Five LS R-7 School District students named National Merit Scholarship Corporation semifinalists

Five students from the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District were recently named National Merit Scholarship Corporation semifinalists through the national program. Students recognized are Paige Maxwell, Lee’s Summit High School; Stacey Edmonsond, Lee’s Summit North High School; and Simone Jacoby, Marie Reuss, Jacob Schnitzlein, Lee’s Summit West High School.

Recognized students have the opportunity to continue in the competition for approximately 7,500 National Merit Scholarship Awards, worth close to $33 million, to be offered next spring. There are approximately 16,000 semifinalists throughout the United States.

Paige Maxwell is the daughter of Dale Maxwell and Laura Maxwell. At Lee’s Summit High School, Paige participates in robotics, student senate, Tiger Smart, tiger mentoring, Lee’s Summit CARES Youth Advisory Board, soccer and is an International Baccalaureate Diploma candidate.

Stacey Edmonsond is the daughter of Steve Edmonsond and Brenda Edmonsond. At Lee’s Summit North High School, Stacey participates in math club, National Honor Society, robotics, science knowledge bowl, National German Honor Society, medical club, German club, medical explorers, co-founder of Young Aspiring Student Scientists  and is an International Baccalaureate Diploma candidate. She has also scored a perfect 36 on the ACT.

Simone Jacoby is the daughter of Dr. Michael RK Jacoby and Rayma Vinyard Jacoby. At Lee’s Summit West High School, Simone participates in speech and debate, Gay-Straight Alliance, National Honor Society, book club and Anime Club.

Marie Reuss is the daughter of Janet Reuss and John Reuss. At Lee’s Summit West High School, Marie participates in National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, cross country, track, Earth club and is an International Baccalaureate Diploma candidate.

Jacob Schnitzlein is the son of Fay Schnitzlein and Rex Schnitzlein. At Lee’s Summit West High School, Jacob participates in robotics, student mentor-FTC robotics team at LSWHS, mentor to elementary FLL robotics teams, scholar bowl, Missouri Math League and chess club.

spnatmeritphotogroup-1Students are pictured in the order they appear in article. (Click on picture to enlarge)


Summit Technology Academy earns national recognition as a 21st Century Learning Exemplar

Designation is from P21, The Partnership for 21st Century Learning

Summit Technology Academy was recognized as an exemplar school for 2016-17 by P21, The Partnership for 21st Century Learning. The Lee’s Summit R-7 school received this honor for exemplary 21st century learning practices in preparing students for success in college, career and life.

P21’s 21st Century Learning Exemplar Program searches for and shares the stories of schools and districts that have successfully transformed student learning through innovative practices such as distributed leadership and community partnerships. Summit Technology Academy is the first secondary school in Missouri to earn this designation.

Elaine Metcalf, director of Summit Technology Academy, explains that the school is an off-campus opportunity for high school students seriously interested in computer science, engineering, health sciences or creative sciences.

“College credit is attached to all of the programs,” Mrs. Metcalf said. “Also, IT students can earn industry certifications offered by Cisco. Health science students can choose to go the extra mile and earn industry certifications as part of their course work.”  

Summit Technology Academy partners with the University of Central Missouri to deliver an early college, internship-driven Missouri Innovation Campus program.

The typical student at STA is usually focused on a specific career path and has the determination to explore that field through in-depth studies and practical application.  

“Our students want a rigorous program of study to help prepare them for college,” Mrs. Metcalf added. “For example, students don’t just read about what an emergency room nurse does, but actually experience it in some small way as part of the pre-professional nursing program. Engineering students, on the other hand, work side-by-side with engineers to research, design and solve a problem. All of the programs at STA have some type of field experience, shadowing, clinicals, industry mentors, etc. tied to them.”

The mission and vision of STA perfectly aligns with the P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning.

Thanks to a 2015 no-tax-increase bond issue and a unique partnership with the University of Central Missouri, a new facility for the Summit Technology Academy / Missouri Innovation Campus programs will open in August 2017. The new building is under construction near Tudor and Ward Road.

“All learners deserve to grow in a 21st Century Learning environment,” stated Dr. Helen Soulé, P21 executive director. “It is P21’s vision for the innovative practices in education exhibited by all P21 Exemplars to be replicated across the country and world.”

In the spring of 2017, a case study on Summit Technology Academy and other 2016-2017 P21 Exemplars will be released and available at

spstadrawingAn architect’s drawing of the new Summit Technology Academy / Missouri Innovation Campus, scheduled to open in August 2017.

