Pleasant Lea Middle School sculpture is memorial tribute to Scott Wilkinson

Lee’s Summit R-7 teacher and coach passed away during September 2016

Students and staff members from Pleasant Lea Middle School collaborated with a local artist to create a unique memorial for Scott Wilkinson, a well-respected teacher and coach who passed away on Sept. 14, 2016.

Mr. Wilkinson taught industrial technology at PLMS and coached football and girls track at Lee’s Summit High School. After he passed away last fall, school staff members and students wanted to create a lasting memorial to his generosity and strength as well as his teaching and coaching skills.

Several students in Mr. Wilkinson’s classes and on his teams, along with his colleagues, began meeting with Lee’s Summit artist Dave Eames last winter. Mr. Wilkinson’s fellow teachers and his students shared what was special about the teacher and coach, said Dr. Janette Miller, PLMS principal.

After listening to the students’ and teachers’ thoughts, Mr. Eames developed several drawings of potential sculptures. The group selected a design emphasizing Mr. Wilkinson’s background growing up in a small town, his work with metal and tools as an industrial technology teacher and his love of athletics through the sculpture’s moving parts.

The resulting moveable, metal sculpture was installed by the last day of school when it was featured during the PLMS all-school awards assembly. The event included a student-produced video about the sculpture design process and a photo of the finished piece. The video was followed by a presentation by Joe Oswald, PLMS teacher, who talked about Mr. Wilkinson and his life.

“It was a meaningful way to honor his memory,” Dr. Miller added, “involving a sad — but inspiring — process with students and teachers.”

Funding for the memorial sculpture was provided by the school as well as two student organizations — Student Council and Tiger SMART.

Missouri Innovation Campus students graduate from Metropolitan Community College

Seven students from the Lee’s Summit R-7 Missouri Innovation Campus recently participated in graduation ceremonies at Metropolitan Community College, earning their associate degrees. Students pictured with Dr. Kirk Nooks (back row), president of MCC-Longview, are (from left) Spencer Werremeyer, Lee’s Summit North High School, software development major, employed at NIC; Cody DeMent, Lee’s Summit West High School, software development major, employed at NIC; Shane Tenorio, Raytown South High School, software development major, employed at Cerner Corp.; Natan Garcia, Raytown South High School, software development major, employed at DST Systems; Thilon Berry, Center High School, software development major, employed at AWNIX; Jack Bliss, Blue Springs South High School, systems engineering major, employed at Alexander Open Systems; and Matthew Feith, Raymore Peculiar High School, systems engineering major, employed at VML.

Through the Missouri Innovation Campus, located within Lee’s Summit R-7’s Summit Technology Academy, students are able to accelerate the time it takes to graduate from college and participate in high-tech paid internships while dramatically reducing the cost of a four-year degree. The MIC is a partnership of the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Metropolitan Community College, University of Central Missouri and area businesses.

For more information about the nationally recognized program, visit

Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation provides nearly $60,000 in PEAK Grants for classrooms

Foundation also awards $71,550 in high-school scholarships this spring

Members of the Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation visited a number of Lee’s Summit R-7 schools during May to present a total of 50 PEAK (Promoting Excellence And Knowledge) Grants. Known as the PEAK Patrol, a group of Foundation Board members travel from school to school over a two-day period, making surprise announcements in classrooms.

The 50 grants awarded for 2017-18 total $59,111 and will assist students in more than 83 classrooms across the school district. Of the recently-awarded grants, two were for district-wide programs — elementary gifted education and libraries.

The 2017-18 grants included 20 for math/science/engineering, 10 for language arts, nine for technology, six for interventions and five for art, music or physical education.

Since the Foundation initiated PEAK Grants in 1995,  771 grants totaling $784,218 have been awarded to Lee’s Summit R-7 staff members. The grants, which range from $100 to approximately $3,500, are designed to positively impact student learning.

In addition, the Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation presented 65 continuing education scholarships to seniors this spring. At Lee’s Summit High School, 36 scholarships totaling $37,050 were presented. Lee’s Summit North High School students received 17 scholarships totaling $20,000. At Lee’s Summit West High School, the Foundation presented 12 scholarships totaling $17,500.


