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Lee's Summit Superintendent Could Leave After Board Rejects Racial Equity Training Plan

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
The Lee's Summit School Board announced Dennis Carpenter would be the district's next superintendent in January 2017. Carpenter has been a polarizing figure because of his efforts to close the achievement gap for students of color.

After the Lee's Summit School Board rejected a racial equity training proposal Thursday night, Superintendent Dennis Carpenter interrupted the board meeting and told the board to review his contract and “find a leader you can trust.”

“Every piece that I’ve put forward in this district to try and ensure greater equity, it was met with opposition,” Carpenter said. “If you don’t believe that of all inequities in the district, the greatest one isn’t racial, I don’t know what rock you’re living under … Folks, we’ve got work to do.”

The board unanimously approved an equity plan back in February to help address the achievement gap for students of color, which is something Carpenter has prioritized.

Since that vote, the makeup of the board has changed: Mike Allen and Judy Hedrick were elected in April. Both voted against the proposal, which failed 4-3, and neither responded to KCUR's requests for comment.

District parent Erica Wilson told KCUR she was deeply disappointed by the vote. She said she left Thursday night's meeting after Board President Julie Doane said, "I can't, I just don't like the word privilege."

"I thought they were committed to providing a deep learning experience for everyone," Wilson said. "I feel like a lot of us — families, parents and teachers as well — are hitting our heads against a brick wall and getting nowhere."

Board member Jackie Clark told KCUR she doesn't speak for any of her colleagues, but that "the eight-month delay in getting the board the training that it needs regarding equity is, frankly, frustrating."

According to the equity plan unanimously approved in February, the board was to hire a consultant by the end of April. Since then, they have been through an extensive process of requesting proposals from various racial equity training consultants. There was a special in-district committee that reviewed those proposals and presented the St. Louis firm as the best candidate.

But after Thursday's vote, Clark said it is unclear what is next, or whether the equity plan will continue, though she said she is hopeful.

Carpenter declined KCUR's request for comment.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 5:20 p.m. with statements made during the board meeting.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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