Lee’s Summit school board approves equity consultants after months of debate

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- A month after voting down hiring education equity consultants, Lee’s Summit’s School Board had a change of heart Wednesday night.

The earlier decision led to controversy, including the superintendent telling the board they might want to find someone else to lead the district.

School Board President Julie Doane later apologized for comments made during the same meeting when she equated "driving while blonde" to "driving while black."

In her apology she vowed the board would meet to find an equity solution for all students and meet with the superintendent.

The Board of Education, superintendent and leadership teams met for a two day institute in the past week where they heard from members of the committee who worked on the equity plan. The school district also brought in the Missouri School Board Association for some help in governance.

At the end, they decided to hold a special board meeting Wednesday to take another vote on spending $97,000 to hire consultants from St. Louis to come in and do equity training.

Without any debate, the measure passed 6 to 1.

“When you see individuals who showed up a little negative to the work, and now you are seeing them really, really ready to move forward and do the work that’s exciting for me as a superintendent," Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter said.

“I want people to understand we made a decision tonight, and we are moving forward in a positive way," school board member Jackie Clark said.

Judy Hedrick later explained her "no" vote, saying she didn't think the plan was inclusive for all students.

Some parents wondered if the vote was the board's attempt to change the narrative after so much divisiveness the past year.

"I believe this vote was to stop the pressure. What I’m here to say is we are not going to stop. We are going to come to every school board. We are going to show up. We are going to speak up and make sure that they do exactly what they voted this yes for," Roderick Sparks said.

On Wednesday, Carpenter confirmed he had sheriff’s deputies stationed outside his home because of what were perceived as threatening emails he received during the tense debate. He said the deputies were no longer there "to the same extent."

Carpenter said the first training with Educational Equity Consultants would be for the Board of Education in late summer or early fall.

A break down of the contract for training is as follows: LSR7 School Board, $7,200; Superintendent’s Executive Leadership Team, $6,075; building/district level leadership, $19,237.50, instructional staff, $56,000; students, $5,400, parents and community, $3,600.

The contract also carries three possible renewal years.

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