Regan Russell of Sunset Valley Elementary and her students are surprised by the PEAK Patrol.

LSNHS and LSWHS alliance win first place at Missouri robotics championship

An alliance consisting of Lee’s Summit North High School and Lee’s Summit West High School robotics teams captured first place at the Missouri FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship, held May 13 in St. Louis.

During the state championship’s three-year history, LSWHS Team Titanium has won three state championships. This is the first state championship for the LSNHS Broncobots.

At the state contest, which included 24 of the top robotics teams in Missouri, teams were pre-seeded based on their performances at qualifying events held earlier in the season. The LSNHS team earned the No. 1 seed by winning the Kansas City Regional and by being semi-finalists at the Iowa Regional. At the state championship, the LSNHS Broncobots selected LSWHS’s Team Titanium as their alliance partner.

The LSNHS/LSWHS alliance won the state event by winning the final two matches, 328 to 238 and 387 to 333.

At the state championship, Team Titanium was also voted Missouri Robot of the Year by their peers.  This was a fitting tribute to a robot and team that came just three points short of winning the World Championship a few weeks prior.

Lee’s Summit High School’s Team Driven qualified for the state event and was ranked No. 6 based on the team’s performance during the competition season. Team Driven was ranked third at the Greater Kansas City Regional and were quarter-finalists at the event and were ranked second at the Bayou Regional and were semi-finalists.  

At the state championship, Team Driven was selected by the No. 5 alliance. The LSHS team was able to efficiently deliver gears to the airship but  mechanical issues from alliance partners kept Team Driven out of the semi finals. Team Driven did receive the Innovation Award based on votes collected from the other competing teams at the event.   

Summit Technology Academy honored with National Excellence in Action Award

The Network Engineering program at Summit Technology Academy received the prestigious Excellence in Action award, which recognizes the best Career Technical Education (CTE) programs of study across the nation. Summit Technology Academy was one of 11 selected as an “Excellence in Action” award winner based on its track record of providing clear pathways into college and careers, rigorous academic and technical coursework, strong partnerships with industry leaders and impactful work-based learning experiences that offer opportunities for career exploration and subject-matter mastery.

Summit Technology Academy received the award in the Information and Technology Career Cluster from Advance CTE. What started as a computer repair class 15 years ago has evolved into a state-of-the-art cybersecurity program. Bringing together 24 urban, suburban and rural high schools, this program provides students with real-world, hands-on experiences in an extensive, three-year internship program. Additionally, as part of the Missouri Innovation Campus, students can begin to earn their bachelor’s degree while still in high school, setting them on a seamless pathway from secondary to postsecondary education.

Shannan Booth, career education facilitator for the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, accepted the honor at an award luncheon and reception as part of the Advance CTE spring meeting in Washington, D.C.

“Students can dependably find valuable work right away, right here,” said Elaine Metcalf, Summit Technology Academy director. “We create and grow a talent pipeline that keeps to its roots. Graduates learn within the Kansas City work culture; we don’t lose then to the coasts.”

“I am so proud of these exemplary programs and all they offer learners across the country,” said Kimberly Green, executive director of Advance CTE. “Boasting impressive graduation and completion rates, credential attainment and hands-on learning experiences, these programs demonstrate what high-quality CTE has to offer, and its ability to set students up for success across the spectrum of careers.”

Pictured at the awards ceremony are (from left) Shannan Booth of Lee’s Summit R-7; Blaine Henningsen, assistant commissioner, Office of College and Career Readiness, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; and Jo Anne Honeycutt, president, Advanced CTE.

Mason Elementary students inspire a new $1 million outdoor exhibit at Kansas City’s Science City

During the grand opening of Simple Machines At Play, Burns & McDonnell launches the next Battle of the Brains competition

Nine Mason Elementary students led a marching band and around 471 of their classmates and teachers into the grand opening of Science City’s first ever outdoor exhibit, Simple Machines At Play, on May 2. The Mason students wanted their school with them to experience the interactive exhibit inspired by their winning proposal in the Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains, one of the nation’s most unique K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) competitions.

The morning ceremony included presentations by the team of students as well as officials from Burns & McDonnell. The Lee’s Summit North High School Marching Band led the winning team as well as all Mason Elementary students and staff member onto the grounds of Union Station for this special event. The winning students from Mason shared meaningful aspects of the design and construction process along with their experiences of working beside Burns & McDonnell professional staff members.

