There might be a run on Lee’s Summit High Tiger apparel soon from more than a few homes off Third Street in the various Winterset subdivisions.
After a lengthy process (involving a citizen-led team we should profusely thank, more on that later), lots of headaches, heartaches, heartburn, public gnashing, near-fainting on social media and lots of discussions seeming to ominously foreshadow a mental health crisis if a kiddo is forced to attend a different school than the year before, we finally have our boundary changes.
This column isn’t about the merits of the changes (they’re fine), whether or not former Lee’s Summit West High School kids will be able to find their way around Lee’s Summit High (they will) or if neighborhoods should have all stayed together or not.
It’s more about the process and the volunteers — and really about what it means to put yourself out there on behalf of an organization with nothing expected in return except for some grief and a few keyboard warriors hunting-and-pecking statements to you that they would never have the nerve to say in person.
It’s challenging to be a volunteer in the public eye. In fact, I still marvel at how our City Charter process unraveled near the end due to a precious few scallywags (one of whom is a Missouri State representative in this city) parading around like the 12 amendments on the ballot were tantamount to the destruction of our community.
But, alas, that’s what a few irresponsible strokes of the keyboard can do.
Instead of talking about the merits of each amendment, naysayers threw a blanket “no” vote out to the public. Somehow, a local police union got in on the action, too, thinking that might bring some backing to the baseless negativity. Fortunately, none of it worked. But, certainly, it was distracting.
In the end, all 12 City Charter amendments passed because (as we usually have faith that it will) the people saw through the nonsense and voted for what was best for our city.
In the process, though, many on the Charter Commission took cheap shots. And plenty of them. Our integrity and character were questioned and, even though everything we did was in front of the public eye, somehow our intentions came under fire.
Of course, we were volunteers. We all knew the road ahead of us meant many nights at City Hall, countless hours pouring over legalese and Charter language and public discussions and internal conversations. But that’s what you do when you want to serve your city.
Likewise, the citizen-led Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan team, also a volunteer group, had a momentous task ahead of them — review all buildings, neighborhoods, capacities and numbers and come back with a plan that would redraw Lee’s Summit R-7 School District boundaries in a way that meets the needs of our students, teachers, staff and facilities while also addressing overcrowding and transportation issues.
Sounds pretty easy, right?
It’s not. And there’s a reason why many people do not volunteer to perform such an arduous, long-term and thankless mission.
You’re on an island the entire time. You’re getting (some wanted, some not) feedback from anyone and everyone that has a specific agenda. And while you are taking into consideration the e-mails, phone calls, letters to your home (because, you know, it’s all public that you sit on this volunteer team), private Facebook messages and public Facebook slaps, you can’t take your eye off the real objective — what makes the most sense for the most students.
Boundaries are done. And with that knowledge, now is the time — especially as they go into phase 2 of their work — for the CFMP team to be publicly thanked, not flogged, for doing the damn hard work the vast majority of people could not, or would not, do.
This isn’t over with the Board of Education vote. We still have massive planning ahead of us for sixth graders, possibly a new middle school and a bond issue that could make its way onto the ballot as early as April of 2020.
Vilifying our volunteers is only going to serve one purpose for the future of Lee’s Summit — to ensure good people will not put in the hard work for our city, schools and in other entities.
What do we constantly tell our kids, by God? Be kind.
Much like our missteps in district transparency and communication, it’s time for the adults in the room to start setting the example.
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.