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New Lee’s Summit superintendent begins job surrounded by rumors and skepticism

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LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- The Lee's Summit School District invited parents and the public to ask questions Wednesday night about the new superintendent, Dr. Dennis Carpenter, whose contract has already been approved by the school board.

Some parents believe the board could have done a better job to find someone more qualified for the job.

The board conducted a nationwide search for the new superintendent. They hired Carpenter from Hickman Mills, a neighboring school district with about 6,000 students. He was approved by a 5-0 vote at a special Board of Education meeting on Jan. 11.  Click here to see the contract.

The contract is for three years and agrees to pay Dr. Carpenter $235,000 in the first year to manage the Lee's Summit School District with 18,000 students.

In a letter sent to parents and employees of the Lee's Summit School District, Bob White, school board president, did not directly answer the question about whether or not there were other finalists for the superintendent and who they were. The board said it promised confidentiality.

"In the past 48 hours the LSR7 Board of Education has been inundated with phone calls, texts and emails. We greatly appreciate the input from staff and community members in order for us to do our job," White said in the email.

He then outlined some of the rumors and questions that have been brought to the board's attention. He listed the following questions with their answers:

• A rumor has been spread that contracts will not be issued until reviewed by the superintendent. This is FALSE. Contracts will be released on time as required by law.
• Will our salary schedule be changed like it was in Hickman Mills? NO. Salary schedule is a function of Team Lee’s Summit which is a process that the board continues to support.
• Are all the principals going to get fired like the ones in Hickman Mills? NO. There is a complete process involved in the hiring and termination of any staff member which the board makes sure is followed. Also, the situation in Lee’s Summit is far different than the situation that was facing Hickman Mills when Dr. Carpenter was hired there. Hickman Mills was at risk of losing its accreditation, and its board had to take drastic measures to start turning that district around.
• Will Dr. Carpenter be able to fire our senior administrators? NO. The Superintendent’s contract requires board approval for any changes in senior staff.
• Will Parents as Teachers be cut like it was in Hickman Mills? NO. Neither the board nor Dr. Carpenter support reductions in services to our early learners.
• Who were the other finalists for the Superintendent position? As professionals you understand the reasons why we are unable to share candidate names with you. They all still have jobs in other school districts, and we promised them confidentiality. We must respect and honor that promise.
• Our search process was communicated openly and publicly from the beginning. Updates were given as they occurred. This process included an application process, initial interviews with our consultants, nine hours of interviews with the board, 5 hours of deliberations to narrow our field, several days of initial reference checking, and 4 hours of final interviews. In addition to this process, the district asked 4 of our candidates to complete an exhaustive two and a half hour interview conducted by a Gallup Executive Services professional interviewer.
• Will Dr. Carpenter be given “free rein” to do as he pleases? NO. The board will continue to monitor the progress of the superintendent in the future just as it has regardless of who occupies that chair.

Click here for the entire letter from Bob White, Board of Education president.

Some community members voiced other concerns, including two separate age-discrimination lawsuits filed against the Hickman Mills District when Dr. Carpenter was superintendent and concern over teachers' salaries. Staff was wanted to know if Dr. Carpenter planned to fire principals and senior administrators and bring in his own people.

According to White, the Wednesday night meeting is meant to discuss truths and end rumors and false information. It was scheduled at the request of Carpenter.