“Seeing their faces light up when they see their classroom sketches transformed into a million dollar exhibit at one of the nation’s premiere science centers – is truly a moment I will never forget,” said Ray Kowalik, chairman and CEO, Burns & McDonnell. “It’s a privilege to be part of a process where children not only give STEM a chance – but discover it’s fun and cool. And they are treated like rock stars at their school!”

In November of 2015, the proposal from Mason Elementary edged out 510 entries from 210 schools. The students won the top prize: a $50,000 grant for their school to use for STEM education plus the opportunity to work alongside Burns & McDonnell professionals to design and construct Simple Machines At Play.

“We didn’t just win a competition. We won a chance to experience a variety of STEM careers for more than a year,” said Jenny Reidlinger, a teacher at Mason Elementary. “We visited Burns & Mac and Science City multiple times to help shape the design and construction process. I have no doubt that there are future STEM professionals in my class thanks to Battle of the Brains.”  

Simple Machines At Play is a 12,000-square-foot exhibit based on the six simple machines, or mechanical devices, that have transformed our world by letting us do more work with less effort. By changing direction and the amount of force applied, simple machines help lift, pull, push, turn, cut, split and fasten. The student-inspired exhibit features:

  • Lever Lift, a beam that moves around a fixed point or fulcrum. It helps move a heavy load on one end when effort is applied to the other. Children can test their strength by trying to lift a globe — one that others can sit in — using different ropes hanging from the beam.
  • Just Plane Zippy, which has two exhilarating zip lines that double as inclined planes. Children discover how applying force — in this case pushing off a platform — allows them to “zip” faster.  
  • Acceleration Plane, which invites children to see how gravity works against friction by placing a variety of weighted wheels at the top of each ramp, then letting go.
  • The Wheel Deal, demonstrating how a wheel and axle make work easier. When you apply force, a wheel rotates on an axle, reducing friction to make it easier to move an object.
  • Pulley Power, featuring a rope looped around a wheel on an axle to pack a lot of power. By changing the direction of the force applied, you can lift a bowling ball with ease. Letting it go sends a tennis ball into the air.
  • Wedge It, a unique climbing wall demonstrating how wedges help lift or separate objects with less effort. Here, your hands and feet also serve as wedges when climbing.
  • Screw Slider, which lets children discover the power behind the screws — the threads. The closer the threads, the easier it is to turn.
  • Luckey Climber, a unique climbing structure that doubles as sculptural art. It spans three stories and provides expansive views of the entire space.

“One big reason Science City is so unique and internationally recognized is we’re turning to our customers – children, parents and educators – to help shape their own experiences. In this case, it was student inspiration that helped transform their dream into this wonderful, one-of-a-kind exhibit,” says George Guastello, president and CEO, Union Station.

Over the past nine years, Burns & McDonnell has invested nearly $6 million on six major exhibits that have transformed Science City. The Battle of the Brains competitions alone have attracted participation by 11,000 children from 50 area school districts.

“Children are learning as they explore, discover and create,” Mr. Guastello says. “These exhibits – inspired by their peers – all contain the essential elements of hands-on fun and play. From DNA to water and energy, the content areas of these experiences are importantly diverse. With the opening of Simple Machines At Play, we’re taking the next big step. And equally exciting is the news there’s even more to come!”

At the opening ceremony on May 2, Burns & McDonnell announced the launch of its fourth Battle of the Brains competition in the Kansas City area.

“We are committed to inspiring and developing the next generation of STEM professionals,” Mr. Kowalik said. “From curing diseases to uncovering new technologies, STEM is critical to our future. That’s why we will never stop mentoring and inspiring the leaders of tomorrow.”

To learn more about the Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains competition and how area schools can participate, please visit

Brad Rackers named R-7 Teacher of the Year

Excellence In Teaching winners honored at April 12 event

Brad Rackers, theatre director at Lee’s Summit West High School, was named Lee’s Summit R-7 School District 2017 Teacher of the Year during a surprise announcement at an April 12 community reception. The reception also recognized 12 R-7 teachers who had been named Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce Excellence In Teaching Award winners earlier this spring.

