NOTE: There has been a location change for this event. In response to requests from staff and community members, the Board of Education’s question-and-answer session with Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter, new R-7 superintendent, is being moved from the Stansberry Leadership Center to Lee’s Summit West High School, 2600 SW Ward Road. Meeting time remains the same — 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18. The meeting is also being videotaped and will be shared with the community later this week via the district’s YouTube channel.
The following communication went to all Lee’s Summit R-7 staff members on Jan. 16 and is being shared with the community.
In the past 48 hours the LSR7 Board of Education has been inundated with phone calls, texts and emails. We greatly appreciate the input from staff and community members in order for us to do our job. Based on information you have shared with us, we have considered your concerns. I apologize up front for the length of this communique, but matters of this importance cannot be addressed in a simple and abbreviated fashion.
Here are the FACTS as we know them:
- Dr. Carpenter is aware that a very high percentage of our staff reside in our district and send their children to our schools. Therefore our staff is deeply invested in our schools. The investment of our staff is evident in all that our teachers do and the exemplary services that they deliver. This was one of the reasons Dr. Carpenter cited as motivation for his application.
- Thursday night’s report on Channel 41 regarding Dr. Carpenter was false, and unfairly smeared Dr. Carpenter. Our attorney has investigated the lawsuits mentioned in that report, and has found that contrary to the Channel 41 report, Dr. Carpenter was not named as a defendant in either of those suits. Therefore, he does not, as Channel 41 reported, “face age discrimination lawsuits.” This is consistent with the due diligence that the Board conducted before offering the Superintendent position to Dr. Carpenter.
- The suit that was the primary focus of the Channel 41 report arose after the Hickman Mills board of education adjusted its teacher salary schedule to provide higher pay for teachers with advanced degrees, because Hickman Mills was losing those teachers to school districts (like Lee’s Summit) that placed a higher value on teachers with graduate degrees. That process was the subject of extensive reporting by the Kansas City Star in February and March 2015. Those reports reflect that there was extensive collaboration between the teachers and administration of Hickman Mills on revisions to the salary schedule, and that the Hickman Mills board directed Dr. Carpenter to return with “even more aggressive proposals” after he presented a proposal that had been agreed upon by him and a committee that included 10 teachers. In none of the news reports on that process did anyone suggest that the Hickman Mills board, let alone Dr. Carpenter, was discriminating against teachers based on their age. So it is grossly unfair for the media, or any member of our community, to suggest that Dr. Carpenter engaged in that sort of conduct. Rather, the Hickman Mills board was faced with making a difficult choice in order to retain what it believed to be its most-qualified teachers. Deciding how much to value experience vs. education is fundamentally a policy choice that every board of education must make when setting salaries.
- The other age discrimination suit mentioned in the Channel 41 report was brought by someone who was not hired for an assistant principal job. The court file for that case reflects that principals were responsible for interviewing candidates and recommending the assistant principals with whom they wished to work. The court file also shows that in this case, the principal formed a committee of staff within her school to interview assistant principal candidates, and she allegedly told one of other people on the committee that the plaintiff should be given lower marks because of his age. There is also a claim in the suit that the principal destroyed notes taken by other members of the hiring committee who supported hiring the plaintiff. Dr. Carpenter had no knowledge of these problems until after the plaintiff brought his claim, and there is no allegation in the suit that Dr. Carpenter himself engaged in or approved of any form of discrimination. So again, Channel 41’s report was false, and unfairly disparaged Dr. Carpenter.
- In reference to the incidents surrounding Dr. Carpenter’s family in Georgia, records indicate that Dr. Carpenter and his family were the victims of social media harassment. Sadly, this type of harassment is far too common.
Below, I will address other rumors or questions concerns that have been brought to our attention:
- A rumor has been spread that contracts will not be issued until reviewed by the superintendent. This is FALSE. Contracts will be released on time as required by law.
- Will our salary schedule be changed like it was in Hickman Mills? NO. Salary schedule is a function of Team Lee’s Summit which is a process that the board continues to support.
- Are all the principals going to get fired like the ones in Hickman Mills? NO. There is a complete process involved in the hiring and termination of any staff member which the board makes sure is followed. Also, the situation in Lee’s Summit is far different than the situation that was facing Hickman Mills when Dr. Carpenter was hired there. Hickman Mills was at risk of losing its accreditation, and its board had to take drastic measures to start turning that district around.
- Will Dr. Carpenter be able to fire our senior administrators? NO. The Superintendent’s contract requires board approval for any changes in senior staff.
- Will Parents as Teachers be cut like it was in Hickman Mills? NO. Neither the board nor Dr. Carpenter support reductions in services to our early learners.
- Who were the other finalists for the Superintendent position? As professionals you understand the reasons why we are unable to share candidate names with you. They all still have jobs in other school districts, and we promised them confidentiality. We must respect and honor that promise.
- Our search process was communicated openly and publicly from the beginning. Updates were given as they occurred. This process included an application process, initial interviews with our consultants, nine hours of interviews with the board, 5 hours of deliberations to narrow our field, several days of initial reference checking, and 4 hours of final interviews. In addition to this process, the district asked 4 of our candidates to complete an exhaustive two and a half hour interview conducted by a Gallup Executive Services professional interviewer.
- Will Dr. Carpenter be given “free rein” to do as he pleases? NO. The board will continue to monitor the progress of the superintendent in the future just as it has regardless of who occupies that chair.
Lee’s Summit is proud to claim that it is a community of character. High on the list of traits to which we hold ourselves to is respect. As a board, we are aware that respect is earned and we continue to work towards that goal.
Another character trait we ask for staff and community to practice is patience. Working together to be informed and educated on matters that affect all of us will be more powerful and beneficial to all–students, parents, staff and board members.
The Board fully supports Dr. Carpenter; he embodies all of the traits that are important to our community, and we are confident that you will be as excited and impressed by him as were all of us on the Board.
At Dr. Carpenter’s request, you are invited to a public question and answer session on Wednesday, January 18 at 5:15 p.m. at Lee’s Summit West High School (PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF LOCATION). Dr. Carpenter and board members will be available to address your questions and shed light on the inaccuracies and misinformation that have impacted our district. It is time to set the record straight.
PLEASE share this message with family, friends and neighbors. Our staff and students remain our top priority. They deserve the support of the entire community, as well.
LSR7 Board of Education