It’s been another exhausting week to be a parent, taxpayer and stakeholder in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District.
I have no idea the stress and strain going on among our board members, administrators and those working day in and day out in our buildings to educate our children.
We have a lot of work to do. There’s likely a checklist floating around the Stansberry Leadership Center right now that has a long, arduous list of items that we simply have to get done in our school district.
While I can’t possibly imagine the entirety of this list, a few items are pretty obvious and need to be addressed immediately. Among them:
1. Our Board of Education simply must stop this practice of renewing superintendent contracts just months before parting ways with said superintendents.
We may have saved a cool quarter million or more if our board of education hadn’t given Dr. Carpenter a one-year contract extension back in March. And while that option to extend only one year as opposed to three years was largely looked upon as a vote of no confidence, it ultimately ended up costing our district hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Sound familiar? It should.
Just three short years ago, our district was all over the airwaves and newspapers as then-superintendent David McGehee publicly battled with board member (now mayor) Bill Baird. In that mess of salary disputes, bickering, sordid details and a toxic environment, the board somehow thought it would be a good idea to give McGehee a three-year contract extension (to the tune of $1.1 million).
A few weeks later, board president Terri Harmon stepped down, McGehee was on administrative leave and the district was on the hook for a $450,000 buyout.
2. Our school district needs to be far more open about future candidates for superintendent.
Despite what a former board member wrote, we will have no problem attracting candidates for superintendent in Lee’s Summit. Some will argue the massive amount of negative media and infighting on the board would prevent this, but those people fail to look at what makes our school district so damn good — the women, men and kiddos in the buildings.
Sure, Google searches tell an unsavory tale of our district over the last 40 months or so. But one-on-one visits tell a much different story. Superintendent candidates that visit our buildings, talk to our parents and see the community that is R-7 Schools will want to take on this opportunity.
Our school district simply must introduce finalists to the community, have meet-and-greet opportunities for PTAs, parents and stakeholders and remain open and communicative of the process from interview to hire to first day on the job.
3. Heal some of these deep and long-standing wounds through words.
There is a mountain of good news happening in our buildings. There are great student stories, teacher victories and unsung heroes from Mason to Meadow Lane, North to West to Tiger High.
Someone in the district, please: Tell. These. Stories.
Yes, lawsuits and district drama will always make the news, but my God we have to start doing better when it comes to positive press.
I am quite certain there is a robotics team or theater student or first-year teacher or a janitor that donates his time to good causes out there somewhere.
Find them and flood the media with their stories.
These communication pushes don’t ignore a hurting district — and they certainly are not meant to address achievement gaps or equity — but they do show the Kansas City Metro and beyond that we are human.
And man, that is something sorely missing right now when it comes to R-7: humanity.
If we succumb to the narrative that we are a broken district, that we lack compassion and understanding and that we will never find a quality superintendent again, then we are bloody lost.
Someone I love tells me that when we know better, we do better.
We have to have learned an inordinate amount of lessons over the last three years.
We are simply compelled to take those lumps and lessons and do better.
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.