Lee’s Summit school board president Julie Doane apologized on Monday to the school district and community for racially related statements she made at a meeting Thursday.
“I would like to apologize for my comments at the Board of Education meeting last week,” Doane wrote in a new electronic newsletter called “From the Dais,” detailing votes and other communications from the district governing body.
At the meeting, Doane had equated disparaging comments she’s heard about being blond to racist treatment against black people.
“I’m sorry for the insensitive manner in which they were made,” Doane wrote. “I look forward to learning more about how we can all work together moving forward in this conversation.”
That conversation is about how the board would implement a racial equity and inclusion plan.
On Thursday, the board voted down a second attempt by the district’s first African American superintendent, Dennis Carpenter, and his staff to hire a firm to deliver equity training to school leaders, teachers and staff. The board voted 4-3 against spending $97,000 for the training. In its next vote, the board approved spending $650,000 on literacy resources.
A clearly frustrated Carpenter threatened to leave the district over the vote. He told the board to review his contract and “find a leader you can trust.” He asked board members how they could trust him to implement a $650,000 literacy program and not trust him to find a firm to help with equity.
Board members said literacy is an important curriculum element. “What about the ones who don’t have equity?” Carpenter retorted.
“Every piece that I’ve put forward in this district to try and ensure equity, it was met with opposition,” he told the board. “If you don’t believe that of all inequities in the district, the greatest one isn’t racial, I don’t know what rock you’re living under. … We’ve got work to do.”
Contention in this mostly white and affluent suburb began early in the school year, when Carpenter proposed spending $7,000 to hire a California equity training firm to help the district close a significant achievement gap between white and black students.
Some in the community called him “the race doctor” on social media and called for his ouster. They said the firm was too expensive and focused too much on “white privilege.”
Others said it was about time for the district to find ways to improve equity.
In October the school district backed away from hiring the California firm.
On Thursday, board members heard from a St. Louis firm doing equity training at hundreds of school districts across the country, including area districts in Belton, North Kansas City and for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri School Boards Association.
While the board rejected that proposal, Doane in her newsletter said the board is committed to providing equity in district schools.
“As a (board of education), we do have differences of opinion on our approach,” Doane wrote. “However, we are confident we can move forward together. Our commitment is to move forward in finding the right equity solution for all of our students.”
Doane did not respond to emails sent to her by The Star asking for further comments about the future of the equity plan.
As for Carpenter, Doane said in the newsletter that the board will meet soon “to discuss our next steps and to engage with the Superintendent. We will continue to keep the staff and community updated, and we will be forthcoming with information as available. “