Emails detail dispute over money moved in Lee’s Summit superintendent’s lofty contract extension

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — FOX 4 has obtained emails between Lee’s Summit School Board members leading up to last week’s explosive meeting where the president resigned her post and the superintendent was placed on paid administrative leave.

The emails show Bill Baird was upset at Terri Harmon’s handling of the highest paid superintendent in the state’s contract and raise. Other emails show he was threatening to go public with those concerns if board members didn’t support him in efforts to make changes in leadership.

For months Lee’s Summit Schools have been embroiled in controversy about its superintendent, Dr. David McGehee, his pay, and his relationship with a member of a law firm that represented the School District.

After an April School Board meeting full of angry parents produced no significant changes, suddenly before last Thursday’s meeting could even get started the Board announced the Guin Mundorf law firm had resigned, Harmon was giving up her post, and Dr. McGehee was placed on paid administrative leave.

People who were protesting just hours before the meeting were happy, but left to wonder how it all happened.

“We’re still looking for answers, we still feel like we are very much in the dark,” parent Bill Haley said.

The School Board voted on a contract extension and raise for Dr. McGehee in April. But in the emails Baird alleges and Harmon admits that’s not the actual version of the contract Dr. McGehee signed.

Harmon said under the advice of an attorney to stay within PSRS salary growth guidelines she made a “minor change” without board approval.

That change took Dr. McGehee’s reported salary down from $316,355 to $304,330. Deferred salary totaling $12,025 was moved with extra tax benefits for the superintendent.

Harmon said in the email the change did not alter the total amount of the contract and the attorney said therefore it didn’t need to go back to the board.

“It was certainly in the very least a great error in judgment on behalf of the School Board President to make those changes unilaterally without consulting any of the other School Board members who were elected to do that job,” Haley said when informed about the content of the emails.

In emails to other school board members Baird said he would go public with the contract changes if other board members didn’t join him in pressing Harmon to step down and Dr. McGehee to resign.

In a statement at the time of her resignation as president, Harmon said she was allowing another board member to assume the president’s role in the best interest of students and staff, and would welcome any investigation.

She declined to comment on the record about the email communications, as did Baird. Baird did say the board is working on negotiating a possible transition in leadership at the superintendent level.

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