Underwood Elementary students learn more about the world through Jamaican pen pals

Students at Underwood Elementary are learning more about the world this year through their Jamaican pen pals. Students in several classes including first-, second- and sixth-grade, have been writing to students at St. Jago Primary in Harmons. The pen pal program is coordinated by Won by One to Jamaica, an organization serving Harmons, Jamaica.

Sixth-grade teacher Karen Bannister delivered the students’ first set of letters in September 2017 when she visited Harmons. The notes included a basic introduction as well as questions to help initiate the communications.

“The opportunity to meet these students made it infinitely more personal, and I was able to bring back lots of stories and information for my students as well as a picture of our pen pal class,” said Mrs. Bannister. “Prior to my leaving for Jamaica, Colton, one of my sixth-graders, asked if they had calculators in their classroom. Upon my return I was able to share that no, they did not have calculators, and in fact, each student had little more than a pencil and a composition book. As a result, my students collected and sent a class set of calculators along with our second correspondence.”

The Underwood students have received two letters from their pen pals including information about the Jamaican families, their school, celebrations and out-of-school activities. The Jamaican students also sent Jamaican snacks, currency and a stamp.

Fayth Nichols, a sixth-grader, said, “This experience has been mind opening. We got to explore a new culture and learn about diversity.”

Sixth-grader Jaxon Schreuder added, “This experience makes me thankful for what I have.”

Not only are the students pen pals, but the three Underwood teachers and the three

St. Jago teachers have also communicated with one another, sharing personal stories and experiences in education.  

“Certain opportunities are once in a lifetime, and we could not pass up the opportunity to learn and diversify ourselves by being pen pals with our Jamaican friends,” added Tia Kirn, first-grade teacher. “Won By One to Jamaica has changed my classroom’s outlook in such an inspiring and positive way. How many kiddos at the age of 6 have the privilege to learn about another country’s traditions, cultures and daily routines through the lenses of other six year olds? Students have made new friends and are filled with joy when they hear they have received mail from Jamaica!”


LSWHS FBLA teams up with elementary schools to promote literacy

The Lee’s Summit West High School FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) chapter recently teamed up with several elementary schools to promote literacy. The community service project was called Love to Read, Learn to Lead, Prepare to Succeed and was led by FBLA members Lina Elkishawi, Ryann Elliff and Jenni Plaskett.

The project took place for two weeks in February including Valentine’s Day so FBLA members incorporated their love for reading into the project concept. The main goal for the project was to promote literacy in order to build leaders in the Lee’s Summit and Kansas City metro community.

LSWHS FBLA teamed up Longview Farm Elementary and Cedar Creek Elementary Schools to encourage the younger students to donate new or gently used books which we then donated to Literacy KC, local organization promoting education while teaching adults and children the fundamentals of reading, writing and other topics.

The grade level that collected the most books at each elementary school won a free night at SkyZone in Lee’s Summit. At Longview Farm Elementary fifth-graders won, and at Cedar Creek Elementary fourth grade won. Between the two schools a total of 4,360 books were collected and donated to Literacy KC.

In addition, the FBLA members read to the younger students during the Kids Country before- and after-school program at each elementary school. FBLA members signed up to read to children to show the importance of giving back to the community but also to promote literacy. The LSWHS chapter also got involved in helping create boxes for the book drive.

The students running the drive will take this project to the FBLA State Competition, scheduled for April in Springfield.

Lee’s Summit R-7 hosts visitors from China as part of school-to-school exchange

Thanks to a long-running partnership with a school in Xi’an, China, Lee’s Summit R-7 students and families had the opportunity to host visiting students and learn more about China during February.

A total of 18 Chinese guests from Chang’an No. 1 High School visited the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Feb. 18-24 including 14 students and four teachers. The visitors spent the week with host families from all three Lee’s Summit R-7 high schools.

Due to several snow days, the students’ schedule was adjusted with the visitors touring just one high school — Lee’s Summit West — this year. The group also visited the Stansberry Leadership Center and met Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter, Lee’s Summit R-7 superintendent.

In addition, the Chinese students and teachers participated in a tour of Royals Stadium and Arrowhead and visited Paradise Park, the Lee’s Summit Exit Room and a laser tag facility. Host families also took their guests to a variety of local attractions including several shopping malls, the Plaza, Union Station, Crown Center, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Bass Pro.

A group of Lee’s Summit R-7 students from all three high schools as well as several staff members will visit China March 15-26. The students and their families fund their own trips as part of the exchange program. The group will start their tour in Beijing, followed by Xi’an and Shanghai.

Chinese guests are pictured with Dr. Carpenter at the Stansberry Leadership Center.