R-7 School District ACT college-entrance exams are well above state and national averages

Lee’s Summit R-7 School District students taking the ACT college-entrance test scored well above state ACTonGradPhoto2016and national averages, according to results recently released from the 2015-16 school year.

R-7 students averaged a 21.8 on the composite score, compared to 20.2 for the Missouri average and 20.8 for the national average.

Lee’s Summit R-7 School District students also scored above the state and national averages in all four specific subjects tested – English, mathematics, reading and science.

A total of 1,379 Lee’s Summit R-7 students took the ACT test during 2015-16. This is an approximately 40 percent increase over the number of R-7 students taking the ACT test during 2014-15.

Due to a change in state assessment procedures, all students in the Class of 2016 at Missouri public high schools took the ACT test at school during their junior year. There was no cost for this test to the students or school districts. In addition, some students may choose to take the test again after this initial test with the students responsible for the test fee. For students taking multiple ACT tests, the highest score is counted.

The ACT is America’s most widely accepted college entrance exam. It assesses high school students’ general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work. The multiple-choice tests cover four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading and science. The writing test measures skill in planning and writing a short essay.

Lee’s Summit R-7 Connect2Learn begins second year

Successful one-to-one digital device program further engages students, levels the playing field for all

Connect2Learn, the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District’s one-to-one Chromebook program, is entering its second year and continuing to broaden learning while supporting the individual needs of each student. The program began last August when more than 17,500 Google Chromebooks were distributed to all students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Students turned in Chromebooks at the end of the previous school year and received the same devices again during August in preparation for 2016-17.

“We have appreciated the enthusiasm and support we’ve received from our staff members, students and their families,” said Dr. Kevin Daniel, associate superintendent of instruction and leadership. “Thanks to an outstanding team effort as well as Board of Education support, students have a clear understanding of the importance of this new learning tool and are able to learn both in and beyond the classroom.”

In addition to enhancing learning and critical thinking, Connect2Learn provides equitable access for all students — regardless of family resources. Through the use of the Chromebooks and the Google platform, teachers have an increased ability to electronically provide students with individual assignments or practice, increase student collaboration and offer immediate teacher feedback. Teachers complete comprehensive training related to Connect2Learn to help them design lessons that are empowering and engaging in the one-to-one environment.

During the past two years, the R-7 School has surveyed staff members and parents through the BrightBytes survey, designed to provide insights related to technology’s impact on improving student achievement. The survey used a numeric score and addresses four areas – classroom, access, skills and environment. After Connect2Learn’s first year, the district gained 2.5 percent. This type of growth is considered significantly above average, according to BrightBytes, an educational analysis organization.

Opportunities such as Google cardboard field trips and Google hangouts with students from across the world are another advantage of the one-to-one transition.

For more information about Connect2Learn, visit The website includes resources for students and parents including a frequently asked questions section.

Increasing access to all families

In addition, the R-7 School District is continuing to partner with EveryoneOn to increase home access to the Internet. EveryoneOn is a non-profit organization created to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet service accessible to all. Through partnerships with Internet providers, EveryoneOn is able to offer free Internet service or service for $9.95 per month for qualifying families and individuals. To learn more, visit, text “connect” to 215-45 or call (855) EVRY1ON.  

jlC2L-SLMSpickupStudentVolunteers jlC2L-SLMSpickup1 jlC2L-SLMSpickup2 (1)R-7 staff members and student volunteers assist with Chromebook distribution day at Summit Lakes Middle School on Aug. 3.

Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education approves Destination 2021 strategic plan

Five-year Comprehensive School Improvement Plan developed by staff and community team

The Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education approved the district’s five-year strategic plan, called Destination 2021, at the Board’s Aug. 18 meeting. This Comprehensive School Improvement Plan, which covers 2016 through 2021, was developed by a team of approximately 55 staff and community members who worked together throughout the 2016 spring semester. The district also included approximately 70 participants in focus groups that provided input toward the development of the plan.

The plan focuses on five areas – governance; student performance; highly qualified staff; facilities, support and instructional resources; and parent and community involvement. Destination 21’s major emphasis continues to be on instruction, learning and student success. The complete plan is posted at under “R-7 School District 5-year plan.”

