Counting on students, staff and relationships

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.