Longview Farm Elementary students participate in presentation by NASA astronaut

Longview Farm Elementary sixth-graders in the ASPIRE gifted program were invited to attend a presentation by Col. Jack D. Fisher, NASA astronaut. The group of students and their teacher, Tina Miller, were randomly selected for the special event from students participating in Burns & McDonnell’s Battle of the Brains competition.

The event, held during Engineers Week on Feb. 23, provided students with the opportunity to hear first-hand from Col. Fisher, a flight engineer who served on the International Space Station. During his 2017 mission, he logged 136 days in space and completed two space walks.

Col. Fisher shared his experiences as an astronaut including how he prepared for this career.

LSNHS celebrates Black History Month by highlighting accomplishments of outstanding Americans

Students and Social Studies Department join forces to celebrate special month

A group of motivated students at Lee’s Summit North High School teamed up with the LSNHS Social Studies Department to highlight the accomplishments of great Americans during this month’s celebration of Black History Month.

A student group called Women of Color asked fellow LSNHS Broncos to help in an enriching endeavour.  These students presented daily announcements throughout the month to highlight the great achievements of African-Americans throughout our history.  

The Social Studies Department organized 250 biographies of great Americans throughout history with the story of a different individual being distributed each day to students signing up for daily emails concerning Black History Month.  

Over 100 students signed up to receive these emails. A different outstanding American was also featured on the Lee’s Summit North High School marquee each day.

In addition, the LSNHS Social Studies Department worked with the National Park Service and the U.S. Civil Rights Trail to highlight parks and historic sites throughout the United States that are devoted to these accomplishments.


Student announcers included (back row, from left) Dubem Okonkwo, Dumebi Okonkwo, Aiyana Johnson, Zakiyyah Winston, Alex Fontcha, Jedi Chukwusom, (front row, from left) Makynzee Gaddy, Dorian Gray, Rakayla Brooks and Deannah Herron. Not pictured are Jenel Johnson, Sean Tinner and Nevona Williams.

Board of Education agrees to administrative reorganization for 2018-19

Reorganization designed to increase efficiency and ensure equity for all students

The Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education agreed to an administrative reorganization at a closed session at the Feb. 22 meeting. The 2018-19 reorganization is designed to address many of the commitments included in Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter’s Superintendent’s 100-Day Report including enhancing efficiency and addressing equity among all students.

“As we look to the needs of all students, it is important to take a strategic approach in organizing our district-level departments and administration,” Dr. Carpenter said. “This reorganization plan places more resources on the student side of our district administration, providing us with greater ability to meet the needs of each child now and in the future.”

During the Board of Education’s discussion regarding the reorganization, Dr. Carpenter shared the following goals.

  • Enhance supports around the goals of supporting the “whole” student, with a more systemic emphasis on equity and each child.
  • Reduce expenditures associated with executive level leadership either by position or title revisions.
  • Consider reorganization in student support to maximize supports and efficiency provided to buildings.
  • Evaluate responsibilities across various offices and determine whether assignment of work is best aligned within the current structure.
  • Develop a structure that allows the district to reduce the learning curves and recruit the most talented individuals to replace retiring key executives who represent more than 100 years of collective professional experience.

The administrative changes should have limited impact on the school district’s budget and will result in an overall cost of approximately $130,829 for 2018-19, which is incorporated into next year’s budget for new staff.  

The reorganization will begin on July 1 and includes the following changes at the district’s Stansberry Leadership Center.

  • With the retirement of Dr. Judy Hedrick, associate superintendent of business and operations, the title of this position will change slightly to assistant superintendent of operational services. The Board of Education agreed to the appointment of Dr. Emily Miller, currently serving as assistant superintendent of special services, to serve in this role next year.
  • With the retirement of Dr. Jeff Miller, associate superintendent of human resources, the title of this job will change slightly to assistant superintendent of human resources. The assistant superintendent will continue to report directly to the superintendent. This position has been posted, and we expect to name the new administrator during March.
  • Dr. Katie Collier, currently our associate superintendent of instruction and leadership, will have a slight title revision to associate superintendent of academic services and will continue to supervise Dr. Jennifer Kephart, assistant superintendent of elementary instruction;  and Dr. David Sharp, assistant superintendent of secondary instruction; all members of the instructional operations team; as well as the district’s new assistant superintendent of equity and student services.
  • Slight revisions to job titles for Dr. Jennifer Kephart and Dr. David Sharp were approved. Assistant superintendent of elementary instruction and assistant superintendent of secondary instruction will change to assistant superintendent elementary education and assistant superintendent of secondary education. These title changes more accurately reflect the scope of these two positions.
  • We are creating a new administrative position for 2018-19 with the addition of an assistant superintendent of equity and student services.  
  • We have made a title adjustment to Dr. Rexanne Hill, currently serving as director of student services. Dr. Hill’s title for 2018-19 will be executive director of student support, and she will report to the new assistant superintendent of equity and student services.
  • With Dr. Emily Miller moving to assistant superintendent of operational services, we will be changing this job title to executive director of special services. This position will be posted soon with the new administrator selected later this spring.
  • With the retirement of Janice Phelan, executive director of communications, we are making a slight title change to executive director of public relations. This position was posted earlier this semester, and the Board of Education approved Kelly Wachel as the new public relations executive director at the Feb. 22 meeting.
  • With the retirement of Kendra Hutsell, director of accounting, we will be changing this position to CFO or chief financial officer. This position will be posted soon, and we will be naming the new CFO later this spring.