“The R-7 strategic plan is focused on meeting the unique needs of each student in our district and providing the necessary support to the professionals working each day in schools to make that happen,” said Dr. Kevin Daniel, associate superintendent of instruction and leadership. “We were pleased to double the number of stakeholders involved in the development of the new strategic plan from the previous effort. In fact, multiple stakeholders were able to provide additional input into Destination 2021 throughout the course its development. The input, effort and time commitment of our staff and community members to ensure we continue to meet our mission of preparing each student for success in life was both appreciated and impressive.”

Following approval at the August Board of Education meeting, Lee’s Summit R-7 district and school leaders are discussing key components of the newly adopted strategic plan. To ensure accountability, the plan’s components are placed on a timeline and reviewed annually by the community and staff team, the Superintendent’s Leadership Team and the Board of Education. The plan, which is considered a living document, can be updated to reflect changes in areas such as educational technology through the input of these teams.

Information about the new plan is being shared with a variety of district stakeholders, including staff, parents, community members and students.

Lee’s Summit R-7 has a tradition of long-range, comprehensive planning, and the current R-7 document is actually the R-7 School District’s sixth five-year strategic plan. Previous strategic plans were also developed by community and staff members in 1990, 1995, 2001, 2006 and 2011.

Michelle Uptegrove named finalist for Missouri Teacher of the Year

Michelle Uptegrove, life skills teacher at Cedar Creek Elementary, was named one of seven finalists for Missouri Teacher of the Year during a surprise announcement on Aug. 24. She will participate in an interview with the Missouri Teacher of the Year Selection Committee in late August. It is anticipated that the Teacher of the Year will be named soon after the committee’s interviews.

Mrs. Uptegrove was named one of 31 regional Missouri Teachers of the Year during July. The state’s Teacher of the Year, the finalists and and all regional winners will be honored at a ceremony in Jefferson City during October.

Over the last 10 years, Lee’s Summit R-7 has been the home of seven Missouri Teacher of the Year finalists including two who were also named state Teacher of the Year.

Mrs. Uptegrove was named Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Teacher of the Year during April at a community reception hosted by the school district and the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce. An educator for 23 years, she teaches children with special needs at Cedar Creek Elementary. Mrs. Uptegrove previously taught in the life skills program and worked as a resource teacher for learning disabilities at Prairie View Elementary and worked for three years in the Blue Springs School District.

The Cedar Creek teacher shared that her teaching experience with special needs children began at age 10 when her youngest sister was born. “She has cerebral palsy, and I learned to bathe, feed and care for her,” she said. “As she grew, I read to her, taught her the alphabet, how to count and use her letter boards to communicate.”

Nomination forms highlighted Mrs. Uptegrove’s leadership skills, empathy and advocacy for all children. “Michelle’s passion for diversifying and including all students in the public education system goes above and beyond,” said a co-worker. “The pure love she has for these kids is admirable.”

Mrs. Uptegrove has also served as the district’s life skills collaboration host/facilitator, as a site-based team building facilitator, as Red Ribbon Week school coordinator and as a Student Council sponsor. At Cedar Creek Elementary, she worked in cooperation with Lee’s Summit Kohl’s Cares volunteers to create a sensory garden.

“I believe that teaching must always be based on partnerships as well as evidence-based best practices, interpreting formative data and making constant adjustments to meet students where they are functioning, both in academics and daily living skills,” she added.

Within the community, Mrs. Uptegrove has served as a volunteer for Special Olympics-Young Athletes; as a volunteer with the Girl Scout Association, assisting at troop meetings and making modifications for inclusion and positive participation for students needing extra support; and as a volunteer tutor for non-traditional students at Metropolitan Community College-Longview.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in education and her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, both from Avila University. In addition, she has earned certifications in learning disabilities; social, emotional and behavioral disorders; intellectual disabilities; and K-6 elementary education.

agTOYfinalistGroupKids agTOYfinalistGroup1-Blevins (1)Michelle Uptegrove is surprised by Dr. Brent Blevins, R-7 acting superintendent, during a surprise announcement at an all-school assembly.

Lee’s Summit R-7 recycling bins no longer able to accept community recycling

Due to a change from the district’s solid-waste vendor, Deffenbaugh Industries, recycling bins located at Lee’s Summit R-7 schools and facilities are no longer able to accept materials from community members. Schools and district facilities will continue to participate in recycling at each building through the district-wide program.