Excellence In Teaching winners include Anne Braun, Woodland Elementary School; Tracy Colón, Summit Technology Academy; Susan Dunham, Hazel Grove Elementary School; Matt Good, Lee’s Summit West High School; Teresa Graves, Summit Pointe Elementary School; Mindy Haesemeyer, Lee’s Summit North High School; Kim Hartman, Woodland Elementary School; Pamela Hayes, Longview Farm Elementary School; Jonathan Krinke, Lee’s Summit North High School; Brad Rackers, Lee’s Summit West High School; Kimberly Rues, Summit Pointe Elementary School; and Krista Tucker, Highland Park Elementary School.

In addition to the Excellence In Teaching winners, other finalists for Teacher of the Year included former Excellence In Teaching winners who were nominated for the award again this year and selected as Teachers of Distinction. These former winners had the opportunity to interview along with this year’s award recipients for Teacher of the Year and were also recognized April 12. They are Erica Arbuckle, Hawthorn Hill Elementary School; Jen Posson, Summit Pointe Elementary School; and Stu Reece, Bernard Campbell Middle School.

All Excellence In Teaching and Teacher of Distinction recipients are also honored with the Hertzog Leadership Award, funded by Jon and Juli Ellis, to honor Dr. Robert (Bud) Hertzog, local businessman and community leader. In addition, the Teacher of the Year receives a $100 Cathy Paulson Heart to Heart Award. This award is funded by the Loren Paulson family in honor of Cathy Paulson, who passed away in 2010.

The Excellence In Teaching program and reception are sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the R-7 School District. All students, parents, R-7 employees and community members are invited to nominate outstanding teachers. The recognized teachers were selected by a committee composed of R-7 staff and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and the community.

As Teacher of the Year, Mr. Rackers will go on to participate in the Missouri Teacher of the Year program. He has been an educator for 13 years, including seven years with the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District. Mr. Rackers has attended and presented at local, regional and national theatre arts conferences and is currently president of the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri.

“The best learning happens when students don’t realize they’re learning,” Mr. Rackers said. “Teaching is all about going on an educational journey with students and letting them make mistakes, supporting them when they fail, reflecting on the successes and challenges throughout the process and celebrating the final product. All students have their own unique set of experiences they bring with them to the classroom each day. I negotiate those circumstances to help them succeed at the highest level.”

In nomination forms, Mr. Rackers was praised for his ability to engage all students. “Mr. Rackers uses theatre to draw in the students on the fringe, students who could otherwise easily slip through cracks of high school life and instead connect them with meaningful work as part of a tight-knit family,” said a nominator.

At Lee’s Summit West High School, Mr. Rackers serves on the Diversity Team and has previously served on the district’s curriculum writing team. He makes it a priority to provide opportunities for his theatre students to support community organizations through community service activities such as an annual canned food drive supporting Lee’s Summit Social Services and a book drive for Reach Out and Read.

He received the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri Board of Governor’s New Teacher of the Year award, Grandview High School Teacher of the Year award and was selected as the technical director for the Missouri State Thespians All-State performance of “Jekyll and Hyde.” Before coming to Lee’s Summit R-7, Mr. Rackers taught theatre in the Grandview School District. In the theatre community, Mr. Rackers has been heavily involved in the Kansas City Cappies organization, directing a number of shows and musicals as well as serving as the organization’s Steering Committee chairperson. He has also worked with the Summit Theater Group and served as a technical director for Missouri State Thespians All-State Show and International Thespian Conference Selection.

Mr. Rackers earned a bachelor’s degree in speech and theatre education from Missouri State University and a master’s in education from Baker University, graduating summa cum laude.  

Excellence In Teaching Award winners and Teachers of Distinction are (front row, from left) Erica Arbuckle, Kimberly Rues, Jen Posson, (second row, from left) Kim Hartman, Susan Dunham, Tracy Colón, Mindy Haesemeyer, (third row, from left) Teresa Graves, Anne Braun, Krista Tucker, Pamela Hayes, (back row, from left) Jonathan Krinke, Stu Reece, Brad Rackers and Matt Good.

