Former Hickman Mills superintendent hired to lead Lee’s Summit schools

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- The Hickman Mills school superintendent is moving to lead the schools in Lee's Summit.

The Lee's Summit school board said it's still finalizing the details of a contract to hire Dennis Carpenter.

Carpenter is going from a district that's struggling to meet the minimum state standards to one that's at the top of nearly all Missouri education rankings.

Nevertheless, school board members call Carpenter a good fit for Lee's Summit.

They say they were impressed by his record of improving student attendance, graduation rates and college test scores in four years at Hickman Mills.

Carpenter is best known for bringing free full-day pre kindergarten to all 4-year-olds in Hickman Mills, something no other school district in Missouri has done.

Now, he faces a different challenge in raising the bar for Lee's Summit kids, where the standard of excellence is already high.

"I think they work hand in hand," Carpenter said. "The quickest way to advance the ceiling is to raise the floor and the ceiling simultaneously, but accelerate the raising of the floor. Even in a  place called Lee’s Summit there is a floor."

Carpenter is expected to start July 1. He replaces the highest paid superintendent in the state, David McGehee, who resigned last year amid questions over whether his personal relationship with the school district's lead attorney represented a conflict of interest.

"I think it’s important to not even have the appearance of a conflict of interest," said school board member Bill Baird. "Just because we need that type of trust with our community, with our teachers, with everyone."

Carpenter pledged to avoid all conflicts of interest, but also said he will be transparent in recommending people he has worked with if he thinks they can help Lee's Summit schools.