Lee’s Summit reveals details of $750K superintendent buyout as board members speak out

Days after announcing the resignation of Superintendent Dennis Carpenter, the Lee’s Summit school district has revealed details of his $750,000 buyout, and dissenting board members are speaking out against the process.

According to the separation agreement, Carpenter’s official termination date is July 31.

He will be given severance pay in two installments: $234,159.42 within 15 days of July 31 and $255,000 on or before Jan. 15.

In addition, the district will pay him a $240,000 “non-contractual release payment” within 15 days of July 31.

A district statement released Friday said $75,000 of the buyout will be covered by insurance. About $21,000 of the $750,000 has already been paid from Carpenter’s July salary.

For months, Carpenter had faced criticism from some members of the school board and community for proposing racial equity training in the district. He and his administrative staff said the training was needed to help close the gap in achievement between white and black students.

The proposal divided the community, with some saying it was desperately needed in this mostly white district while others called Carpenter a “race doctor” who was catering to minority students. The board eventually approved a plan to address equity and last month voted to hire a firm to train employees.

But last month, Carpenter threatened to leave his post if the board could not trust him to do his job. They agreed to meet in mediation over his contract and his future with the district.

On Thursday, the board approved the buyout agreement in a 5-2 vote. Board President Julie Doane and veteran members Dennis Smith and Kim Fritchie voted in favor alongside new board members Judy Hedrick and Mike Allen, who were elected in April.

Board members Jackie Clark and Ryan Murdock voted no and were the only board members to go public with an explanation.

“The decision is a result of leaders who were unwilling to even try to work or communicate with the superintendent,” said a joint statement from the two sent to the media and posted on Murdock’s Facebook page.

Carpenter is the second consecutive superintendent to resign from Lee’s Summit before serving out his contract. In 2016 former superintendent David McGehee, who at the time was the state’s highest paid superintendent, resigned over a conflict of interest dispute with members of the board. The district payed McGehee $450,000 as he left.

Clark and Murdock’s statement notes that the district “has agreed to pay out $1.2 million since 2016, which is about $37,500 per building.”

They said they hoped to avoid such a situation with the next superintendent: “We want to avoid (Lee’s Summit) becoming the next high churn district for superintendents in the metro area.”

The buyout agreement requires Carpenter, as well as the board and district, to not reveal any details of their negotiations. It also requires Carpenter to not “make any negative, misleading or disparaging comments” about the district and board, and vice versa.

Includes reporting by The Star’s Mará Rose Williams.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.