Several LS R-7 schools to change start/end times for 2017-18 to increase efficiency and save money

District focus is to provide high level of service while being fiscally responsible to taxpayers

Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, several Lee’s Summit R-7 schools will change their start/end times in order to increase bus routing efficiency while saving significant dollars for our schools.

Half of the district’s 26 elementary, middle and high schools will see no change in their start/end time. Start/end times for eight schools will change by just five minutes. Pleasant Lea Middle School will start and end 20 minutes earlier next year, and Summit Ridge Academy will begin and end 30 minutes earlier. Three elementary schools — Cedar Creek, Lee’s Summit and Trailridge — will begin and end 40 minutes earlier in 2017-18.

The changes are designed to allow the Lee’s Summit R-7 Transportation Department to continue to offer a high level of service to families while reducing the number of school bus routes required to transport students to and from school. The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District will save approximately $120,000 in anticipated additional transportation staffing in 2017-18 while avoiding the purchase of several new school buses, estimated at $520,000.

These transportation savings are especially important since the state continues to reduce funding for public school transportation. State reimbursement for public school transportation continues to be significantly underfunded with Lee’s Summit R-7 funding 71 cents of every dollar spent on student transportation while the state contributes 29 cents toward every dollar spent. Full state transportation reimbursement would result in state funding of 75 cents of every dollar spent with Lee’s Summit R-7 responsible for 25 cents of each transportation dollar.  For the R-7 School District, the state underfunding of transportation results in a loss of $3 million this school year.

The changes also provide for a more consistent schedule among schools. Instead of three start/end times for elementary schools, there will be two next year. The three middle schools will start and end within 10 minutes of one another next year instead of the 20-minute span in start/end times this year. For the three high schools, the change will result in all three schools starting and ending at the same time.

The district’s Before- and After-School Services (BASS) program is adjusting its schedule to fit changes at schools. The decision to make the changes to the start/end times involved district administration, principals, transportation staff and BASS employees. Staff members worked together to develop the plan, emphasizing excellent service for students as well as the necessity of being fiscally responsible.

The current and 2017-18 start/end times for all schools are listed in the following chart.

Tier 1








Tier 2








Tier 3


R-7 School District receives 100-percent exemplary state school bus inspection

The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District recently received outstanding results on the district’s annual school bus inspection, conducted March 20 and 21 by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Of the 150 school buses inspected, the inspectors did not identify a single advisory defect within the entire fleet. Although the school district has a history of outstanding state safety inspections, officials believe this is the first 100-percent passage report in at least 30 years. Among Missouri districts with a bus fleet of more than 100, there were no reports of a district achieving the 100-percent score during 2016.

Keith Henry, R-7 director of transportation, said the R-7 Transportation Department staff is to be commended for this remarkable 100-percent inspection.

The annual inspection included items such as light bulbs, tires, seat frames, exhaust systems, brakes, windshield wipers and many other school bus components. For a large bus fleet such as Lee’s Summit R-7’s, this means that more than 6,000 light bulbs were working with no cracks or discoloration; all 900 plus tires were properly inflated with proper tread, no bulges, no cracks or blemishes; and more than 3,000 seats were considered safe with no tears, cracks, mounting issues or padding failures — just to name a few examples of the more than 180 items each bus was inspected for during this two-day inspection.

The R-7 Transportation Department has a long-running tradition of successful state school bus inspections and passage rates. The department has averaged a 95-percent approval rating the past 30 years, well above the state average of 82 to 87 percent. The department has received the state’s Exemplary School Bus Maintenance Award for 11 consecutive years during summer conferences hosted by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The March 2017 outstanding inspection qualified the R-7 School District to receive the School Bus Exemplary Fleet Maintenance Award from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the School Bus Fleet Excellence Award from the Highway Patrol at the annual state conference in July.

Transportation Department’s maintenance staff includes Eric Slover, fleet maintenance supervisor; Rusty Rhoads and Joe Hand, lead mechanics; Larry Rachaner, Chris Barnes, Charles Parrot and Mike Walker, mechanics; and Payton Hargrave, Mark Edwards and Jimmy York, mechanic helpers.

The R-7 School District transports approximately 12,500 students each school day, traveling more than 2 million miles annually within the 117-square-mile school district.

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