Lee’s Summit R-7 School District names new executive director of public relations, Campbell Middle School principal

The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Board of Education approved the employment of two new administrators for the 2018-19 school year at the Board’s Feb. 22 meeting.

Kelly Wachel, currently the executive director of public relations at the Center School District, will serve as the district’s executive director of public relations beginning July 1. She is replacing Janice Phelan, who is retiring from the district on June 30.

Jeff Scalfaro, currently principal at Trailridge Elementary, has been named principal for Bernard Campbell Middle School, beginning his new job on July 1. He is replacing Dr. Sherri Lewis, also retiring from Lee’s Summit R-7 on June 30.

Mrs. Wachel has worked for the Center School District since 2005. She previously worked in corporate public relations, marketing and sales within the Kansas City area. She serves as president-elect of the Missouri School Public Relations Association, has been a presenter at state and regional conferences and is a published author on education topics. Mrs. Wachel earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas. She also recently earned her accreditation in public relations from the National School Public Relations Association.

Mr. Scalfaro has worked in education for 22 years including 14 years within the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District. Before becoming principal at Trailridge, he served as an assistant principal and principal at Grain Valley South Middle School, as a Bernard Campbell Middle School social studies teacher and as a director of secondary summer school for Lee’s Summit R-7. Mr Scalfaro has been a presenter at regional, state and national education conferences. A Lee’s Summit resident, he earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education (social studies and history) from the State University of New York at Cortland, his master’s degree in education administration from the University of Central Missouri (UCM) and his education specialist degree in K-12 superintendency from UCM.

Hazel Grove Elementary students learn that ‘Kindness Rocks’

Students at Hazel Grove Elementary participated in kindness talks on Feb. 13 thanks to a program sponsored by Unity World Headquarters. Through Kindness Rocks, volunteers from Unity painted hundreds of rocks and then visited the school, presenting each student with a rock decorated by volunteers.

During Random Acts of Kindness Week, held during February, Hazel Grove students took part in several special presentations on kindness. After the kindness talks, students were encouraged to place their painted rocks throughout the community to spread the message of kindness and compassion.

BCMS industrial technology students participate in field trip, brain-stretching activity

Bernard Campbell Middle School eighth-grade industrial technology students had the opportunity to participate in a hands-on learning experience that combined science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills with marketing and sales.

Eighteen students visited the Specialty Equipment Market Association STEM Expo, held Feb. 9 at the Kansas City Convention Center. Students worked in groups of two to design their own dream car, followed by a tour of the World of Wheels showroom floor. During the visit, students had a first-hand look at automotive innovations as well as the opportunity to ask questions of the experts before the showroom opened to the public.

After seeing the latest automotive innovations, the students re-examined their own car designs and made modifications. In addition, the students developed a 30-second “elevator speech” to pitch their design to engineers at the event.

All nine pairs from BCMS advanced to the final round in the design competition from among more than 300 middle-school students.

PLMS selects February High 5 Award winners

The Math department at Pleasant Lea Middle School selected the school’s High 5 winners for February. Winners are (from left) Angelina Crain, Most Improved Eighth-grader; Ali Mathes, Outstanding Eighth-grader; La’Maya Simms, Most Improved Seventh-grader; and Andrew Kazemi, Outstanding Seventh-grader. Dr. Janette Miller (center), PLMS principal, presented the students with their awards.

The school’s Partners in Education, Lee’s Summit Medical Center and Mazuma Credit Union, sponsor the award. The High 5 Award was designed to promote academic excellence among students of PLMS. Mazuma Credit Union presents the students with a gift card for Chipotle, and Lee’s Summit Medical Center provides a Taco Bell gift card.

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