Lee’s Summit superintendent Dennis Carpenter resigns after months of controversy

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LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- Lee's Summit School District's superintendent has resigned, and the district has named an interim superintendent.

On the district's website, Dr. Dennis Carpenter's photo has been taken down and Dr. Emily Miller has been named the new leader of Lee's Summit schools.

Lee's Summit School District's superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter.

Carpenter was named superintendent in 2017, and the school board voted to extend his contract in March. Now the district is on the hook for buying out his contract.

In a news release, the district said it reached an agreement for Carpenter's resignation via mediation with a Kansas City attorney. The district will pay Carpenter $750,000 in total, a portion of which will come from the district's insurance carrier.

The agreement has not been released to the public yet, but the district said once it is signed by Carpenter and the school board president, it will. But the district said neither Carpenter nor the district will make anymore statements about the agreement.

"We sincerely thank Dr. Carpenter for his service to our students, staff and community," the district said in its statement.

Carpenter's resignation comes after months of controversy in the district. Many said morale was low and racial tension was high in the district.

Carpenter was under fire in January after a photo of him making an offensive gesture with his finger while at a college tailgate party in Atlanta last November surfaced on social media.

Then earlier this year, Dr. Amy Gates, the executive director of technology for the district, filed a lawsuit against Carpenter and the district.

She said that, while she was on a panel interviewing three women, Carpenter allegedly argued against hiring a black woman, based solely upon her race.

The lawsuit also alleged one of the candidates was a school board member, which is a violation of district policy.

During the spring, the teacher’s union publicly stated they were against keeping Carpenter in the district. Many parents and teachers were frustrated with the district and its lack of transparency.

A number of people said Carpenter was a big part of the problem since he became superintendent nearly two years ago.

In May, the board voted down hiring education equity consultants. The decision led to backlash, including the superintendent telling the board they might want to find someone else to lead the district.

The next month, the school board had a change of heart. In the end, they voted to spend $97,000 to hire consultants from St. Louis to do equity training.

Regardless, it seems the district will be finding someone else to lead. For now, Miller will take over.

The district's interim superintendent previously served as assistant superintendent of operations since 2018.

Before that, she was the district's assistant superintendent of special services from 2012-2018. She was also a teacher and process coordinator for the district for 10 years.

"We acknowledge that the last several months have been difficult with a range of emotions involved, but we know we are up for the challenge before us to push into the future together," the district said. "Our responsibility to forge our path forward is an honor. And it’s one that holds the highest importance because it’s for all the students and families we serve."

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