Dennis Carpenter | KCUR

Dennis Carpenter

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

This story was updated at 2:03 p.m. with a comment from the school district.

Another lawsuit has been filed against the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District alleging racial discrimination during the hiring of spokeswoman last year.

In the lawsuit, Danielle Nixon alleges she did not get the job because of her race. According to court documents, former Superintendent Dennis Carpenter “told the selection committee that he would never hire an African American female for that key role.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The past president of the Lee’s Summit school board says it will be hard for the district to attract qualified superintendent candidates after parting ways with the last two leaders.

“We are not a desirable destination district for quality candidates if they can expect to get treated the same way the community has treated superintendents in the past few years,” Terri Harmon, who was on the school board when Dennis Carpenter was hired in 2017, wrote in a letter to current board members this week.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

If Superintendent Dennis Carpenter's relationship with the Lee's Summit R-7 Board of Education is strained, he's not saying so publicly.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

In a terse meeting that lasted just five minutes on Wednesday evening, the Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education approved a contract for staff diversity training.

It’s the same contract the same board rejected a month ago as racial tensions in the affluent suburb reached fever pitch. Three board members – Julie Doane, Kim Fritchie and Mike Allen – switched their no votes to yes after the district brought in a mediator from the Missouri School Boards Association. Only Judy Hedrick voted against the plan.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Lee’s Summit school board remains deeply divided over issues of race and equity, a week after voting down a plan to bring in consultants for diversity training.

At a tense work session Wednesday night, newly elected board member Mike Allen accused the district’s first black superintendent, Dennis Carpenter, of only caring about black students.

Carpenter responded, “I will not let you do this. Tell me when I said I was here for the black kids only.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Lee’s Summit voters will pick two new school board members Tuesday in an election that could be a referendum of the district’s equity and inclusion work.

The seven-member school board unanimously approved an equity plan in February, and last month they offered Superintendent Dennis Carpenter a one-year contract extension.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1:  Lee's Summit R-7 schools superintendent says achievement gap for some students ranges from 17% to 34%.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Parents whose kids attend Lee’s Summit schools are growing increasingly frustrated with the school board and superintendent as tensions escalate over issues of equity and race.

It was standing room only Tuesday night as parents demanded the Board of Education justify the need for professional development from a particular diversity consultant.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Former Hickman Mills Supt. Dennis Carpenter has started his new job in Lee’s Summit.

Carpenter, whose Twitter handle is @EquitySupt1, has advocated for an accountability system that was fair for poor, high mobility districts.

He says that work isn’t over now that he’s in Lee’s Summit, one of state’s most affluent school districts.

“We've started some of that conversation (in) the last couple of months, realizing that there is a place for equity in the suburban districts,” says Carpenter. “That's something that we're going to work with through the board's priorities.”

Kim Fritchie / Jacqueline Clark / Dennis Smith

The Lee’s Summit R-7 School Board has three new members: Jacqueline Clark, Kim Fritchie and Dennis Smith.

Reached by phone, Smith said he was thrilled that voters had prioritized the experience of educators.

“I think the decision making is very similar to what I did as a teacher and a principal. It’s a team effort,” Smith, the former principal of Campbell Middle School, said.