accomplishments, and future potential align with my personal and professional core beliefs. After researching and understanding the community, the decision was simple. We are happy to be a part of such a progressive and welcoming area.”
The Lee’s Summit School District is the sixth largest school district in Missouri with over 18,000 students in 29 schools. Kephart supervises the Academic Services team with 10 administrators and the Instructional Operations support staff of over 60 specialists, department chairs, and support staff.
“The Board of Education is thrilled to have Dr. Jennifer Kephart as the new leader of the School District of Washington,” said Board of Education President John Freitag. “Dr. Kephart’s vision and enthusiasm for the School District of Washington along with her previous experience in innovative student curriculum were some of the qualities that made her a unanimous choice by the Board of Education. Dr. Kephart will continue to expand opportunities for the students of the School District of Washington initiated by Dr. VanLeer.”
Kephart has extensive teaching and administration experience, all in the Kansas City area.
Prior to her time with the Lee’s Summit School District, Kephart worked as the Executive Director of Elementary Education for Liberty Public Schools for three years (2014-17), Director of Curriculum for the Park Hill School District for four years (2010-2014), Elementary Administrator for Prairie Point Elementary in the Park Hill School District for three years (2007-2010), and Elementary Administrator for Hillcrest Elementary in the Belton School District for one year (2006-2007).
“As a school administrator, the top qualities begin with heart and passion,” Kephart said. “The ability to listen and learn from others while showing that you care provides the first step for a district administrator to build trust and engage with students, staff, and community members. Once the establishment of trust and care is made, a focus on growth and further district alignment can be made.”
In the classroom, Kephart was a sixth-grade teacher for Plaza Middle School in the Park Hill School District for four years (2002-2006) and a fifth-grade teacher for Rosehill Elementary School in the Shawnee Mission School District for four years (1998-2002).
“What I appreciated most in the classroom as a teacher were the connections that I can make with my students, and that spurred me on to want to ensure that all teachers were making those connections with students, and that’s why I went into administration. My heart is for kids and enriching their school experience,” Kephart said.
Kephart earned her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Cornell College, her Master of Science in Educational Administration from Emporia State University, and her Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from Saint Louis University.
“A successful administrator has a vision for the future, which includes access and opportunities for students and staff to excel in the pursuit of their future. My commitment to providing students with multiple opportunities to engage in finding their passions and developing workforce-ready skills is at the core of my beliefs as an educator,” Kephart said. “The ability to partner with the community in order to explore student strengths, ignite passion, and provide multiple paths to workforce experiences prior to graduation brings personalized learning and mastery of K-12 education to the forefront.”
Although not officially beginning her new role until July 1, Kephart is anxious to start building relationships immediately.
“Most importantly for me is to listen and learn from community members, listen to staff members, listen to students. Building that connection is very important to me,” Kephart said. “I want to make sure I spend my time being visible, learning from the staff and the community. That will be the first area of focus for me.”
Kephart will hit the ground running with the SDOW with among other things, the COVID-19 pandemic, the new South Point Elementary, and the hiring of a new Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at the forefront.
“The Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum is a critical position. I want to make sure we fill it with someone who can continue the legacy and build upon the next steps with real-world connections,” Kephart said.
“Dr. VanLeer sent me the plans for the new school from the architect firm, so I was able to see the space, some of the furniture and the color palettes. I’m very excited about it. Every school district is dealing with the pandemic. Collectively, we will be a part of healing the community from a polarizing last few months that we’ve all been through. Bringing the community back together, re-engaging them in our schools and that common purpose is going to be so critical for every district, but certainly one that I want to be able to contribute to in Washington.”
Kephart grew up in Overland Park, Kan., and attended Shawnee Mission South High School. Her husband, Pete, is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. Lt. Col. Pete Kephart currently serves as the Division Aviation Operations Officer with the Army National Guard and maintains a civilian Airline Transport Pilot rating as well. Her son, Murphy, 18, is a freshman at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Her step-daughter Shelby, 9, is in fourth grade.
“We enjoy spending time at our lake house on Lake of the Ozarks. That’s our quiet place to go boating, be on the water, and just enjoy sitting on the dock as a family,” Kephart said. “Since my husband is a pilot, we also enjoy taking our Cessna 310 on weekend trips to see and experience other towns. I also enjoy swimming and biking, so I look forward to more time on the Katy trail.”
Kephart is looking forward to settling in to the Washington community.
“Our family is really excited. I’ve spent some time with Dr. VanLeer, and what an amazing woman and leader. I’m excited to learn from her and make sure that we have a smooth transition,” Kephart said. “I look forward to expanding opportunities for each student to connect their passions through experiences in learning while preparing them to be life-ready. I value the care and dedication of the Washington teachers and staff, and I am excited to lead, grow, and serve the staff well into the future.”