During the summer, Lee’s Summit R-7 officials were notified by Deffenbaugh that they could no longer offer free pick-ups for community recycling items. Based on this notice of fee increase, the district issued a bid and received two bids from solid waste companies (Republic and Town & Country). Both proposed a significant fee to pick up the community recyclables at district facilities. Deffenbaugh also proposed adding more containers and charging a significant monthly fee to pick up both district and community recycling. Their offer was declined by the school district based on the its cost and impact on the R-7 budget. Lee’s Summit R-7 continues to be a strong supporter of recycling and green initiatives throughout the district.

Dr. David Benson named Lee’s Summit R-7 School District interim superintendent

Dr. David Benson was named Lee’s Summit R-7 School District interim superintendent for the 2016-17 Dave Bensonschool year, according to an Aug. 16 announcement from the district’s Board of Education.

“We feel very fortunate to have someone of Dr. Benson’s caliber in the interim superintendent position and believe he brings the skills, knowledge and experience that are needed to lead our successful school district during the coming year,” said Bob White, Board of Education president.

Dr. Benson has a total of 43 years of experience in education that includes serving as a superintendent of high-performing school districts in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. He has been recognized as Kansas Superintendent of the Year and has received the National Education Association Award for Outstanding Labor Management Relations, the Missouri School Public Relations Association Administrator of the Year Award and the Kansas School Public Relations Association Communicator of the Year Award.

Dr. Benson will serve in this position from Sept. 1 through June 2017. The Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education members are also working on the search for a permanent superintendent to be named later this school year. The Board’s timeline calls for the permanent superintendent to begin working for Lee’s Summit R-7 in summer 2017.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to serve the students, faculty, staff and community of Lee’s Summit R-7 and look forward to a great 2016-17 school year,” said Dr. Benson.

Dr. Benson retired from the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Community School District in June 2015 after serving as superintendent for six years. He also served as superintendent of the Ladue (Missouri) School District for five years, as superintendent of the Blue Valley (Kansas) School District for 11 years, as superintendent of the Fort Madison (Iowa) Community School District for six years and as superintendent of Unified School District No. 305 in Moundridge, Kansas, for four years. In addition, he has worked as a school district personnel director, principal, assistant principal and teacher for districts in Kansas and Missouri.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education (sociology and history) and master’s degree in secondary education, both from Pittsburg State University; his specialist degree in school administration from Wichita State University; and his doctorate in educational administration and foundations from Kansas State University.

Dr. Benson has been active in the community for many years, including through organizations such as Rotary, Chamber of Commerce and United Way. He has also written articles for Midwest Express, Workforce and Scholastic Administrator.

The Board of Education accepted applications for the interim position during late July and interviewed candidates on Aug. 2 and 9 during closed session meetings. No candidates currently employed by the R-7 School District applied for or were interviewed for this position due to the timing of the job opening and the need for existing staff members to fulfill other responsibilities within the school district.

Dr. Benson’s contract for the position was approved by the Board of Education during an Aug. 16 special meeting. The interim superintendent’s compensation package will total $225,000 for the 10-month period.

Since May 20, Dr. Brent Blevins, who is the district’s deputy superintendent of operations, has been serving as both the district’s acting superintendent and deputy superintendent of operations. Dr. Blevins will return to his role as deputy superintendent on Sept. 1.

“I also want to sincerely thank Dr. Blevins and the entire Superintendent’s Leadership Team for taking on extra responsibilities these past three months in addition to their regular duties,” added Mr. White.

Local businesses have opportunity to advertise at LS R-7 high-school sports events through GameTime Radio

The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Athletic Department recently announced a unique advertising opportunity for local businesses and organizations. Through GameTime Radio, radio spots will be broadcast during home sporting events for Lee’s Summit High School, Lee’s Summit North High School and Lee’s Summit West High School.

GameTime Radio includes DJs, music and commercials with a mix of upbeat, family-friendly music along with special messages updated for each specific event. The radio broadcasts will take place during pre-game, halftime and post-game at most home sporting events.

Businesses and organizations have the opportunity to gain valuable exposure to the large crowds that attend all home football games at the R-7 high schools as well as other home sporting events such as soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, wrestling, volleyball and track and field. It is anticipated that GameTime Radio will be heard at a minimum of 200 events during the 2016-17 school year.

The cost for businesses and organizations is $2,500 for one 30-second commercial, which will be broadcast at more than 200 sporting events at the three high schools throughout the year. This opportunity is limited to 20 commercial spots, and the R-7 Athletic Department is offering these spots on a first-come first-served basis. For more information, to hear a sample advertisement or to reserve your spot, contact Richard Bechard, R-7 athletic director, at or (816) 986-1038.

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