Author: Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter

A wise school leader once told me, “I get some of my best school work done when the vast majority of people aren’t in the school.” At first blush one might say that’s a bad joke. But let’s take a second look at this remark because…did I tell you this leader was wise!  

The longer I invest in the work of school district leadership, the more I tend to understand that he probably was considering the fact that the day-to-day work of schooling can really command a lot of a leader’s attention and oftentimes this day-to-day work is dictated by what’s happening within the student and employee ranks of the organization.  

Of course there are processes, procedures and delegation that could ease the demand on the leader’s attention. But at the end of the day when our staff and students are enjoying some time away, I get some of my most strategic thinking and reflection completed.

So, I don’t know if I’ve completed any of my best work during this spring break while the vast majority of you were not in school, but here is what I do know:

  • Innovation Track: Already 110 students registered! The growing number of students and families participating in this program definitely demonstrates the value of this program. Be on the lookout for a presentation within the next couple of weeks to tell the story of who’s participating and the fact there has been little to no collateral impact on other programs. While there is still room to grow this program, I’m very excited about next year’s start and the promise that completing one full year of college during high school holds for our students and families. Now, we have to deliver and keep opening this door and other doors of access for all students!
  • We are hiring key staff members to fill vacant leadership positions going in to the new year. Our candidate pools are strong, and there is a level of excitement associated with envisioning the potential these hires have for shaping the future of our school district community. We’ve already announced a few new leaders and be on the lookout for several more during the month of April. Great people want to be a part of our great team and have a role in actualizing our thoughtful priorities. Others are paying attention to the work that we are beginning to embrace and many are already making headway in the same areas in their own right. I’m learning via our interviews that regardless of the position for which we are hiring: equity, access and opportunity for all children is on the minds of many leaders both near and far. This makes me proud and hopeful for our future!

Whether it is spring break or the busiest time of the school year, be assured that I will always relentlessly pursue greater access and opportunity for all students! Thank you for being a part of our schools and have a great final two months of school.

Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter

Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter joined the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District in July 2017. He has a total of 21 years in public education with extensive experience in instruction and operations as well as in elementary and secondary schools. Dr. Carpenter earned his bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, his master’s degree in educational leadership, an education specialist degree and a doctorate degree in educational leadership and educational administration. Dr. Carpenter is married to Dr. LaQuanda Carpenter, and they have two young children.

Lee’s Summit R-7’s top priority is to ensure the safety of each student, staff member and visitor in our schools. Many of these ongoing safety and security efforts are detailed on our School Safety webpage, available at this link. Some of our recent enhancements include the addition of district-wide active-shooter response training for all staff, upgrades to our “report-a-tip” school alert system, additional staff members in the areas of counseling and mental-health support and facility enhancements to our school entrances. These facility upgrades, which included construction as well as new and replacement cameras, has totaled around $2.6 million over the past few years.

Safety is of highest importance at all schools and at all times, and the recent tragedy in Florida and continuing national attention has rightfully heightened our awareness. Our district-level administration and school staff members have had numerous conversations these past weeks to consider how we can improve our school environments in the short- and long-term — all while listening to our student and parent voices. At this time, we have not taken any ideas off the table and appreciate hearing from our students and community.

In examining the national tragedies impacting our schools, churches and other public venues, I have reflected on the nature of fear. Fear is rooted in the love we all share — parents and community alike — for the children among us and our desire to protect these young people. This widespread fear of violence is a by-product and most likely a goal of these criminals. Sadly, fear can be paralyzing and keep us from doing what we love and from connecting with others. With this in mind, I want to focus on our most valuable tool when it comes to school safety — the establishment and cultivation of positive, fear-free relationships between our students, our employees and our families.

As we have seen recently in our own district, students’ willingness to report concerning behaviors has made a tremendous difference. The fact that students are comfortable talking directly to adults in their school about safety provides us with the best defense against school violence. This, combined with our anonymous report-a-tip programs as well as safety measures ranging from School Resource Officers to drills to staff training, help us protect our students while providing a safe and caring environment for learning.  

Equipping our employees with the tools to address issues of concern is also vital. Staff members continue to receive training on how to to identify and offer appropriate interventions to students at risk. This is part of a team effort at each school that involves staff, families and outside agencies. Student wellness and mental health is emphasized at all schools, and we have placed our district’s budget resources behind this emphasis by hiring additional staff members in areas such as guidance and counseling and educational therapists. These employees are crucial when it comes to helping us identify and provide assistance to students who may pose a risk to our student population or to themselves.  

These safety initiatives have been the result of a partnership involving support and input from our Board of Education as well as our Destination 2021 community/staff strategic planning team.

Within all aspects of our lives, it is relationships that matter. These relationships have been and continue to be the heartbeat of our school. While we will not stop working to improve our comprehensive safety efforts in all areas, I am banking on positive and meaningful relationships to keep our schools safe.

Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter

Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter joined the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District in July 2017. He has a total of 21 years in public education with extensive experience in instruction and operations as well as in elementary and secondary schools. Dr. Carpenter earned his bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, his master’s degree in educational leadership, an education specialist degree and a doctorate degree in educational leadership and educational administration. Dr. Carpenter is married to Dr. LaQuanda Carpenter, and they have two young children.

