LEE’S SUMMIT, MO (KCTV) -- The Lee’s Summit School District’s first black superintendent scored a victory Wednesday night for equity training after months of turmoil that included racially volatile language that led to Sheriff’s Office patrols of his home.
The $97,000 contract for outside training was the only item on the agenda. In the audience were parents and community leaders who fought for it for months.
“It’s been stressful. It’s been illuminating. I can say that I didn’t realize what we might be up against as far as resistance is concerned,” Erica Wilson, district parent, said.
That resistance lasted almost the whole school year.
In October, the board rejected a contract for short-term equity training with a California firm.
In January, the teacher’s union criticized the superintendent’s focus on white privilege, but some teachers spoke out to say, “Don’t speak for me. I support him.”
In February, the board extended the superintendent’s contract and approved an equity plan.
In May, the board rejected a 1-year equity training contract with a St. Louis firm and the superintendent threatened to quit.
Also in the mix, a contentious comment from the board president, Julie Doane, which she later apologized for.
“I just don’t like the word privilege because I have privileges. If someone’s gonna (SIC) hire a female then sorry buddy you’re not getting the job. Or if they’re looking for a Spanish they might choose J-Lo over me, I don’t know,” Doane said.
Leaders said the decision to revisit came during a previously scheduled retreat over the weekend.
“When you see individuals that showed up a little negative to the work and now you’re seeing them really, really ready to move forward, that’s exciting, for me as a superintendent and what you get now are just those few that are still in that negative space,” Dr. Dennis Carpenter, district superintendent, said.
That “negative space” included concerning emails following the board president’s apology that the sheriff shared when saying, “he had provided security at the superintendent’s home.”
“It’s pretty unfortunate but at the end of the day, I have some people that I care about a little bit more than anything else and they happen to reside in my household,” Carpenter said.
The need for training became apparent from data showing a vast racial disparity on academic performance and disciplinary action. The May vote was 4-to-3 against the training contract.
Wednesday night, only one board member voted no. Judy Hedrick would say only that she thought the recommended training was not inclusive enough.
KCTV5 News asked, “When you say not inclusive, do you mean the focus on...”
“No more comment,” Hedrick replied.
“Over the course of the year, I’m just so proud of our community for coming together and finding a way to put pressure on the board, to help them see, to see the light,” Wilson said. “It’s just really nice that the learning can begin now. Finally.”