The teachers, the community, the entire Kansas City metro area sat and waited all day June 4 for word from the Stansberry Leadership Center.
Note the word “Leadership” in the middle of the title of the building named for former superintendent Tony Stansberry. What we have experienced in our district over the last year — and arguably dating back more than three to when we had drama between the board and Dr. David McGehee — doesn’t always follow the definition of leadership.
And now we have a new word to study: mediation.
At 5:05 p.m. that day, some 21 or so hours after the June 3 closed session adjourned, the district put a message out via it’s “e-news update” telling residents, voters, citizens (and we’re unclear if the media was informed) that Dr. Dennis Carpenter had agreed to an offer of mediation between himself and the board.
This mediation, we’re told, will address and, ultimately, improve the relationship between the superintendent, board of education and staff members of LSR-7. The statement went on to tell us the mediation will happen as soon as possible and thanked us for our patience during this process.
We have been, as a community, nothing if not patient over the last three-plus years. Will we continue to be? I suppose that depends on how quickly, at what pace and to what end this mediation process unfolds.
On top of the vague nature of the statement, the district predictably left out some major details. And, again, as a communications team and district that should be just aching to be in front of the message and transparent as possible, it continues to be disappointing.
Remember, a few weeks ago our superintendent was asking to have his contract bought out. Not long ago, we had a closed session in which Jackie Clark didn’t or couldn’t attend, so nothing was resolved. Local, regional and even national news has been all over this story. And a very public closed session was called to discuss legal and personnel issues.
The Board of Education and our R-7 administration need to hear this loudly and clearly: if you’re not going into closed session to discuss these issues, and, rather, are simply talking about how we can get along better via a third party, have that discussion on an agenda and in the open meeting. The district is skirting a line going into closed and coming out with such a nebulous and uncertain outcome.
I followed up with Board President Julie Doane and Vice President Ryan Murdock about the vague statement and next steps, asking the following: Was this a unanimous decision?; Who will be facilitating this and at what cost?; How would each of you define "mediation?"; and What is the desired end result?
My answers, as authored by Doane and Murdock, were:
This particular vote was not one to hire, fire, discipline or promote an employee, so the Sunshine Law allows it to remain closed. This includes any breakdown of how individual board members voted.
The board's attorney and Dr. Carpenter are working through the details of who will help facilitate this mediation. Since those parties are not finalized, it would be impossible to address your question of cost.
Mediation is simply a facilitated negotiation.
The desired end result is as stated in the June 4 press release: to address and improve the relationship between the Board, the Superintendent and the staff of the school district.
Still a ton of unanswered questions here.
“Cost” has been at the forefront of so many of our equity decisions lately. It was brought up when Carpenter ill-advisedly tried to get the Pacific Education Group through the board. And again, the most recent equity proposal, at $97,000 to start and with costs likely continuing for years, the money was front and center in the discussion.
Heck, we’ve talked about money so much, Carpenter himself used it as a political tool during the meeting in which the board failed the proposal 4-3, saying they should then pull the over $600,000 literacy plan from the agenda.
None of this is showing best practice leadership.
The statement from the district was paltry and the subsequent answers from board members did little to shine any light on the details of what they really want to accomplish with this mediation.
Since we don’t yet know the cost, what is the ceiling of what would or should be spent to mediate this mess and bring harmony back to our district? When is the deadline to select the mediator and start the mediation process? How many mediation sessions do you believe will be necessary to improve these relationships? And how will you know when you’ve reached mediation nirvana and all is right in the world of the Lee’s Summit School District?
You want to talk about costs and money? This is our money you’re playing with.
Our money to pay for mediation. Our money that buys out contracts.
Board and R-7 administration, you cannot fight in public and then tell us in private you just don’t have answers for us.
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.