We have completed the first semester, and I’m already looking forward to everything the next semester has to offer and the opportunities that exist for our school district as we move into the 2018-19 school year. A wise superintendent once told me that there is literally one second that separates one school year from another. After working with him for a couple of years, I learned that he was simply saying we have to work on the current year and the upcoming year simultaneously. So as I attempt to heed the advice of one Dr. Steve Whatley, I can’t help but think about next school year! Amidst these thoughts, two numbers and one word come to mind.  Those numbers are 76 (years in Lee’s Summit R-7 senior level management) and 101 (total years of career experience)!  The word is GRACE!

Around the middle of each school year, it’s not uncommon for educators to begin contemplating their future. Especially those individuals who have earned the right to retire after many years of credible, exemplary service. These employees represent all facets of the organization. This year, the Superintendent’s Leadership Team has three employees who have earned the right and made the decision to retire. They are Dr. Jeff Miller, associate superintendent of human resources; Mrs. Janice Phelan, executive director of communications; and Dr. Judy Hedrick, associate superintendent of business services and operations. These extraordinary, key district leaders represent 76 years of in-district experience and 101 years of total professional experience.

After many special recognitions, expressions of thanks and even hugs, how does the district replace the 76 and the 101 gap left behind by the departure of three key leaders? Let me help you with that answer, you don’t. You don’t simply replace a Jeff Miller who has served in the district for almost two decades and has provided servant leadership at the building level and district level. The fact that I can’t mention the name of a person that he doesn’t know, and more than likely has a personal story to boot, is not easily replaced. You don’t simply replace a Janice Phelan who has been the voice of reason and the face of district communications for three decades. If you can imagine it in LSR-7, there is a chance that she has seen it and dealt with it.  And finally, you don’t replace a Judy Hedrick who for 28 years has been the trusted purse strings of our district. She has set the pace in the area of work ethic in LSR-7 for many years.  Put another way, her excellence is one of the many reasons that average performance sticks out in our district.

You see, the bottom line is, you just don’t replace these individuals and all they have given LSR-7.  Here is what you do:

  • If you are fortunate enough to know these leaders, you congratulate them on their many years of exemplary service. You celebrate with them…they deserve it!
  • If you are the superintendent, you honor these leaders and commit to a process that will introduce another wave of exemplary, key leaders to our district. Our students and community expect and deserve nothing less.

If you are one of the individuals who will continue to be a part of our organization post – Miller, Hedrick and Phelan, start thinking about how you can offer GRACE to a new wave of leaders who, on their best day, will not bring with them that irreplaceable 76 and 101!

Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter

Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter joined the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District in July 2017. He has a total of 21 years in public education with extensive experience in instruction and operations as well as in elementary and secondary schools. Dr. Carpenter earned his bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, his master’s degree in educational leadership, an education specialist degree and a doctorate degree in educational leadership and educational administration. Dr. Carpenter is married to Dr. LaQuanda Carpenter, and they have two young children.

Happy New Year Team!

Welcome to 2018!  With each new year comes reflection, goal setting and those binding (yeah right) resolutions — all of which are intended to aid us in becoming our most powerful self. The challenge is being vulnerable in our reflections and setting goals that really extend us into another level of effectiveness. And those foolproof resolutions (wink, wink), they really propel us into greatness.

So as we enter this time of reflection and goal setting, your superintendent is going to build upon the newness of 2018 by starting a new Superintendent’s Blog! One to two times per month I will use this forum to share some professional learnings and communicate my most candid thoughts and reflections.  

I had the opportunity to visit a restaurant during the holiday season and across the top of the menu I read the following, “This menu changes daily.” I questioned my waitress about this statement and she said, “Yes! The menu undergoes several changes every day.” Well, this restaurant was packed, and I learned that people continue to come back for the great food (their core business) and the variety. I learned that the chef, who is also the owner, came up with this concept! Wow, he really internalized the quote widely attributed to Heraclitus, “The only thing constant is change.”

With my new blog entitled The Learning Changes Daily, I want to follow the blueprint outlined by this chef/owner: Great learning (our core business) and variety. Here you might find stories of district/individual student successes, reflections on current events and maybe even personal stories to accentuate or exemplify abstract ideas.  

As members of our school district community, I hope you’ll keep coming back to this blog just like the patrons of the cool restaurant I visited this past weekend. Who knows, maybe this blog will attract a cult-like following that rivals this eclectic East Atlanta restaurant. They have good food; I’ll have great learning. They have variety, and I will too have variety! So welcome to my new blog where The Learning Changes Daily.

Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter

Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter joined the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District in July 2017. He has a total of 21 years in public education with extensive experience in instruction and operations as well as in elementary and secondary schools. Dr. Carpenter earned his bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, his master’s degree in educational leadership, an education specialist degree and a doctorate degree in educational leadership and educational administration. Dr. Carpenter is married to Dr. LaQuanda Carpenter, and they have two young children.