Grace in the Absence of 76 and 101

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.