A letter sent to the Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education by officers of the Lee’s Summit chapter of the National Education Association pulls no punches: do not renew Dr. Dennis Carpenter’s contract, they implore.
The leaked letter made its way around social media late this week as more and more concerns are raised. Transparency, decision-making of the board and board policies continue to rightfully come into question. All of which continues to cast a pall over the school district.
The Lee’s Summit NEA executive team of Heather Crain, Stacy Barbee and Rhonda Ireland signed the letter, which appears undated, to the members of the Board of Education.
In it, they list six bullet points in which they claim are tantamount to the board rejecting any contract extension to Carpenter, who started as the R-7 Superintendent in the summer of 2017 after a tumultuous end to the reign of Dr. David McGehee.
The list of egregious acts reads as a familiar one to many that are paying any sort of attention to what is going on at the Stansberry Leadership Center: lack of communication and board engagement on the Innovation Track; engagement with the controversial Pacific Education Group; and student achievement gaps and causes.
The LS NEA letter went on to point out Dr. Carpenter’s hiring of an assistant superintendent for equity and student services as a point of contention, claiming the hiring only added to the “top heavy” nature of central office while needs in the classrooms went unnoticed. The LS NEA says salary for that position would have funded three additional teachers.
The final two rounds of discontent revolved around the district’s hiring of the past two superintendents and a lack of transparency in the hiring of Carpenter, specifically that teachers were not invited to meet finalists for the position vacated by McGehee.
Not announcing the finalists has been a bone of contention to me since it happened. And the continued lack of information and communication from district leaders is disheartening. Which plays back into this recent notion from the district that they cannot or will not discuss the applications for district positions by current elected board members — hiding behind the veil of secrecy and privacy.
It was then, and continues to be, an unacceptable dodge at being open and translucent. When parents and district stakeholders ask, “What else are you hiding” can you really blame them?
The LS NEA has asked the Board of Education to delay a vote on Carpenter’s contract until two new board members are seated after the April 2 election. It’s certainly not an unreasonable request.
In fact, if the board members are going to do anything to show they’re not tone deaf to this community — and most importantly the educators they write paychecks to — they should heed this advice.
This type of letter from a group like the NEA is unprecedented (that I know of) in my 10 years in this community. I cannot imagine the feedback they have been given from their membership that would have prompted this call to action to the board of education.
The unfortunate reality is that some of the board has shown an unwillingness to listen and engage in the past.
These conversations are difficult in our community. They’re uncomfortable. And, they’re necessary.
And while our elected board members will have delicate contract talks behind closed doors, we must call on them to share information vital to the future of our district in an open forum.
Because, honestly, we should all be tired of being fed “just enough” from our district.
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.